Of Memes, Giggles, and Studying for Exams

With exams looming over us, honestly, sometimes you just need a good laugh.

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In class on review day, things can get a little (or a lot) overwhelming.l.

And believe me, I love to laugh (and by laugh, I mean giggle awkwardly to myself on the bus while strangers give me sideways glances). I save every picture that tickles my funny bone and keep them for when I don’t have wifi and want to read something. This is just a dump of some of the best one’s I’ve saved, things that are very #relatable to our studying period right about now.

Now that the semester is ending, we’re all floating around with this mood:

 

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It’s time to study! Trying to study for the test can be pretty difficult, especially when your bed has just been freshly made, and the blankets are warm, and you’ll just lie down for 5 more minutes…

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When you try to study, it’s like you’re a graph trying to reach an asymptote: you keep trying to reach it, keep trying to approach the motivation, but it just…doesn’t…happen:28ac0118-efbe-4b56-9e00-d45167cfd798When you do study, you suddenly feel so productive and accomplished compared to what you were doing before:

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Before you know it, it’s exam time! Admit it, we’ve all done this at least once during an exam (and I’ll embarrassingly admit I’ve done this too many times to count):

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Finally, the exam is over! You run out of the exam room, feeling incredibly confident despite your strange study habits, but when you chat with your friends the dawning realization hits you:

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About a week later, you get your mark back! That feeling when you get a totally amazing mark on your test, and you just have to snap it to your friends:

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And then when you finally see the results of multiple course marks and finish calculating your grade in every course, it’s an amazing feeling to see an improvement. But sometimes, there are two sides to the coin:

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Here’s a bonus meme for giggles:

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All joking aside: the exam period will be hard, but it will be worthwhile. Keep an open mind, take a breather, and don’t be afraid to laugh it off at the end. Good luck to all of you on your exams!

 

Here’s How to SAVE and MAKE Money (And Still Have Enough for a Splurge or Two)!

Needless to say, university can be really expensive.

With rocketing tuition costs, overpriced cafeteria food, hidden fees, and friends who constantly want to spend money on entertainment, it feels like we students are constantly being robbed of our last few pennies as we walk the halls of the school. While the OSAP debt and credit card bills are currently laying dormant (out of sight, out of mind), the little money we do have still feels like it’s being stretched.

I, just like you, am totally sick of spending more money than I can afford. So, how can we save up those few coins rusting in our wallets for more important things, like treating yourself after a long day?

Ways to SAVE Money:

  1. Buy a reusable mug and make tea/coffee at home
    • I do this all the time with plain green tea. You can get a box of 100 tea bags or a tub of instant coffee for about $3 at any grocery store, and of course boiling water is free. Boom! You save the $2 you spend every morning on coffee and tea!
  2. Use the hot water dispenser in the student center
    • Craving some extra tea or coffee in the middle of the day? Got a packet of ramen noodles lying around at home? The hot water dispenser is convenient, free, and a life saver!
  3. Make most of your lunches
    • It might take a bit of extra time out of your late night or early morning, but assuming you buy a $10 meal five times a week, it will save you about $200 per month!
  4. Bring lots of snacks
    • Fruit is ideal, but granola bars, cookies, extra lunches, and other food works.
    • This will prevent you from getting hungry in the middle of the day and spending $3-$10 on fries, rice, sandwiches, salad, and all the other completely overpriced snack. Can you believe they sell a cup of fruit for $5?
  5. Use the student center printer
    • Library printer: 10 cents per page.
    • Student center printer: 5 cents per page.
    • It makes a big difference, especially when you only have a few coins in your wallet and have a huge report to print!
  6. Use the Blind Duck convenience store
    • They sell toiletries, drinks, freezies, and ice cream for a really good price!
  7. Buy lunch at a grocery store instead of on campus
    • My bus stops at Metro before I board a second one, so I have time to grab a much cheaper lunch (they actually sell the same sushi in IB for $1-$3 less!)
    • If you encounter a grocery store on the way to school, you’ll find bigger meals for a bargain price
  8. Shop bargain
    • Yes, this means the clearance section. Search for those red tags on items and clothing. You’re not cheap, you’re smart! *taps head*
    • Price matching is a thing, and Walmart does it the best
    • Download FLIPP, the price matching app, for WAY cheaper grocery shopping!
  9. Buy alternatives
    • Examples:
      • Don’t buy textbooks from the bookstore; use Facebook’s Buy and Sell group
      • Don’t buy a matcha green tea latte from Starbucks; buy it from Second Cup, it’s a few dollars cheaper
      • Don’t buy fancy notebooks from Staples for all of your classes; get the 50 cent ones from Walmart
  10. Shop at the Asian super markets
    • Cool things you can get to fulfill your Asian food cravings:
      • Roasted seaweed
      • Miso soup packets (why spend $2.10 at IB when you can spend $2 on an entire packet and use the hot water dispenser?)
      • Tapioca and bubble tea mixes ($5.60 for a single cup at Chatime, or $10 for multiple cups at home? Your decision)
      • Steamed buns (red bean, pork, vegetable, etc)
  11. Get a refurbished laptop instead of a new one
    • If you’re like me and only need a laptop for Word, Excel, and anime, then why bother getting a $900 laptop when you can get a $300 laptop?
    • I got my Lenovo ThinkPad for almost $350 on Amazon, and it’s strong and durable and still alive today!

Ways to MAKE Money:

  1. Sell or commission art
    • Tumblr is the perfect medium for this!
    • People commission their art for as little as $5 and as much as $50 a piece
  2. Fix computers
    • My brother did this throughout high school and to present day and has made thousands that have all gone to savings
    • He was able to pay off his OSAP loan in about 2 years!
  3. Tutor
  4. Get a part time/on campus job
  5. Run an Etsy
    • If you love crafting, this one’s for you!
  6. In general, if you have a marketable talent and time…freelance!

Things you SHOULD spend on:

  1. Pens
    • Smooth note taking during a lecture can make even the dullest lectures bearable!
    • An inky black pen, preferably from Mooji in Square One, is the most therapeutic thing in the world.
  2. Backpack
    • If you’re going to be walking from Davis to IB with 2 textbooks, your bulky headphones, a giant pencil case, and your laptop, your backpack had better hold!
    • Your back health is important, so invest in a good quality backpack that won’t dig into your shoulders or scratch against your back.
  3. Headphones
    • This is specifically for people who commute or spend a lot of time alone on campus. You’re going to be listening to a lot of podcasts, episodes, and music, and a good pair of headphones can make any alone time enjoyable.
    • I bought a pair of wireless red headphones from an online company called “Bluedio” for $30 no tax. Good quality, good price!
  4. Jacket
    • Winter can hit Canada at any time, and will last basically all of the university year. Make sure the coat you buy is warm, cozy, and strong.
    • It may seem like an expensive purchase when you drop $200 on a new coat, but it’s definitely an item worth investing in.
  5. Shoes/Boots
    • Same reason as above for boots. Winters are harsh, don’t let your precious feet experience the cold and slush.
    • You’re always going to be running from one end of the campus to the other, so purchasing a pair of good quality shoes is recommended. Protect your paws, show them some love.
  6. Gloves
    • Same reason for boots and coats. Frostbite really sucks.
  7. Treats
    • Here’s the one case I say you’re definitely allowed to splurge once in a while.
    • If you save up enough money, buying yourself small treats occasionally is enough to make the day a lot better.
    • It’s like investing in your mental health and acts as a de-stressor.

When it comes to finances in general, the moral? Managing money is an important skill that everyone should begin to develop and nurture as early as possible in university.

Using these tips, you’ll be on your way to becoming a money management star!

The Best Treats at UTM: What To Buy?

If you haven’t noticed yet, there’s been a not-so-mysterious reoccurring theme in my blogs. The theme in question?

Treats.

I talk a lot about the importance of treating yourself. Whether that treat is after a bad test, a good studying session, or a fight with a friend, treats help you celebrate your achievements and comfort you when you’re feeling down.

Here’s a list of things I like to treat myself to, which vary depending on the situation:

Steeped Tea.

This I always treat myself to on long days, almost always my Tuesday (which is from 8AM to 6PM, a whopping 10 hours of school). As I’ve mentioned before, I get strange pressure headaches (which are actually migraines) when I’m at school too long. The steeped tea always helps alleviate a lot of the head pain almost immediately.

Not only that, but it’s creamy, delicious, and a simple delight!

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If you win something, that’ll make your day even better!

How I take it: medium steeped tea with two cream and one milk.
Price: $1.60.
Location: Davis Tims, Davis Self-Serve Tims in the TFC, or Self-Serve Tims by CC1080

Bubble Tea.

This is always great for victories and celebrations. If I’ve won a debate (as I’m part of the debate league), I’ll sometimes mosey over to Chatime and grab a drink. If I’ve had a long two weeks of lab reports, tests, quizzes, and assignments, I’ll waltz in at the end of a Friday and order a sweet treat.

It’s also great for when you’re feeling incredibly stressed or overwhelmed. The sweet creaminess is enough to soothe a troubled soul. Stay away if you’re feeling sick or tired, though; the milk and sugar combination can usually cause a stomachache and make a sick day even worse.

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Such a selection of flavours!

How I take it:
I’ll usually order one of the following (all with tapioca and all regular because I can never finish a large, it makes me feel too sick after drinking too much):
Matcha red bean smoothie without red bean (my favourite!)
Taro milk tea (a classic!)
Roasted milk tea (the original bubble tea, with a roasted touch!)
Honeydew milk tea (a refreshing flavour!)
Price: Usually around $5.60 (including tax).
Location: Student Center

Miso Soup

This is for when I’m cold, craving salt, feeling stressed, and just need a little bit of hot soup to warm my tummy and make me feel cozy inside. On my most stressful day, when I legitimately cried because I had too much going on and a single comment from my TA threw off my day (it was strange because I hadn’t cried in months), the miso soup was there for me like a warm hug.

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Can’t you already feel your soul breathe a sigh of relief?

How I take it: …it’s just miso soup, it all comes in the same size.
Price: $2.10
Location: IB

Scones.

Sometimes, you just want a little something nice, sweet, and buttery with your coffee, green tea, or other drink in the morning. This is especially if you’ve skipped out on breakfast and find your stomach grumbling before you can even begin your first class. My favourite thing to get at a time like this? A scone. Not just any scone, but a delicious, totally-not-nutritious blueberry scone from Second Cup. 

Soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, and with just the right amount of sugar and butter to make it melt in your mouth without being too sweet, their scones are the perfect thing to make your day a little nicer and your stomach a little happier if you’ve forgotten to eat breakfast.

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I fell in love the moment I laid my unworthy eyes on this dense ball of blueberry, butter, and sugar.

How I take it: just ask for a blueberry scone.
Price: $2.35 per scone (without tax)
Location: Second Cup (IB or Kaneff)

These are just some of the delicious things I like to treat myself to. What are your favourite treats?

 

 

Enough Small Talk! How to Make Real Friendships While at UTM

University is busy, and making friends is hard. Believe me, as a budding first year student, I get the struggle. It took a long time to get the friends I have now.

Even so, I still struggle with this aspect, and I know a lot of students do, too. Then, how do you move beyond that meaningless small talk and make some deeper friendships? Here are some techniques on how to make lasting friendships:

  1. Sit beside someone who is sitting alone.

    I like to call this “selecting your victim”(just kidding…). Find someone in the lecture hall who’s sitting alone and just sort of staring at their book, or scrolling through Tumblr on their phone, or flipping through their notes. Believe me, they may look intimidating or busy, but they’re likely craving some regular human interaction just like you. I know because I am this person in math class, looking at all of the happy friends while sitting by myself (I had recently lost the only friends group I had in math class and have become a drifter).

    To do this, just slink beside them, give them a nod as they look up at you boredly, and open your notes. Act natural, and they’ll never suspect your true intentions.

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    Who shall it be today?

  2. Initiate small talk.

    Yes, this includes the weather. This is when you lean over and initiate the tiniest and least intimidating of conversations, small talk. My personal favourites:

    1. “Isn’t it freezing today?”
    2. “So, what program/year/course are you in? …Wow, that’s fancy, sounds    interesting!”
    3. “Isn’t (insert school/academic related activity) so annoying?”
    4. “Hey, do you have the solution for (insert assignment or question)?”
    5. “So, what are you planning to major in then?….Hey, I heard the job prospects there were (good/fair/bad).”

    Etc, etc, you get the point. Remember: only ask them their name once the conversation is done. Makes it less formal and awkward, plus it sounds like you’re sealing the deal.:

    “Oh, by the way, I didn’t catch your name. I’m Aqsa, and you?”

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    Ah, small talk, the bane of every introvert.

  1. Get their contact information.

    Whether it be their Facebook, Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, Whatsapp, email, or their regular old phone number, find a way to get in contact with them. I usually get this by offering to help them with schoolwork (which I always follow through with of course!). If you’re connecting outside of class, then you have a greater potential to be friends, especially if your text conversations begin to include unacademic content.

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    Yes, yes…let the friendship grow.

  2. Repetition.

    Sit next to them again next class. Wave to them in the hallways. Make more small talk. This involves interacting with them again and again, regularly, so they get used to your presence (and vice-versa). Become comfortable with each other, even if you begin just as “that other person who is in my class” or as an acquaintance.

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    Better yet, get there early and save THEM a seat!

  3. Go beyond small talk.

    Friendships cannot flourish unless there’s some sort of emotional connection; this is the primary reason people seek out company. Start introducing deeper topics that makes you both learn more about each others’ opinions and feelings. These go beyond typical “Who, What, Where, When” questions and enter the “Why” and “How” questions, which is deeper territory. Here are some of my favourites:

    1. “What is your opinion on _____? …I agree/disagree, because ______.
    2. “Why did you choose to come to university? How do you think it will change you as a person?”
    3. Why do you think people are so materialistic? What do you think is the purpose of brand names anyways, do you think they’re effective?”
    4. “Why do you think that?”
    5. “Do you consider yourself self-aware?”

    These questions get both of you pondering and strike up an interesting discussion. It’s a great way to bond emotionally and learn more about someone else.

  4. Invite them to study.

    Now you’re moving beyond classroom setting and starting to meet them outside of lectures, but you’re still in that comfortable “academic territory” that makes it less awkward.

    This is your opportunity to get a little more cozy with them and build a lot of trust. Share notes, give tips, explain concepts, and reel them in with your vast knowledge of the course material. If you’re studying together, you’re communicating trust, wisdom, and reliability. Not only that, but it’s a win-win situation: both of you get to learn something new and improve your education, while also making friends!

  5. Invite them for Tim Horton’s.

    I’m a firm believer in the bonding power of tea and coffee. Sitting across from someone while sharing a delicious cuppa is the best way to bond (in my humble opinion). You can chat about literally anything, or just sit in silence enjoying the light aroma of your steeped tea or the strong undertones of your double double.

    As an added note: taking someone out to Tim Horton’s isn’t only affordable and convenient, but it’s the subtle, Canadian way of saying “you are valued and I want to be your friend”.

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    Nothing says “let’s be best friends” like a tray of coffee and a 10 pack box of Timbits.

Congratulations! You’re now unofficial friends!

 

 

One Thing You Shouldn’t Do on Your Commute.

Commutes can get pretty dull. Ranging anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours, there’s a lot of time to kill at the beginning and end of your day. Then, what do you fill this time with? Here are a few ideas from a fellow commuter.

 

WHAT NOT TO DO:

In my humble opinion, here’s what you shouldn’t do on your commute:

WORK.

Yes, yes, I’m aware it’s a very unpopular opinion (after all, shouldn’t you be using your break to organize your day and catch up on readings?) but this is honest advice I believe people should heed.

Put it into perspective: you’re doing work all of the time.

That lunch break you have? You’re planning to do your physics assignment while eating.
That two hour gap after sociology? You’re planning on studying for your psychology test.
Those ten minutes before your math class starts? You’re going to flip through your biology notes for a quick refresher.

Then…when will you give yourself a mental break?

See, commute time is a time when you can zone out with absolutely no consequence. There isn’t a teacher or a TA or a group member breathing down your neck, waiting for your assignment. The rest of your work can happen when you get home. Commute time is like limbo: you’re suspended in time, waiting until you can either get home or go to school. It blissful, it’s relaxing, it’s wonderful.

On a bus, the only thing on your to-do list should be to let your mind drift and clear your thoughts. A rested mind will accept information readily, while a prepared but stressed mind will reject more information.

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Exactly!

I use the very strange analogy of a trash can. Over the course of a few days, the garbage can in the kitchen can get REALLY full, but everyone in the household is too lazy to empty it out. You know it’s overflowing but you’re not ready to empty it, so the next time you need to throw something away you futilely shove it in the garbage in an attempt to make room. You keep doing this until you realize that the bottom of the bag has actually ripped and the garbage is coming out. This could have been avoided had you taken out the trash.

Same with knowledge. Over the course of a few days, your brain is filled with information, thoughts, and daydreams that haven’t been processed. You keep trying to shove in more information, which works until you realize you’re starting to forget more important things.

Your daily commute is the perfect time to “take out the trash” and process your thoughts to keep you refreshed throughout the week.

WHAT TO DO

  1. Listen to music

    This one’s a pretty obvious one. Download your favourite tracks the night before so you don’t eat up data during the commute, and make sure to invest in a good pair of headphones. I recently bought wireless headphones for $30 online with free shipping, they’ve really made my commute better!

  2. Sleep

    They should really make 8AM classes illegal since it means I have to wake up at 5:40AM to take a 6:40AM bus (no one should have to wake up this early!). Thank goodness the seats are cushy enough to support my falling-asleep-on-the-bus habits. Bonus if you bring a mini blanket with you!

    (No joke, I’ve literally brought blankets with me to school before. Absolutely no regrets, and you’ll be the coziest one in class!).

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    Cozy over cold, right?

  3. Read

    I know, I know, it’s not like you don’t have enough reading to do already, eh? But there’s a huge difference between recreational reading and academic reading; the former is WAY more fun and interesting than the latter and can even be refreshing.

    Mosey over to the library and sign out your favourite genre of book or manga, it’ll be great to bury yourself into a good plot and great character development again!

  4. Audio books

    I’ve never tried this, but I’ve been told by many people that it’s an amazing and relaxing thing to do. So, there you have it!

  5. Stare out the window and contemplate the mysteries of the universe

    Where else do deep, philosophical, mind-blowing ideas come from? Contemplation breeds contentedness and nourishes the soul.

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    “Is it considered guacamole if you just add salt and pepper?”

  6. Have an existential crisis

    As defined by good-ol’ Google:

    “An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of their life: whether this life has any meaning, purpose, or value.”

    What better time to do this than your daily commute? The occasional existential crisis does help you become a lot more self-aware, and helps you in your growth during university.

    (Of course, I mean this jokingly).

So, lay back, pick your favourite song, and close your eyes for a bit during your next commute. Your mind and body will thank you!

Got any other commuter tips or advice? Leave a comment below!

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How UTM’s Nature Trail Improved My Uni Experience

University has been great so far.

With good friends, a great campus, flexible schedules, cool assignments, and interesting opportunities. It’s everything the brochure said it would be…but

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These are the things that keep me up at 2AM in the morning apparently (from owlturd.com)

…recently, I’ve been feeling like something is missing from my university experience. Sure, I’ve tried joining clubs and I’ve made some new friends. I joined the program LAUNCH last semester to help ease my transition into university, which was interesting. I’ve tried not to limit my time to just studying, and am trying to incorporate some of my hobbies into my day. Even so, as I go about my regular routine, there’s something nagging at me. There’s something missing…

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It was only a few days ago in a conversation with my twin sister that I finally figured out what it could be.

I feel like this creeping feeling is the slow realization that I’m not using my university experience properly, where is my change? Everything is the same: I hop on the bus for an hour long commute, I go to school, I go home, I study, I sleep, and the cycle continues-nothing new.

Why does everything feel the same? Will it be this way forever? Mindless routines? Two lab reports a week, a pre-lab quiz every Friday, a club meeting on Monday, routine after routine after routine?

The answer: I needed a change. And fast.

Like many things, I have the ability to control and change this. I don’t have to be in this limbo forever. So, with an open mind, my sister and I went to try out the on-campus nature trail by IB in the fall, the one I kept hearing stories about from my LAUNCH leader.

At first, while I tried to keep an open mind, I couldn’t help but have expectations. I mean, it’s an on-campus nature trail available to everyone. I had no doubt it would be interesting and new, I just didn’t think its appearance would surprise me very much. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s just a forest. Right?

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When we reached the beginning of the trail, I was excited to see a sign that said “THIS PATH IS NOT MAINTAINED”. Oh! That could mean a lot of things, but what it screamed to me was “THIS IS AS NATURAL AS IT GETS”, which was one thing that pleasantly surprised me: I love the unbeaten path.

The first few steps in, I brushed past long branches and picked at leaves that stuck to my clothes. The entrance was narrow, and I was already feeling a thrill. This was new, this was different.

We turned the corner, and I couldn’t control the quiet little gasp that left my mouth.

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Now, I know the concept of autumn. Leaves change colour. Leaves fall. Leaves get smushed on the ground. Sure, I know it’s supposed to be really pretty in the country, but since I live in the suburbs, I’ve never really experienced the so-called “colourful wonderland” that the movies say it should be, especially in Canada.

Nothing prepared me for what I saw:

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It was like something straight out of a fairytale. The first thing that hit me was how bright everything was: the leaves, the colours, the moss, the tree trunks, the sky. The light shone through the leaves and made it seem as though the tips of the branches were on fire, as they were a bright yellow-orange. Sunlight changed dramatically; one minute, you felt like you were walking through a magical fairy world, the next minute you were trudging through a darker, more somber walkway.

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It was like something straight out of Final Fantasy VII’s Advent Children

It was a mystery I never knew existed, the change in pace I needed.

Needless to say, I enjoyed that walk very much.

Now, whenever I’m feeling a little wistful or when I’ve got a bit of extra time, I’ll grab a friend and head over to the trail that captivated my on first glance. It’s a refreshing escape from the perils of university life for a number of reasons:

  • It helps you reconnect with nature
  • It helps you reconnect with your spirituality, like a form of meditation
  • It gives you a breather from school work
  • It provides you with some exercise (you know, the kind you’ve been neglecting for the month because assignments keep piling up and there’s no time to go to the gym)
  • It rests your eyes (greenery and the colour green are therapeutic for your eyes!)

Here are the rest of the pictures. It was a great experience for me, and I highly recommend you all check it out when the weather gets warmer!

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How to Write A”Truck-Stop Burrito” Written Piece and Ace Your Midterm Essay

Essay writing is hard and annoying.

To make it easier to understand, we can divide essays into two types: the “filet mignon” essay and the “truck-stop burrito” essay (these labels can be credited to my role model and high school philosophy teacher, Mr. Dollimore).

The “filet mignon” essay is the type of essay you write for an assignment. This requires you to make it all nice and pretty, add all the extra creative details that make professors sleep easy at night, and doll it up with a fancy cover page. You can fill it with fluff and still get a decent mark. Teacher expectations: HIGH.

The “truck-stop burrito” essay is the type of essay you write on a test. Picture writing a test like being on a road trip. After a long, tiring journey, you find your stomach grumbling. Do you head for the fancy filet mignon, or do you feel satisfied with the oily, week-old truck-stop burrito? In that moment, even the cheap, no effort food tastes delicious. That’s the level your test essay should be at. You just have to nab the points and add enough words to make full sentences, but be careful: every point counts. Teacher expectations: LOW.

Each type requires different tips and tricks. To ace a test essay, here’s some advice you should take with a grain of salt follow:

  1. Brainstorm…LIKE CRAZY.

No, seriously. Just dump words everywhere. Every little relevant point you can think of, every small jot you can think of, any pieces of a definition, just vomit it all down on the paper. When it’s there, you can use it. When it’s in your head…not so much.

For example, let’s say you’re given the question:

To what extent is morality a matter of context? How important are circumstances in determining what is moral?

Your paper might look something like this:

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Immediately, what I did was TAKE A POSITION/STANCE THAT DIRECTLY ADDRESSES THE QUESTION (in this case, I said morality IS based on context). If you’re struggling to find a position, use the one you can think of more points for.

Another notable point: I wrote down some EXAMPLES. This will form the chunk of your paragraph. If you can think of examples, even just regurgitating those examples will cover the point for you.

Another notable point: after writing a whole bunch of stuff, I identified some things I could define. Definitions eat up word count, directly confront material, and make you look super smart and knowledgeable. Checkmate.

Lastly, if you don’t understand the question, write stuff down anyways. I saw the word morality and context, so I wrote down “moral realism vs. moral relativism” which I know deals with that. Didn’t even think about it. Once you’ve written some initial ideas down, you can reread the question to see if you can take something away or add something else.

  1. ORGANIZE your brainstorming.

This will help you form actual paragraphs. It helps here to know the general structure of an essay, which is an incredibly guiding tool during a test (though don’t feel too stuck to it):

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You know out of all that junk you just made, you need to somehow materialize three paragraphs, and those three paragraphs all have to connect back to some unifying topic you haven’t thought of yet. How do you do that? By grouping similar ideas. For example, let me take my garbage jots and turn it into something a little more organized:

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That’s a lot of illegible scribbles, so let’s turn it into actual paragraph points:

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  1. Write your THESIS.

Now I’ve got my paragraphs! But…what was the question asking again? What’s my thesis? Don’t I have to have a thesis?

Exactamundo, my friend! And this is the prime time to write one! How can you write a general statement without any points? Using your organized brainstorming, write down your thesis. Now, here’s the secret formula to the perfect truck-stop burrito thesis:

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Yada yada, you get the point. Basically, just stick your three points together, address the question with your chosen position, and add enough words to make it make sense and line up with your argument.

In this case, we might write:

Moral Realists, deontologists, and those who follow virtue ethics would all agree that circumstances as well as concrete principles determine what is moral.

Note: when you’re done writing your essay, REREAD THE THESIS! I’ve gotten marks off many times for silly reasons, because I changed my point midway and my thesis and essay didn’t agree anymore.  (In this specific example, I didn’t realize that deontologists and virtue ethics were practically the same thing, so I lost marks there).

  1. Start writing your BODY PARAGRAPHS.

If you’re like me, the introductory paragraph will elude you. You’ll sit there trying to think of something witty, and when nothing comes up you’ll scratch your head as time is ticking. What do you do?

Write down what you know. What’s that? Your body paragraphs!

Remember: you can leave a space for your intro and get back to it once you’ve written the rest of it. Don’t try to waste time writing something perfect. This is TRUCK-STOP BURRITO people, not the filet mignon.

For your intro: a few relevant sentences and your thesis is enough. It’s enough.

Your body paragraphs can be structured using this wonderfully efficient formula:

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Convenient and easy! What’s hard is actually writing it, but this little structure does the bulk of the work for you. Take notice of the guiding questions!

  1. Piece everything TOGETHER.

Ergo: WRITE IT. JUST WRITE IT.

You’d better sharpen that pencil and crack those knuckles, because time is ticking and you need to start writing. For the pen users. I recommend a smooth pen with black ink. Beautiful and therapeutic. For the pencil users, sharpen that thing until it makes a satisfying scratch against that paper (because dull pencils are the abomination of this world).

There’s no way around this, but now that you’ve gotten a little organized, you can piece things together easily. That’s about all I can say.

Strategies for Keeping Your Cool

Neck aching? Fingers throbbing? Make sure to take breathers so you’re not losing your point and losing your mind:

  • Look up, straighten your shoulders, breathe. This’ll help you gather your bearings and keep a clear head.
  • Stop writing and skim over your paragraph. If it makes sense, read the end of the previous paragraph and then read your paragraph. Still make sense? Read your thesis and reread the topic sentence of your paragraph. Still good? Then you’re doing great!
  • Keep extra pencils and pens. Not for if one breaks or runs out of ink, but for a nice, smooth replacement when your current utensil becomes a little hard to use. Keeping a smooth flow really helps.
  • Drink water (but not too much). Taking a sip is like taking a mental breather.
  • As much as you can, flex your fingers! They deserve a break, too.

Do these, and you’ll be on your way to acing that essay question!

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