Shit that would be socially unacceptable everywhere but Robarts

When you enter Robarts, you take a silent pact to not judge anyone for anything. No one’s there to impress anyone. No one’s trying to look cute in case they meet their soulmate — if you are, you need to give up, put on your grimiest sweater, and suffer with the rest of us. What happens in Robarts stays in Robarts.

Something magical happens to people in the stacks, and it’s kind of agreed that you aren’t responsible for what you do there because you’re not yourself (like a criminal acquitted of murder due to temporary insanity). You just ignore everyone and turn the other cheek to behaviour that would be awkward if it happened literally anywhere else.  Everyone’s in the same ‘I’m fucked’ boat and you gotta do what you gotta do to survive.

These acts include but are not limited to:

Publicly weeping

Just GET IT OUT, friend. If you haven’t seen someone crying in Robarts, you probably will if you hang out there enough during exam season. The best and worst part about crying in Robarts is its unabashedness. Unlike with other public places, no one’s trying to hide their tears (or their snot). There’s no escaping to the bathroom, because that econ isn’t going to study itself. You just let that shit out, eyes puffy, nose running, and the most you might do is stand outside in the cold for five minutes, smoke, and have a quick existential crisis before hauling ass back to floor 13. No thanks to U of T’s mental health system, ha. Aha.

Eating with no fucks given

To the sunken-eyed bitch with your feet up in the caf at 5:30 am, a can of Monster, and Cheeto crumbs all over your face: I feel you. I am you. We are all you. Everyone smuggles food into libraries, but eating in Robarts involves a new level of desperation that makes it extra messy (and unhealthy). People forget all their manners because the etiquette part of their brain is malfunctioning from the studying.

They chew with their mouths open, they wolf down junk at alarmingly fast rates, and they shove food in their faces with their whole hands. Have I whipped out a Pez dispenser, bubble tea, stale fries, and M&Ms all at once on Robarts’ tenth floor? Fuck yeah. Would I have pulled that shit at EJ Pratt? No way.

Burping and/or farting without shame

I feel like a lot of people have burped by accident in Robarts and been mortified for two seconds but then were like ‘fuck it’ because it’s Robarts. If someone’s going to judge you in a sacred place, they are not worth politeness. People definitely let one loose in the stacks too, but not many people probably notice because everyone has earbuds in. Someone actually posted a cute missed connection a while ago (I want to say it was on Reddit?) saying something along the lines of, “To the girl in Robarts who farted with her earbuds in, I love you.” That warmed my heart. Maybe true love does exist.

Exposing others to your feet

People think really hard about what to wear to be comfortable on long flights, and I see no difference between an eight-hour economy flight and an eight-hour Robarts session – except with the flight you’ve actually made progress at the end. You’re in an uncomfortable chair, quite possibly sharing cramped space with other people, with limited leg room, bad ventilation, and bacteria-infested surfaces. You have to be comfortable if that’s going to be your whole day. It’s natural people take their shoes off because how are you supposed to put your feet up on other chairs or find weird sitting positions with Docs on?

Wearing clothes that burn people’s eyes on sight

If you’re in Robarts stacks for more than three hours, there’s a 75 per cent chance you haven’t done laundry in a long time. It’s math. Maybe you try to look presentable in class, and now all your ‘respectable human’ clothes are dirty. You have to dip into your back stock. That ill-fitting Black Market purchase from two years ago? The hand-me-down jeans from your cousin that make your ass look terrible? Your ex’s threadbare H&M sweater that you found in a drawer months after you broke up? All fair game. You submitted the paper two minutes before it was due. Your gross clothes made you not naked. You both did the bare minimum. You belong together.

How to make the most of that dreaded commute to campus

I’ve had my fair share of commuting in undergrad. Half of my time spent at school was commuting approximately an hour-and-a-half to two hours to get to class. At first, I found the journey annoying at best and dreadful at worst, but over time, I somehow managed to make it work.

Everyone has their own routine and rhythm when it comes to commuting. Some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of rush hour, while others try to avoid it at all costs. Here are five tips for everyone to make the best of your daily commute:

1. Meditate – I typically try to avoid sleeping during my commute because of the fear I’ll miss my stop – it has happened before, unfortunately. The next best way to relax and let loose is mediation. If you can muster up the courage to close your eyes and breathe deeply in front of a bunch of strangers, I highly recommend meditating. You could meditate on your own or use an app that walks you through the steps. I personally use the popular app, Headspace, but there are plenty of options out there. It’s a peaceful way to start and end the day.

2. Listen to your favourite podcast – There’s not much you can do on those packed rush hour Subway cars but listen to podcasts or music. If you drive to campus, you’re in a similar boat. My advice is to reserve one of your favourite podcasts specifically for your commute, that way you have something to look forward to. For me, this pod was Song Exploder, but choose whatever suits your taste. Also, if you can afford it, noise cancelling headphones are the way to go. If not, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives that will do the trick.

3. Do your schoolwork – This one’s a little tricky for those who drive in, but us GO Train-er’s can appreciate the beauty of the quiet zone to get a little work done. I wouldn’t recommend finishing your readings if you are prone to motion sickness – I, for one, can’t read on the bus – but your commute is a great opportunity to squeeze a little work at the beginning or end of your day.

4. Socialize – This tip is great if you know someone who has a similar commute. If you have a close friend who gets off at your stop, you definitely lucked out. I’m fortunate that my parents and I share the same commute into the city so, even if we don’t always talk during the trip (again, quiet zone), it’s still nice to spend the time with them. Additionally, for one year, my partner and I were both commuting west of the city and we took the opportunity waiting for our trains to just hangout and de-stress.

5. Catch up on the latest news – During my years commuting, I spent every morning reading the Globe and Mail and skimming through my New York Times daily email newsletters. During the day, I would pick up a print copy of The Varsity and read it on my travel home. If you drive, I recommend listening to CBC Radio at 99.1 FM – Matt Galloway’s Metro Morning is the only thing I want to listen to when I’m rubbing sleep out of my eyes. For those who prefer to check the news on your phone, I would recommend get an app like Pocket which allows you to download news articles and read them from your device when you lose your internet connection.

6. Celebrate the beginning or end of the day with a nice beverage – If you know me, you’re well-aware I’m a big fan of coffee. I often grab Tim’s before my morning commute and a decaf from Union Station’s McCafé for the way home. Occasionally, I’ll grab another drink like a Booster Juice or even just fill up my water bottle. It might seem excessive, but having a drink during my trip somehow made it just the slightest bit nicer.

Campus events you shouldn’t miss out this week


Commuter Appreciation Week: Innis De-Stress Self Care Event

Let’s be honest, we could all use a little de-stressing. This week various college commuter groups have joined to host UTSG’s annual Commuter Appreciation Week. Monday’s event will feature everything self-care related from tea and snacks to bubble wrap popping.

When: 4PM—7PM

Where: Innis College Residence Events Room, UTSG

Cost: Free


Lecture Me! A Series: Video Games can Make You a Better Person

This UTM event is part of the Lecture Me! series and will showcase English and Drama Professor Larry Switzky. Many public discussions concerning video games centre around its potential for violence, however this lecture will emphasize its possibilities for good. The free event should make for a unique discussion.

When:  7PM – 8:30PM

Where: Experiential Education Unit, UTM

Cost: Free


Masquerade Ball: The Social Sciences Formal

The Ethics, Society & Law Students’ Association, Undergraduate Social Students’ Union, Peace, Conflict & Justice Society, Criminology Students’ Association, and Employment Relations Student Association have teamed up from an annual course union formal. Tickets are slightly cheaper for those in the social sciences but everyone is welcome.

When: 7PM – 11:59PM

Where: Hart House East Common Room, UTSG

Cost: $10 for social science students and $15 for non-social science students


Netflix and Neuroscience

The Neuroscience Association for Undergraduate Students is holding a low-key movie night this Tuesday. The association says the film is TBD but will be neuroscience-related. Oh and also, there will be snacks.

When: 4PM – 6:30PM

Where: Claude T Bissell Building, Room 112, UTSG

Cost: Free

Finding a Literary Agent

Hart House’s Literary and Library Committee’s annual, “Finding a Literary Agent” event is perfect for those interested in writing and publishing. The panel will feature Toronto-based authors and agents who will share their experiences and advice for aspiring authors.

When: 6PM—9PM

Where: Hart House East Common Room, UTSG

Cost: Free


Environmental Career Day 2019

This Friday, U of T’s School of Environment is hosting a career day specifically designed for those interested in jobs involving the environment. Learn about various volunteer, internship, and employment opportunities from different organizations. All students are welcome to attend the day-long event.

When: 10AM – 3PM

Where: Hart House Great Hall, UTSG

Cost: Free for U of T students

Voicing Our Stories: International Women’s Day Variety Show

For International Women’s Day, Hart House’s Social Justice Committee, the MGA Intersectional Feminist Collective, and Hart House Global Commons will be hosting a women-filled showcase. The event will feature stand-up comedians, writers and poets, and a performance artist. You won’t want to miss this one.

When: 7PM – 9PM

Where: Hart House Debates Room, UTSG

Cost: Pay what you can

Saturday & Sunday

Indig-U-Know: UTSC’s first Indigenous Conference and Pow Wow

This weekend, UTSC will have its first Pow Wow and Indigenous Studies Conference. The Scarborough Campus Students Union has partnered with campus Elder Wendy Phillips and UTSC staff to put on the event. The weekend will begin with the conference filled with lectures, workshops, panels, and performances, and will end with a traditional Pow Wow.

When: March 9 at 10AM – March 10 at 9:30PM

Where: UTSC

Cost: Free

DIY: A student’s guide to improving your English

Growing up in Toronto provided ample opportunity to explore different cultures and learn new languages. However, it wasn’t until an experience abroad that I’d learn the art of mastering a new language. The key is to immerse yourself.

For those who, like me, came to Canada from elsewhere or for whom English isn’t a first language, studying at U of T – notorious for its isolationist reputation, jokingly, comparable only to that of Donald Trump’s USA – doesn’t mean you’re doomed to graduate with a flimsy, if not utterly deteriorating, command of the English language.

The U of T community is not isolationist – contrary to popular, albeit, false belief. The choice of isolation is left with individuals. You’re free and encouraged to use the plenitude of campus resources to improve your English.

Better English is, after all, in your hands and it’ll certainly reinvigorate your experience here at U of T; by opening new doors, you’ll begin to see the plethora of possibilities and appreciate the boundless opportunities that Toronto boasts. Improving your English is a sure way to attain a more enriching, interconnected and positive learning experience.

Here are ten tips for improving your English:

1. Change your devices into English – like your phone and computer. Language is like a muscle and with more use the stronger it’ll get.

2. Talk, listen and read in English as much as possible. Switch your social media platforms to English. Make it a rule to communicate only in English, even with fellow expats. Push yourself and others out of the comfort zone and build better English together, that’s the real meaning of socializing anyways.

3. Keep an English vocabulary journal. Make it a daily habit to learn new words by incorporating it as part of your routine.

4. Use words in a variety of contexts so as to build more versatile and robust communication skills.

5. Subscribe to an English language magazine of a personal hobby or interest. Doing so will diversify the breadth of your use and knowledge of English.

6. Except in special cases or emergencies, take on the challenge of speaking only in English for an extended period of time – like for three or six months. This will ensure you’re more fully immersed and improve your English much more quickly.

7. Go over to the Communication Café to strengthen your language abilities and build your confidence for expressing and communicating ideas orally.

8. Try the reading-eWriting program offered by FAS to better improve your reading comprehension and writing skills. They’ll even let you follow the program, if you prefer, using your own course materials.

9. You can also join the free non-credit and no-pressure mini-courses. There’s no homework, they promise!

10. Lastly, make sure to check out the English Language Learning Student Association (ELLSA). They’re an officially recognized student group who host fun social events and are always looking to help those seeking to improve their English. You can also connect with them on Facebook.

Ultimately, English, like any language, is not easy and requires steadfast commitment for its mastery. For new and native-speakers alike, language skills are always a work in-progress. Don’t let yourself get discouraged, remember, however bleak and frozen the middle of winter may seem and feel, like summer, better English will come with time.

Best conversational podcasts to listen to during your day

Those of us avid podcast listeners understand that different types of podcasts are perfect for different times. Narrative podcasts like Thunder Bay or (everyone’s favourite) Serial, are great to enjoy to when you have the time and energy to binge-listen for a couple hours.

Meanwhile, podcasts like Freakonomics and Heavyweight are great listens when you have about an hour of dedicated dish-washing time to immerse yourself in audio storytelling and learn something new.

However, some of my favourite podcasts are conversational in nature and perfect for when you’re half-distracted, slightly preoccupied, but still want a little background entertainment, nevertheless. These are my favourite pods to enjoy when I’m commuting, playing video games, or falling asleep.

1. (Un)Spoken by The Varsity – I couldn’t write these recommendations without giving a shout-out to The Varsity’s very own conversation-based podcast! But seriously, (Un)Spoken deserves to be on this list. U of T’s very-own Blythe Hunter and Elham Numan bring listeners into funny and intimate conversations about race on campus. The episodes are around 45 minutes long and occasionally include guests. Highly recommend.

2. Guys we F****D: The Anti-Slut-Shaming Podcast by Sorry About Last Night – This podcast is one of my all-time favourites. Hosted by comedians Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson, each episode is a low-stakes chat about sexuality, life, and occasionally love. Each episode has a guest who discusses how their lived experiences influence their understanding of sex. This pod is hilarious, entertaining, and you might accidentally learn something new.

3. Earning Curve by Gimlet Creative – Although I usually avoid branded podcasts, Earning Curve is a great listen for those who are interested in learning about business but aren’t studying at Rotman. Earning Curve is a podcast hosted by former-Dragon and venture capitalist Michele Romanow who candidly chats with entrepreneurs about their businesses and their struggles. This pod isn’t as popular as some others, but its Canadian twist makes it a hidden gem.

4. Still Processing by The New York Times – Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris have truly made this podcast a must-listen. Discussing pop culture, current affairs, and politics from a racial and gendered lens, Still Processing is a go-to for those who want to think critically about the society we live in.

5. Pod Save America by Crooked Media – This podcast is a staple for news junkies. Four former White House aides in the Obama administration discuss the latest news in American politics while interviewing notable politicians and stakeholders along the way.

My first online dating experience: how to scare off a guy in less than 48 hours

Meant to be?

Creating an online dating profile proved to be the most ambiguous way I could have started off 2019. I spent several of my last hours of 2018 letting the idea of meeting someone online for the first-time brew in my head. The more I did that, the more I felt like I should follow through just because it was something completely out of my comfort zone.

Before I knew it, my online profile was up in early January.

Wanting to prepare myself for what was to come, I went over the pros and cons with my friend Jordan, but little did I know that my emotional reaction spiked to a degree that caught me off guard.

You know those days that show you exactly how you’re going to feel for the whole day? Well, that was my Saturday morning – it was fucking cold and clearly screaming, stay indoors.

Guess who didn’t stay indoors?

That morning I dragged myself into campus, and lo and behold I was lost inside the new Highland Hall (HL) building at UTSC. Wanting to pass time, I checked to see my new matches and one in particular – his smile – drew me in (but seriously, it’s hard to find a guy genuinely smiling into the camera on this app!) and I decided to start a conversation with him.

“Hi,” I wrote.

He replied almost immediately.

“Hi. How are you?”

“Kinda lost… in a building actually.”

Oddly enough, the convo with him felt casual, and he always had something to say. My goal was to get the hell off the app as soon as someone agreed to go on one date with me. The moment I realized I could keep a digital conversation going with this guy, instead of working in the study spaces, I procrastinated for five hours analyzing and dissecting our messages.

Was he the one? Meh, he’d do for now. I knew it was time.

Ok you can do this.

Just. Nike. It.

So, on Saturday evening I told him that this was my first online dating experience and that my goal was to go on one date only.

“Wow that was fast. And you’d want to go on that one date with me?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “since our convo hasn’t been awkward on here. I’d really want to see what it’s like IRL with you.”

“I’d really like that too,” he responded.

And I, after consulting with two of my friends, Michael* and Jordan*, and examining about every text, I sent the message: “It’s a date then.”

Don’t celebrate yet, he’s not fully on board.

Immediately I asked Jordan how I could steer the convo back to setting a venue and time. Yet, at this point it almost seemed easy to slip in various questions. So, I tested the waters by sending one question at a time and he responded almost instantly, which was awesome. While my heart was skipping beats and my mind was racing faster than Tokyo’s Metro that night, I started to plan my outfit.

I also began to plan how Jordan could come to spy on us and keep an eye out for for stranger danger while I was enjoying myself.

Hey everybody, look at me I’m kicking off 2019 by leaping out of my comfort zone—yes, clap for me. I did it.

Opening Pandora’s Box

Sunday morning, I locked eyes with my phone and grabbed it from my night table to check it.

No messages.

He was on my mind all day, so much so that by the afternoon my eyes drifted to the clock each time I uttered “Hallelujah” in church.

Right after church, I begin a conversation with him. This time, it was different. I realized that my feelings for him had inflated overnight.

For some reason, I found myself asking questions about the sharks on his bio photos, and it’s like this switch turns on inside him to send strings of messages with loads of fucking info.

And then he dropped the f-bomb. Family bomb. And kept going.

This sent my attraction signals off the roof because the more I was learning about the kind of person he was, the more my desire to meet him in person grew. I noticed how strongly intertwined his family and work were.

Not long after, we reached a convo plateau.

It’s a good time to stop now, yes? Oh …n o? You want to keep going? Sure, don’t listen to reason. Go, be selfish, indulge yourself.

I wish I’d stopped there. Instead I took a guessing game a little too far – oopsie?

“What if I guess where you work?” I wrote. He hesitated, but still told me to give it a shot.

I should have at least asked him “Are you ok with me checking?” one more time before he said, “You can give it a try.”

I guess we were both ignorant, him with the huge amount of information he spilled to a complete stranger online, and me being the stranger who was cocky to admit that I knew enough about him to find out where he worked.

And inevitably, I guessed right. He was probably having a fucking panic attack then and there because he said, “I’m actually kind of worried that you know where I work now.” A short while after he stopped replying. I cried myself to sleep that night.

I knew things wouldn’t be the same, but a small part of me wanted things to go back to normal so Monday morning I asked him where things were at. Nothing.

It just went downhill from there I sent about eight or so messages mentioning that he was my first date online and I completely understood if he wanted to block me. Finally, on Tuesday night… after heavy convincing from Jordan we decided to delete his chat, so I sent him a final text saying I wasn’t going to be on the app much longer and ended off with “It was nice meeting you. This was definitely different.”

And a minute later all I got was:

“I’m sorry.”

At. Least. He. Replied.

But that was it.

There it is, a date that never happened. It promised a lot ,but my lack of patience ended it in less than 48 hours.


*Names have been changed at individuals request