“Is _____ a Bird Course?” Part 1: What Exactly Is a Bird Course?

“I need to raise my GPA. Is ______ a bird course?”

Ever heard yourself or your friends uttering these words? Perhaps you’ve made a Facebook post, or even commented on one with some suggestions.

It’s understandable to want to lower the course load burdening your shoulders by taking a simpler course. I’m definitely taking advantage of this. In fact, someone even recommended it to me.

And then, I heard this statement:

“You just need to get into your program.”

While I understood what they meant, those words irked me to no end. I understood the truth behind them, and it was probably valuable advice, but there was something in me that just wouldn’t accept the implications behind the statement.

It’s likely because in high school, I saw university as this institution that highly respects learning, that holds experience and growth and challenge on a pedestal. I thought I would finally be able to escape the high school mindset of “grades are all that matter” and “take the easy path to an A”. Hearing those words smashed this image and made me feel as if I’d been propelled back to this high school mindset.

But back to the problem at hand: what exactly IS a bird course? Is it biology related? Do you learn how to fly?

Image result for bird is the word

Labelled as such because you can supposedly “fly through the course” with minimal effort, they’re sought out for distribution requirements, raising GPAs, and lightening course loads. At first glance, bird courses have all sorts of benefits and draw backs that immediately come to mind:

BENEFITS/PROS

  • You might get an A
  • You might be able to skip the lectures
  • Studying last minute might be enough to pass
  • The lectures might be easy and understandable
  • The textbook is cheaper

DRAWBACKS/CONS

  • You might get bored easily
  • It might turn out to be really hard
  • It might not have tests, but tons of assignments that are actually harder
  • You might be wasting your money (each course is expensive, remember?)
  • Many bird courses may make you look directionless

As you can tell, the amount of “might” in those sentences prove how much of an educated guess one tries to take when picking a bird course.

But enough about that. Here comes the important question that everyone wants answered:

What courses are bird courses?

I’ve noticed that it’s typically the social science and humanities courses that get labelled as such. Here are some examples I’ve gotten from Facebook (some might be from previous years):

  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • BIO152
  • Video Game Design
  • Creative Writing
  • Communication Technology
  • Education Studies
  • Religion
  • MAT133 (no trigonometry)
  • Planet Earth
  • Astronomy

After reading this list, ask yourself this question: were there any courses you scoffed at, giggled, shook your head, disagreed? Did you ever mumble to yourself, “Hah, she put that down? Pfft, that course was so hard!” Was there anything that stood out to you?

Image result for thinking meme

Now I’m making you think, eh?

As a fellow student put it:

“Everyone says a certain course is brutal and it’s not…[and] a bird course can be a snake when u try it.”

In other words: the course that gets labelled as “super hard, avoid at all costs!” might turn out to be one of your strengths (for me, this is physics), and a course that people tell you is “super easy, a GPA booster!” might turn out to be your lowest average (for me, this is biology).

Now that I’ve got you thinking, I’ll let you steam over that idea for a little while…

But not too long-if you’d like to know how a bird course can be harmful, check out part 2!

 

 

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What do you Mean, Summer’s Over? 3 Ways to Prepare for University

Ah, summer.

The smell of sizzling sausages on barbeques, the feel of summer wind through your hair, the ocean breeze in the air, the total freedom of thought and expression and procrastination. Lazing around without a thought, earning some money at a summer job, catching up on favourite shows, heading to the beach, and— hey, wasn’t yesterday course selection?

It’s easy to forget about school when you’re having fun, but like they say, “all good things must come to an end”. It seems harsh: your body has already gotten used to doing absolutely nothing, and suddenly you’re supposed to catch up with five deadlines, two payments, and ten unread emails. Your brain, which for two months held nothing but song lyrics, has to cram knowledge of the bus schedule, room numbers, and your new syllabus. It’s unfortunate that our brains don’t have a button you can press to turn on “school mode”. It takes time to adjust, time it seems we just don’t have.

Gathering the motivation to get prepared is the hardest part. How can I go shopping when the new episode of Dragon Ball Super was just released, or when my friends made a spontaneous plan for the park?

There is no secret to finding the motivation for school. Realistically, the more you do, the more confident you feel about university. Even buying a pack of pens makes you feel one step closer to rocking the first day of school. The other day at Walmart, on a whim, I purchased a backpack that was on for a good price. When I got home, I found myself thinking about how it would feel as I walked through the halls, how it would look filled with textbooks, what I would decorate it with. It was small and cost me less than 20 bucks, but it was enough to get me excited for a new school year. You may have purchased a pack of gel pens, or a new water bottle, or maybe even a cool-looking eraser that has done the same for you.

Once you get past school preparation, though, things get a little more complicated. What if you can’t make any friends? What if your teachers are boring? What if you show up late to your first class? Worries begin to plague your mind and keep you awake at night, only adding to the stress already burdening you. You join every social media account, are on three different UTM groups on Facebook, and have a hundred people added on Whatsapp, but still feel overwhelmingly lonely. It seems this bundle of pre-university nerves just won’t go away.

However, there’s hope! There are plenty of things you can do to de-stress, relax, and get in the right mindset for university.

1.Know that everyone is in the same boat: it’s hard to make friends sometimes if you believe that everyone has already created a friend group. I originally struggled with the simple act of saying hello to a group of people, feeling like I was interrupting their “important friend time”. I always thought that I was the only one feeling lost.  When you realize that everyone is feeling just as nervous and lonely and unprepared as you, and longs to make friends like you, then it’s easier to connect with others. While I haven’t shaken off these pre-conceived notions just yet, these new perspectives are beginning to make it easier to say hello, and I definitely notice a difference when I approach others.

2. Stay informed: keep up with the emails and stay on Facebook to catch up with any events, information, and conversation. I felt incredibly lost before I discovered these groups, having the creeping feeling that there was important information out there that I was missing. Joining a Facebook page made me feel more grounded and gave me the opportunity to meet wonderful fellow first-years. While I personally found it difficult to keep up with multiple social platforms, the amount of information I received is priceless! When you’re well informed, you feel a lot more confident and prepared, and can register earlier for events.

3. Find time for yourself: self-health is important. I always find it hard to take care of myself when I have lots to do because I get very lost in my work, and I know many students also struggle with this. By the end of a massive pre-university review session, my muscles are stiff, my head is pounding, my stomach is grumbling, and nothing feels done. Just by trial and error, I’ve found that having a cup of tea, reading a book, taking a mental break, and writing in a journal are some things that will help calm my nerves, but everyone has different strategies. It also helps reduce the tension we tend to feel in the first month of school. While a bit of adrenaline is okay, being too stiff will lower your performance and make you lose confidence.

Remember: every first year student is struggling with something, whether it be grades or family or money or anything in between. We are all bonded together in our struggles, but also in our victories. Most importantly, through all of the nerves and stress, there’s certainly a sliver of excitement bubbling through the minds of every freshman. Focus on that sliver and you’ll find yourself skipping through the halls in no time!