The five kids you meet in summer school

The Person who needs one more course to graduate

You know who you are. You’ve likely finished your program and need one last pesky credit to get your diploma marking you as an educated person. Whether it’s breadth or just a random class, you know the finish line is right in front of you.

The Keener

Ah, the keener. Regardless of why they’re taking the course, you know what they’re going to do. They’re going to go to every single class, take notes on every single reading there is, raise their hand to get that participation grade, or worse, out of actual curiosity. Teach me your ways.

The Re-Do

It happens. For one reason or another we don’t pass a course and have to retake it in the summer. I mean, it’s the perfect solution. Smaller class sizes, warmer weather, twice the speed of a normal course — no pressure, right?

The One-Who-Skips-Every-Class-But-Makes-The-Final

I mean, I get it? It’s summer, it’s hot not cold out, you’re commuting downtown anyway, so you might as well enjoy the outdoor patios and the park and the chill atmosphere. Who even has time for class? Just go to the final and hand in your assignments and you’re good.

Dora The Explorer

While not necessarily named Dora, this student seeks to explore the endless classes that are held at U of T. Going from obscure class to obscure class, they seek to find the most unique classes available to us. Whether it’s a course on movies, classic rock, or graphic novels, they’ll try anything. Although no Dora, I recently took a course on the intersection of graphic novels and religion.

Next time you’re in a summer course, remember these five students. And know that one of these is definitely you.

Five out-of-the-box travel destinations — for students

Being a student is tough. Between balancing classes, jobs, and an ever-limited budget, finding the time to actually see and explore the city is tough. Even when you do find the time, Toronto is expensive. So here are five budget-friendly travel destinations for students:

  1. Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

Under a new pricing model that began on May 25, 2019, admission to the AGO for those aged 25 and under will now be free. So go on, see various pieces of Canadian, Indigenous, and international art, including exhibits like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room.

  1. High Park

Like nature? Like picnics? Like zoos? Like free things? Well, High Park is the place for you! A spacious park in the West End, it’s known for its annual cherry blossom bloom, but also has a free zoo open all year from 7:00 am to dusk.

  1. Bike Share Toronto

Although not a destination, Bike Share Toronto offers a $7 Day Pass to bike as much as you’d like for 24 hours, from Humber Bay Park in the west to the Beaches in the east. Good for exercise, the environment, and sightseeing, the only downside is you have to dock your bike every 30 minutes or face overage charges.

  1. Allan Gardens

Located at 160 Gerrard Street East, close to Carlton Street and Jarvis Street, Allan Gardens is a mixed-use park and an indoor botanical garden, featuring beautiful plants and flowers from around the world. Open all year from 10 am to 5 am, admission is free and wheelchair-accessible as part of the Toronto Parks system.

  1. Hamilton

If you’re looking to leave the city and not break the bank, spend a weekend in Steeltown! Take a bus from downtown Toronto to Hamilton for as low as $10, and take a day or weekend exploring the burgeoning food, bar, and café scenes while exploring its natural beauty — whether the lake or its various waterfalls!

Music to listen to when you’ve graduated

School is out and you’re now free from U of T’s embrace for good. Whether you have your whole life planned out or are just taking it one day at a time, here are some songs to listen to while staring at your very expensive diploma.

“Sure Don’t Miss You” by The Dip

Freedom definitely tastes sweet, even if we all know that it’s a fleeting feeling. That’s okay, I’ll revel in this post-graduation high for as long as I can. It’s just as the chorus suggests: “someday, I might miss you, but I sure don’t miss you right now,” U of T.

“Emotions and Math” by Margaret Glaspy

Honestly, I mostly like this song for its name. It never fails to make me think that, at the end of the day, undergrad is just a combination of emotions and math.

“Beautiful Escape feat. Zak Abel” by Tom Misch

This song just makes you want to dance in pure bliss while all your friends are panicking as ACORN continues to crash during course registration. Seriously, I will not miss ACORN even a little bit.

“Is This It?” By the Greeting Committee

Now that a few months have passed since the end of undergrad, and convocation is over, the reality of the fact that you will not be returning to campus in September might be sinking in. What even is a life without studying all day and night at Robarts? I don’t know and now the post-graduation panic is starting to sink in.

“Are You Bored Yet? feat. Clairo” By Wallows 

Taking the summer off seemed like a really good idea, until I realized that I have no money to travel or take aesthetic Instagram pictures at trendy places.

“No Plan” by Hozier

Really reach your peak existential crisis phase with this next song. What is the point of doing anything? The earth is going to go up in flames soon anyways so my diploma and I will just listen to Hozier’s haunting voice until that happens.

“Sanity” by Nick Murphy/Chet Faker

The existential crisis might start to make you feel as though you’re losing your mind, a little bit. This upbeat tune might help you unwind from your downward spiral.

“Why Do You Feel So Down?” By Declan McKenna

For talking about being down, this is one upbeat song. And that about sums up the post-graduation experience: you may be stressed about what happens next, but this is also the start of a new chapter with almost endless possibilities. So don’t feel so down about it.

“Coming Home” by Leon Bridges

Graduating for many, including me, might mean having to go back home, whether it be just for the summer or indefinitely. Embrace being able to have your parents cook for you again, or not ruining every load of laundry because you’re too lazy or too broke to separate your whites from your colours.

“Postcard” by First Aid Kit

The line, “I wasn’t looking to change, I’ll never be the same,” defines my undergrad experience. So, thanks for the good and the bad, U of T. I’ll send you a postcard when I get to where I’m going.

The Squirrel’s guide to surviving summer school

I have more summer terms under my belt than I imagine the average U of T student does. Even so, I still couldn’t tell you whether I consider the session to be better or equal to the fall and winter sessions —academically of course. Still, the experience is different and also bears the ability to set a new ‘norm’ that will carry you through the session, and the rest of your degree as a whole.  Here are my tips:

  1. Take courses you LIKE

I know you’ve heard that the shortness of the summer session make it the perfect time to take the courses you want to get over with. Wrong! I’d bet that the courses you hate are not the courses you’re the best at. For the sake of your GPA — and a pleasant summer — pick courses that you enjoy.

  1. Switch things up! 

Do not study at home! I can’t stress this enough. The most intelligent people I’ve met at U of T will tell you not to study in your room. It’s nice out, so be smart and take advantage of the weather to explore new coffee shops and study spaces.

  1. Set a routine

When speaking to first-time summer school attendees, the speed of the courses seems to entice more people than it scares away. Don’t get me wrong; I was the same.  I remember asking myself, “But will they really make us cover all the same topics as the fall and winter sessions?”

The answer? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you that it’s no walk in the park. You’ll have a lot to balance in a very short amount of time, including the obligatory summer fun activities. You’re going to need a routine and learn to budget your time effectively.

  1. Get enough sleep

In the age of self-love, care, and help, it surprises me that sleep consistently gets the short end of the stick in our attempts to balance wellness, school, and a social life. With the livelihood of the Toronto summer nights, the temptation to cut down on sleep to keep up with school and friends is amplified. Sleep is not optional. Caffeine is not ‘sleep.’

  1. Make friends

Missing a lecture in the summer does not equate to missing a lecture in during the regular year — courses are covering more and going a lot faster in each lecture. You will need someone to fill you in, even if the slides are posted on Quercus. So get to know people in your lecture, because they will save you in your time of need.

Also, I’ve found making new friends in summer school is easier because, well, you’re all in the same boat, and there are fewer faces in lecture and campus as a whole.

  1. Get ALL of your textbooks

I know, I know — why spend hundreds of dollars on a 6-week course? You guessed my answer to this one: everything rushed. Not everything will be covered in lecture in depth in lecture, and you’re expected to come out of these courses with a knowledge comparable to those having taken the course in the fall and winter sessions. This means that instruction is brief, but exams are just as thick, and just as challenging.

My final tip doubles as the conclusion and the most important of them all: have fun. I don’t mean like the Canada Wonderland type of fun, but I mean contentment — not even a 4.0 GPA at U of T is worth your mental health. My final tip for survival is to promise to be good to yourself. It is the summer, after all.

Course enrolment in six easy steps

Aside from sabotage, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you get into all the courses you want— or desperately need. 

  1. Plan for the future

The last thing you want to think about in your first year is your final year, but planning ahead reduces the course enrolment panic. It also prevents you from taking more courses than you can handle — which induces more stress than necessary. 

Plan backwards. Take note of the courses you want and need to take in your fourth year, and work down. What prerequisites do you need? What distribution credits do you need? Take those and the rest will work itself out. 

Also, Degree Explorer is your friend. Don’t take more courses than you have to.

  1. Explore your options

Educate yourself on current course offerings by using the timetable planner. The planner shows all the courses offered in the fall, winter, and summer sessions, so you can map out your schedule and avoid any conflicts. There’s nothing worse than having two courses you want to take overlap with other.

  1. Always have a ‘plan B’ 

Popular and mandatory courses fill up quickly. Try to get into those first, but if they’re full make sure you have backups ready. Pick courses that fulfil some kind of requirement, or self-satisfaction, so that it isn’t a waste of time.

  1. Add courses to your enrolment cart early

ACORN graciously offers students the ability to add courses before the enrolment time. Add all your courses beforehand and just click “enrol” once it is your start time. No more scrambling to remember the course code. It’s almost as therapeutic as online shopping. 

Just make sure you have that timetable handy, so that you don’t add your alternative courses first.

  1. Set your alarm 

If you have everything in your enrolment cart, wake up 15 minutes before. You won’t have access to ACORN until your start time, so don’t waste precious sleeping time.

  1. Be a fourth-year

This probably sounds like the least helpful item on the list if you are entering your first year, but trust me, if you can just find a time machine and skip ahead about three years, it will be so much easier. Since your fourth year is usually the final year of your undergraduate life, you’re given priority by the registrar— you get to choose your courses first.

However, if you don’t have access to a time machine, there is still hope: the waiting list. You just need to be in the top 10 per cent and you’ll probably get in. Just attend the lectures and pray that everyone before you drops out.

10 reasons you should not go to U of T

The University of Toronto was recently ranked number one in Canada and number 20 globally by U.S. News & World Report.
However, as an undergraduate student here in her third year, I can DEFINITELY say there are many reasons I wish I never came to this godforsaken school.

1. The weather in this city is always, always horrible – and to make it worse, U of T rarely gives any snow days! (Seriously, what is up with that?)

I don’t remember the last time I walked outside without the wind hitting my face at 27 miles per hour. The weather in this city is basically bad all school year – it starts to get chilly in September, followed by five months of an excruciating winter, and a sad spring till April. To put it simply: the weather is only good in this city from May till August.

And the worst part is that U of T doesn’t give enough snow days. Seriously, we were forced to go to school and write our exams during a polar vortex. On top of that, they don’t put enough salt on sidewalks.

2. Downtown appears thrilling to incoming freshmen till you find out this city is practically unaffordable for students.

It’s all fun and games till you’re forced to pay $1 500 for small student unit downtown. Additionally, there’s nothing really to do in downtown that doesn’t involve spending money. Textbooks are so expensive you’d want to gauge your eyes out, food is expensive, and a single night out can cost you a lot.

Your other options include living outside the city and commuting every day, but come on, who are we kidding? The TTC is the worst.

3. U of T is a real GPA killer.

It’s relatively easy to get into U of T but undergraduate studies here is no joke. U of T is known for having really low-class averages. The competitiveness and the high expectations here can adversely impact your GPA and basically harm your chances for graduate school.

On top of that, bell curves certainly do not make it better.

4. The WiFi on campus is the worst.

To begin, you hardly get network in a lot of the buildings in U of T. On top of that, I find that the internet is super slow and keeps on disconnecting. The WORST of all is Convocation Hall – seriously, it’s a nightmare.

5. U of T is simply way too big.

Seriously, the class sizes are way too big, and the student-teacher ratio is really bad. Large class sizes and frequent impersonal approaches to teaching can often make you feel isolated.

6. Campus life is pretty bland.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of clubs to choose from and there’s always something or the other happening on campus. However, due to overburdening course loads it’s too difficult to keep up with any extracurricular activities for most students. U of T doesn’t even have a large homecoming. In my opinion, the Greek life isn’t all that happening here either.

7. Trying to find a spot in Robarts during exam season is near impossible.

U of T has 44 libraries, and still it’s somehow impossible to find a study spot during exam season. For starters, most of the libraries aren’t open 24 hours. Even though Robarts is open during exam season, only a few floors are functional at all hours – and trust me, there’s barely any sufficient seating. I think it has to do with the fact that we also have thousands of kids on a campus with crowded study spots?

8. Campus food is the worst – the only thing that’ll save you is the brown food truck in front of Sidney Smith.

For a school that’s so big, there are barely any decent places to eat on campus.

9. It’s actually really difficult to get a job in Toronto.

Unless you’re from Rotman, or you’re exceptionally good at balancing grades and extra curriculars, I find it’s really hard to get a job. Because there are so many students in Toronto, competitiveness is really high over here. Sometimes even people with straight 4.0’s don’t even get decent jobs in the city.

10. You could avoid all these and go to UTSC or UTM instead – but come on, why would you? 

I mean, you could avoid all the city problems and move to the other two campuses, but that’s even worse. For example, UTSC is too small and it’s in the middle of nowhere.

10 reasons you should go to U of T

Mid-terms and exam seasons are dreadful. While you’re in Robarts contemplating your life choices, spare a minute to remind yourself why it is still worth cramming for!

1. Your future is going to be so bright.

It’s no Ivy League or Oxbridge, but it’s the best university in Canada – and 23rd best in the world! Your parents and relatives are proud, and it looks good on your resume. That’s why we are all here in the first place…right?

2. You become the better version of yourself here.

There are a lot of empowering moments at U of T. Perhaps it was when you finally memorized your ten-digit student number at the end of the year, or when you pushed through the snow and got to class when it was -40 outside. Cheers, I’m proud of you.

3. It always has your back when you need some space.

Can’t find a seat at Gerstein? Go to Robarts, E.J. Pratt, Knox, Kelly, Law, OISE…all around the campus, U of T has a variety of libraries for your selection. Don’t worry. You can always find that study space that you desperately need.

4. Because work-life is perfectly balanced.

Work-life balance is a big deal here. You even see the flyers in the bathroom. Most frat houses get lit every weekend, or you could also go to a nice club nearby for a night-out with your friends, let some steam off the stressful week. Of course, a safe and cost-efficient alternative is study-hanging at Robarts.

5. It polishes your LinkedIn profile

By the time you graduate, your LinkedIn page is not going to be empty. Throughout your journey at U of T, you obtain tons of key skills that increase your employability. These include speed reading, speed writing, efficiency working under pressure, stress, and crisis management.

6. It equips you with essential life skills.

Next time your TA shoots down the essay you wrote or when you are cramming and crying in Robarts for that test tomorrow (uh, like now?), think about the hidden lessons. U of T doesn’t want you to know…but it’s all tough love to get you ready for adult life.

7. Because you can study anything. Literally, anything.

Enrolled in social science but changed your mind? You can always start over with a major in computer science. But if you’re interested in a challenge, you can even do another major in Caribbean Studies, Buddhist Studies, and many more programs that look lovely on your CV.

8. Because campus is beautiful.

Remember the moment you fell in love with the campus during your tour that one summer? Thinking about a picnic on the front campus or a stroll with your boo at Queen’s Park? It will happen someday when it’s neither freezing cold nor too muddy.

9. U of T keeps tabs on your physical health.

We get a good work out at least once a week. Got a class back to back? You have ten long minutes to go all the way from New College to St. Mikes. If you run fast enough you might even manage a bathroom stop!

10. Because we’re all proud to be here.

Let’s be honest. It is a complicated love-hate relationship we have with this school. But at the end of the day, we all share a good laugh whenever someone mentions Ryerson.

5 concerts to see in Toronto this Summer

Beat the Toronto summer heat and try your best to snag tickets to these hot-selling concerts in the city this summer.

Billie Eilish

She’s one of the hottest artists right now, so you know that this concert’s going to be a popular one in the city this summer. Tickets are actually already sold out, but if you’re lucky you may be able to snag one from someone who can’t go.

When: June 11

Where: Budweiser Stage

Queen + Adam Lambert

You may have seen the Oscar winning movie Bohemian Rhapsody this past year, and no matter how you felt about it or Rami Malek’s Best Actor win, you can’t deny that Queen’s catchy chart-topping hits aren’t something you’d want to miss live.

When: July 28

Where: Scotiabank Arena

Snoop Dogg

He supposedly wants to be a Canadian citizen. Well, we’ll see how well he fits in, and if he ends up leaving REBEL nightclub up in smoke…

When: May 20

Where: REBEL

Backstreet Boys

To all you 90s kids out there: get excited for this sweet throwback. Backstreet’s back to make you swoon with their pretty boy looks, catchy hooks, and smooth dance moves. Alright!

When: July 17

Where: Scotiabank Arena

Morrissey

After boycotting Canada 15 years ago, he’s back for 2 dates in Toronto. The former Smiths frontman will debut songs from his latest album and throw it back with some classic poetical alternative hits from the 80s and 90s.

When: April 26 & 27

Where: Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

 

Top 5 washrooms at U of T

There’s a truth we all figure out eventually: only the truly desperate use the Robarts washrooms. The Robarts washrooms, especially on the second floor, are usually busy, dirty, and generally unpleasant. Why would you use them when there’s so many other (marginally) better options?

If you’re looking to explore the campus and expand your horizons, let this list serve as a guide to bring you to the multi-faceted buildings— and washrooms — at UTSG.

New College — Wilson Hall

On the lower level of Wilson Hall at New College, there exists my personal Ole Faithful of washrooms. Brightly lit, never busy, with a floor length mirror.

You really can’t go wrong with this one.

Hart House — Basement

This one gets a boost because of the recently installed tampon and pad dispenser, as well as new (scented!) disposal units. Plus it’s at the central convenient location of Hart House. You can go to the gym, read a book, and have a moderately pleasant washroom experience all in one building. Truly the cultural center of U of T.

Vic Goldring Student Centre1st floor

I’m not sure exactly why I need this in a washroom, but there’s a bit of a skylight, which is a nice touch. The washrooms on the lower floor of Goldring near Ned’s Cafe aren’t bad either.

Goldring Student Centre — serving the students and their biological needs.

Innis College — Basement

Secluded in the basement of Innis college, this smaller washroom is a solid choice. Perhaps you can stop by on your way to Robarts, saving yourself from the dim, paper-toweled floors of the Robarts washrooms.

Myhal Centre — 1st Floor

I’ve only been in this building for exams, but honestly, I was wracking my brain for a fifth best washroom at U of T. The competition this year was…not strong.

But I went back for the benefit of YOU, readers of The Squirrel. And I got to say, not bad! Although if any of you out there have any better suggestions, honestly hit me up. Because writing this list was slightly depressing. I’m getting sick of these subpar washrooms and I deserve better.

I was at the Queen’s Park Flood

On the eleventh day of March came the Flood, where the students of Toronto, expelled from the verdant fields of Queen’s Park, were swept up in its current. Spring thawed the accumulated snow, and the narrow footpaths began to fill with water. I was there upon the surging plain, journeying home from my lecture at St. Michael’s, when I saw them all, hundreds perhaps, before the banks of Queen’s Park Crescent, thronging along the fence. In the deluge, a long depression in the ground had become a murky chasm, barring us from the safety of Hart House.

Some quailed at the treacherous crossing before them, but I knew there was nowhere to go if we turned back. The brave, or perhaps those with nothing left to fear, began to form a single-file line gripping the fence, one trembling foot before the other, backs to the torrent inches below. I took my place amongst them. Soon I discovered why the procession moved slowly: first, the thin strip of land on which we tiptoed was not land, but ice; we had to lean entirely on the fence, or else slip and plummet backwards.

 

Posted by Jacob Harron on Monday, March 11, 2019

 

Second, this fence was not built to support the weight of even a single human frame. As I and twenty others clung on, it groaned beneath us, and began to teeter ever more sharply, like the nodding head of one battling exhaustion, verging every second on collapse. I knew speed to be my only hope, but the procedure was too delicate. Those in front would not be hurried; those behind surged against me, clamouring for space. My footing wavered. I danced in place upon the frozen ledge in a sort of treadmill motion. The barrier swayed. I clenched my teeth, and inched on, trying to ignore the panic on either side of me, and the dark plummet behind my back. What did not help at all were the snide comments of those who chose simply to walk through the water, and cruelly chided, “It’s only a puddle,” or “Don’t those people own winter boots?” Classists, the lot of them.

At this point, the fence was distressingly malleable. Straining almost parallel to the water’s surface, it offered roughly as much support as a slice of salami nailed into the ground. Just as I prayed that I would be able to reach shore, I slipped. My left foot hurtled backwards, landing upon a small outcropping, which unfortunately turned out also to be ice. Before I knew what was happening, I was ankle-deep in black water, flailing towards shore in desperation and soggy shame. Though I escaped with my life, I relive the experience constantly. I hope never to return to Queen’s Park. I may never attend class again.

I have heard some compare the incident to Moses’ parting of the waters in Exodus, and casting of Pharaoh’s army into the sea. For my part, I left feeling less like a freed slave of Egypt than one of those ugly or abstruse divine accidents that Noah left behind. “Dreadfully sorry,” Meric Gertler calls down from aboard the Ark. “No room for, uh, you lot.” Some of the young, I have heard, go so far as to assert there never was anything behind those fences, and that Queen’s Park was always a metaphorical space, not something literal. Part of me wants to believe them, as I huddle under my blankets for warmth, and nurse my trench foot. Whatever that gated garden is or was, if I must pass it again, I pray less for salvation than survival.