The First Week Of University

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While school has already started for a bunch of people, I have one week left to savour summer vacation and relax before I drown in readings and assignments.

The first week of university is simultaneously the best, and worst week of the year. You’re totally overwhelmed with information about your classes, new people, and might even be starting to feel a little bit home sick. On the other hand, you’re enjoying tons of freedom, and have a newfound sense of confidence and responsibility. Either way, that first week is daunting, especially when your first class is with 1500 other people!

Here are thirteen things you can do in that crazy first week to set yourself up for an awesome semester!

Buy an Agenda — I’ve heard it all:“I had an agenda in high school but I never used it.” and “I have a really good memory, I won’t forget about it.” or “I’m not organized enough to use an agenda.” Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, forget the excuses, and buy yourself an agenda. While your first week (or even month) of university might seem incredibly easy and relaxed, don’t be fooled! Things will pick up soon enough, and when they do, you’ll have no idea what hit you. Having an agenda will help you organize your time and make sure you’re on top of things in the midst of midterm and exam chaos.

Organization and time management is so much more important in university than it ever was in high school, so it’s helpful to have a system for keeping track of everything. It doesn’t really matter what agenda you have, but make sure it fits your needs and is small enough that you can take it with you wherever you go. Write down important dates as you become aware of them, and use it to plan what work you need to get done every day. This way it’ll be pretty difficult to miss a deadline and you’ll be on top of your readings and assignments. You can rest easy knowing that any important information about your classes and projects, have been written down and are easy to find.

Print Out Your Syllabi — These packets of paper are your lifeline for each one of your classes. Once you get them, print them out, hole punch them, and store them together in a folder.

Before your classes start, go through each syllabus and highlight important information including: your professors name and contact information, office hours, test and exam dates, assignment deadlines, and anything else you think will be important to know. As soon as you’ve highlighted these things, you can start transferring important information to other places. Test and due dates should be added to your calendar (I use the mac calendar app) and your agenda, so you have easy access to them, and contact info can be written down in your agenda or on your class schedule.

Keep your syllabi safe, they’ll be helpful once exam time comes around and you can’t remember exactly what sections you covered in class.

Make a Schedule — This might sound like overkill to some, but I always find it incredibly helpful to write out a schedule for the semester and hang it on my bulletin board. My schedule usually involves all my classes, work hours, volunteer times and when I plan to workout.

Having a visual representation of how your day will look is really helpful when things start getting more hectic and time management becomes key. It’ll also make it easier for you to plan what work you can do each day and when, so you stay on top of everything.

Find your Classes — To avoid getting lost and feeling anxious about going to class, do a mock run. Write down each building and room number and visit each of them before your classes actually start. This way you’ll know how to get to class on the first day and you’ll look like a pro doing it (who knows, maybe other freshman will even ask you for directions)!

Start your Readings — Don’t be fooled by the easy going vibe of the first week or two of school. Start your readings and try to get ahead while things are still settling. You’ll thank yourself for putting in the extra effort when midterms arrive and you have a bit more room to breathe.

Figure Out the Textbook Situation — Don’t buy your textbooks weeks in advance. Wait until school starts and check the updated syllabus to make sure they haven’t changed. Your professors will likely also mention whether the textbook is actually necessary in your first class. This way you can avoid buying books you won’t actually use.

Find your Library — You’ll be spending a lot of time at the library, so it’s in your best interest to find it (or one of them) during your first week. University libraries often host a bunch of informative intro courses for first years (and anyone else who’d like to take them) so you can become comfortable with the way your school’s library system works. Trust me, going to the library for the first time when you need to do major research for a paper isn’t exactly stress-free. Help yourself out and get familiar with the library system asap!

Find a Study Spot — This is something I cannot stress enough! Find a place you can study effectively on campus as soon as possible! Having a place you know, you study well in takes away a lot of stress and also eliminates the time you’ll spend figuring out where to go for a study session.

You don’t have to make a big deal about this at first (it is only the first week after all), but try to find a spot you enjoy the atmosphere of and is conducive to your study style. Later on in the semester you can always find new spots, but it certainly helps to know one off the bat, even if it’s not quite perfect.

Join a Club — Just do it! Look up your school’s club directory, and narrow it down to one or two groups you’re really interested in. Clubs are the perfect way to get involved in your campus community and to meet people with similar interests and values. I regret not joining any clubs in my first year and have already made a promise to myself to join one as soon as school starts!

Sign up for an Athletic Class — Take advantage of your university’s athletic facilities and programs. There are likely hundreds of intramural teams and registered classes waiting for you to join them! Sports and classes like pilates or yoga, are great ways to meet friends, and also allow you to set aside some time for personal health. Your body and mind will thank you.

Communicate With your Roommate — Don’t wait until the middle of the year to talk to your roommate about what standards you have for your room. It’s important to get everything out on the table asap so you can talk about the things each of you need to do in order for your year together to be successful. Talking about things early also lowers the chances that you’ll have a full fledged fight later in the year.

Some people suggest creating a contract with your roommate, stating all the things you hold each other to, and others are fine with just talking about their expectations and putting some rules in to place. Either way, make sure you have the talk early on.

Hangout With People in your Residence — Don’t shut yourself away! Even if you’re shy (like I was) make sure to reach out to the girl across the hall or the twins next door. They might become your new best friends, or not, but either way you’ll have someone to eat with until you find a more solid group of friends.

Call your Parents — Don’t forget to call the people who love you the most. Your parents are probably struggling just as much as you are, and would love to hear about how everything is going. They’re also the perfect people to call when you aren’t sure about a class, or how to talk to your roommate when something is bothering you.

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These are a few things I found super helpful in my first year of university and I’ll definitely continue doing them this year.

Good luck to those of you who have already started (I know you’ll have a great year), and enjoy the rest of your vacation to those of you who have another week to go (savour every moment)!

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15 Ways To Improve Your Mood

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Sometimes life gets tough! Things don’t go our way, we trip or fall down and can’t seem to get back up on our own. While you always need some dark in order to appreciate the bright, when things keep rolling down hill it can be very difficult to stay positive and appreciative. We’ve all been there at one point or another, but there’s no need to let yourself fall in to a slump! There are always little ways you can pick yourself back up when you notice that familiar blue cloud passing by.

While ultimately I (highly) recommend speaking to a psychologist or physician about recurring low moods (for real treatment), here are 15 little tricks you can also keep in your back pocket for when life gets rocky!

Go For A Run

While any form of exercise (even a relaxed walk) should do the trick here, I always feel like a good quick sprint is just what I need. Not only will your exercise produce endorphins, burn some calories and give you an excuse to get a donut (guilt free) later, but there’s no better feeling than pushing yourself and literally running your worries in to the ground. While it’s always hard to get started, you will never regret a run when you’re done.

Talk To A Friend

Our friends are our friends for a reason. Calling up your BFF to chat can be a perfect way to shake off a bad day. While you can tell them what’s been bothering you and work through it together, the best thing about our friends, is that you don’t always need to tell them what’s going on, often they can sense it. A conversation featuring a funny story from last night’s shenanigans, some plan making, and general chatting will often help brighten your mood, and remind you that you aren’t alone.

Listen To Your Favourite Song

Music is an incredible power. It can comfort us, empower us and move us to tears all in three or four minutes. Whenever I’m feeling down, I whip out my ukulele (because let’s face it, everything sounds happy on those guys), or blast my favourite feel good tunes! A good solo dance party (hair brush mic included), never fails to pump you up and distract you from feeling low.

Put On Something Nice

While this might sound silly, dressing up has always been one of my favourite tactics to avoid feeling upset. If you’re wearing something you feel powerful and cute in, it will translate into your mood and attitude, which can really help combat negative feelings. Not only do you get an excuse to bust out that new dress or blouse, but when you feel fierce and confident, those around you will notice too!

Watch Funny Videos On YouTube

This one is a quick fix. I’m partial to baby and baby animal videos (cuteness overload) but whatever you find funny will work just as well. Get yourself laughing for a few minutes and you’ll go back to your day feeling rejuvenated!

Cross Something Off Your To-Do List

In many cases, negative emotions are brought on by stress and anxiety, especially during the school year! If you’re like me and live to make to-do lists, crossing things off can really help your mood! The act of writing a to-do list is helpful in itself, as it breaks everything we have to do into smaller chunks. As soon as you start crossing things off (even if they’re the smallest ones on there) it will boost your confidence and get you in the mood to tackle the bigger tasks with gusto!

Paint Your Nails

This is another quick fix, but it always works really well for me! While not everyone admits it, painting your nails is an activity that requires a lot of attention, and that’s exactly the kind of thing you want to do when feeling down! While you’re drawn in to making smooth strokes and not smudging the polish, your brain gets some much needed down time to process and relax, and you get a fancy new set of nails to show off.

Clean Your Room/Workspace

Cleaning is therapeutic. I’ve always thought this way, and probably always will. There is no better feeling than reorganizing your room or work space, throwing away old papers, vacuuming the floor and rearranging your pencils. If there’s one thing that will help you feel more relaxed and ready to take on the day, it’s this! Cleaning and reorganizing is also the perfect way to take your mind off things you can’t stop thinking about so your brain can have a nice little break.

Take A Shower

Wash your worries away with a nice hot shower. Wash your hair, use fancy soap, yummy smelling lotion, and generally care for yourself. Your body is so incredible, it’s your home, and when you take care of it, it will return the favour! The shower is also a perfect place to sing (great acoustics), cry, or think through problems so that you come out feeling refreshed and ready to go.

Make Yourself Something Healthy

On a similar wellness note, your body is your home, and when we aren’t feeling 100%, we tend toward eating fatty comfort foods. While “junk food” treats are important to staying sane, I 100% guarantee that you will feel better after cooking something fresh and healthy for yourself. Not only are you providing important nutrients for your body, but the act of preparing the meal will calm you down as well.

Call Your Mom

Your mom likely knows and loves you more than anyone else, and that is the exact reason you should call her when you’re feeling down. She can help you work through your problem, give you encouragement, and remind you of how loved and needed you are. Also, few things are better than a mom hug, so if you can, get a bunch of those too!

Write It Down

Journaling is a great thing to do when you’re upset. Paper is the perfect opinion-less listener, and you can delve as little or as deep in to your thoughts as you’d like. If you enjoy symbolism, try burning what you write (very satisfying), or just work things out on paper to get a better understanding of what you’re feeling. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to emotions, and if you can identify what’s bothering you, it’ll be that much easier to deal with.

Get Creative

Making something is always helpful for me. Whether you like painting, sewing or dancing, getting lost in the creative process works wonders for your mind and body. If it’s something you really enjoy, you will no doubt feel better after flexing your creative muscle. Not only will you give your brain a break, but you get something cool at the end of it!

Read A Childhood Favourite

Picking up the story book your parents always used to read you is another great way to calm down and feel better. They often bring back great memories and the warm fuzzy feelings we often associate with our childhoods. If anything, funny picture books are a great mindless thing to read to distract yourself!

Buy Fresh Flowers

There has to be some science to back this up somewhere, but fresh flowers are the ultimate pick me up. Whether they’re a gift from someone or just something you picked up at the market, it’s impossible to feel upset around brightly coloured blooms and gentle fragrances! Add a vase of peonies to your desk, some tulips to your bedside table, and revel in some of natures most beautiful handy work!

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While this post is full of little tricks you can use to get out of blue moods, sometimes our feelings goe deeper than a surface fix can reach. If this is the case, know that seeking professional help should never be embarrassing. You are not weak for admitting that you need a little extra help.

Mental illness is such a serious issue, and while I won’t be going in to it much in this post, it is so important that we address the stigma around it. So please, remember that your emotions are valid. The way you feel matters, and if you are struggling, there is no shame in asking for help, just strength.

Your mind is just as important as your body, treat it as you would a best friend.

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More Me Time

In between the crazy demands of school, family, friends and the gazillion other things we cram into our lives, it becomes really easy to forget about yourself. As a student, I’ve learnt not only that me time is precious and hard to come by, but that making room in your busy schedule to make it happen is so worth it.

It’s the same story for most: We have class, homework, assignments, tests and in-between the never ending work, still have to find time to eat, socialize and get enough sleep! I seems just about impossible when you first start getting in to the groove of the school year, so “me time” is something a lot of people overlook or forget about entirely.

But here’s the thing… you shouldn’t!

I know, I know, it’s so easy to start worrying about taking time away from the library (it’s definitely hard for me) but once you exercise your “me time” muscles, it really does help you out.

School is important and obviously staying on top of assignments and readings is why you’re here, but burning yourself out by not taking breaks or time to follow hobbies and relax is sooo counter-productive! Not only will you feel the stress building up on your shoulders, but almost every other area of your life will begin to feel the effects of overwork.

Our schedules are so hectic as students, they start early and end later than they should, and amidst it all, it’s hard to fit in all the things we need, to get done. Here are some simple ways to add “me time” back in to your schedule without putting school on the back burner!

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Set a Bed Time

This one seems a little odd but let me explain! I go to bed (or try to anyways) at 10:30 every night, and at 9:30, I stop any work I’m doing and do something I want to do. My evening me time usually consists of self-care type things and doing yoga. Setting this time standard is so helpful because it becomes really easy to build this hour in to your schedule (taking an hour to wind down before bed is also an amazing way to fall asleep faster if you have trouble with that).

Wake Up Earlier

If you’re more of an early bird, waking up an hour, or even half an hour early can work wonders. Starting the day quietly by taking care of yourself (maybe make a fancy breakfast or take a soak in the tub) will start your day off on a totally different foot. I’m determined to become a morning person this year and while I’m not fully there, I’ve definitely noticed a change in my mood and stress level if I start the day out by doing something I like (it’s also so much easier to wake up if you have something to look forward to!)

Extend Your Lunch

If you aren’t a night owl or an early bird, taking an extra long lunch might be just the right thing for you! Lunch is a lovely time of day to focus on doing something to destress and focus on yourself, I mean what’s better than reading a few chapters of your favourite book while eating?

Take Breaks

During study sessions, make sure to take breaks. They don’t have to be long (fifteen minutes usually does the trick) but make sure you take them regularly (say every two hours). Not only will this break free up your mind, you can take some time to stretch or grab a snack, and  you’ll feel so much more motivated and ready to sit down and work again!

Schedule It In

Sometimes, there’s nothing else we can do and our time seems to escape us. If you live because of your planner/daily schedule, physically pencil in some me time. It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be extravagant, all you need is twenty minutes to decompress and focus on yourself! Writing this time into your daily schedule makes it easier to work your day and responsibilities around it so that you can make everything work (it’s also another reason to spend a good half hour organizing and list making – a favourite pastime of mine).

Join A Club

Joining a club for something your passionate about and interested in is the perfect way to put some me time in to your schedule. It might not be your typical “alone time” but with mandatory events and meetings, this time to get away from the stress of school work is built in! Clubs also provide the perfect setting to make friends and build a support group from people with similar interests and values!

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Life can get pretty hectic and if you don’t take the time you need to rest and recoup, you can hardly expect to reach your potential! Hopefully this post has given you a few tips for adding “me time” back in to your crazy schedules!

What’s your favourite way to spend free time?

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