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Attend it for the culture

Spice up yo’ student life with these fun and free events

Attend it for the culture

It’s true — you can, in fact, have fun at U of T! The campus is home to much more than pre-exam dread and hallways filled with lecture handouts. Take your focus off of class by slipping these events into your calendar. 

Street Festival and Clubs Carnival

Yes, it’s just as good as it looks in those cheesy college movies! Catch a glimpse of student life at U of T by stopping by the brochure-laden tables and booths of various student groups. The Clubs Carnival will take place at King’s College Circle from 3:00–7:00 pm on September 4, while the Street Festival will run along St. George Street 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on September 11. The size and location of these events make them impossible to miss and easy to swing by. 

Learn about what the school’s electric car-racing team has been up to, realize your passion for contemporary films, or improve on your debating skills! This is your opportunity to find extracurriculars that will keep you motivated throughout the school year. Not to mention, there will be plenty of corporate tables that hand out free goodies like sunscreen samples and cup noodles. These events are not only for incoming students, but for anyone who wants to see what student life at U of T is all about.

Winterfest

This annual week-long festival includes cross-campus events and activities exclusively for U of T students. Celebrate the winter (even though it’s hosted during the post-holiday-season!) with free pancakes, drag shows, open mic events, and club nights! Events are often hosted by different colleges, so be sure to follow their Facebook pages to keep track of event details and updates. The shows hosted during this week are fantastic opportunities to show off your poetry and drag style. You can attend as a spectator or participant. Winterfest is the upsized spirit week your high school wished it had.

Annual book sales

Find the right book at the right price at these on-campus book sales. Taking place every fall, Victoria College, St. Michael’s College, University College, and Trinity College each host their own sale, with proceeds going to their respective libraries. Each year, these sales collectively offer hundreds of thousands of donated books, music, movies, and other items. Overwhelmed? Don’t be! The materials are sorted by volunteers to fit into an array of scholarly and general categories. The variety and arrangement also make these sales a popular place to spot signed first editions, unique art books, and curious tales. Donations for the sales are accepted on a year-round basis, so drop by to donate and buy for a good cause.

Your experience at U of T is a product of your agency. Events across three campuses are hosted for your enjoyment and your benefit, so take advantage of them! Though the school is known for its academic rigour, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo the fun in pursuit of a degree. Pick and choose your courses, events, and extracurriculars wisely to make your U of T experience the best it can be.

A guide to the arts, bars, cafés, and festivals of Toronto

Where to find good coffee, cheap drinks, and live shows across campus

A guide to the arts, bars, cafés, and festivals of Toronto

The opportunity cost of “staying in” — watching Netflix, studying, sobbing — is higher in Toronto than any other city in Canada. From great bars to quiet cafés and leafy parks, there are tons of fun, cheeky opportunities hiding mere blocks from your pillow.

Even though the city is hot, big, and overwhelming, the best thing you can do is surrender to it, lean into its swaying, sweaty crowds, and follow the wave. 

Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)  

Thanks to a new initiative by the AGO, one of Canada’s best art galleries is now free for under-25s. Head in for an hour or two and poke around the huge collection of Canadian and international art, including the absurdly expensive “The Massacre of the Innocents.  The piece was sold in 2002 for 109.2 million USD, adjusted to inflation, and then donated to the gallery. 

The Royal Ontario Museum 

A huge, informative museum that you should visit at least once. It’s right next to Victoria College and it’s free on the third Monday of every month from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, and every Tuesday with a valid postsecondary ID. 

Nuit Blanche 

Nuit Blanche is a city-wide art festival that usually takes place around early October. There are some really cool exhibits to look at and take part in, unfortunately, the evening is often hijacked by brandy-sipping high-schoolers. With that in mind, plan out what you want to see beforehand, stay the hell away from Dundas Square — Toronto’s gritty, glitzy Times Square — and you should be fine. 

Jimmy’s Coffee 

Jimmy’s has a few locations across Toronto, but the best one is on McCaul Street, right on the university’s periphery. The drinks are cheap — around $2 for good, strong coffee — and it’s a great spot to study or bring a date. 

Boxcar Social 

A chill, hipstery outpost in uptown. Based next to the Summerhill subway stop, this cafe has a chic upstairs study space fitted with outlets, decent Wi-Fi, and great coffee. The pizza place next door is great too. 

Quantum 

If you need a break from campus, take the Spadina streetcar down to King, hop off, and dive into this clean, pricey slice of Silicon Valley. Quantum’s coffee is fantastic and it’s the best study café in Toronto, hands-down. Get there early to beat the New Balance-wearing ‘influencers’ who slip in around noon. 

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 

TIFF is taking place September 5–15, so you’ll be walking right into it. Lucky for you, TIFF is an amazing time, with the big, busy streets downtown blocked off for pedestrians, film screenings galore ­— some of them quite cheap — and celebrities descending on the city. Last year, Lady Gaga, Michael Moore, and Nicole Kidman showed up, with dozens more making cameos. 

Einstein

This bar is infamous on campus. It sells some of the cheapest pitchers of beer in the city and some decent bar food too. There are always fellow Varsity Blues — usually pale, tired engineers from the nearby Bahen building — lurking around, and the staff is no-nonsense, efficient, and accommodating. 

Sneaky Dee’s 

A College Street staple serving up Toronto’s best nachos. Get the most expensive option and split it between five-plus people. Sneaky’s is also just a great place to meet up with friends, or to use as an outpost to start a Long Trek West. 

St. Lawrence Market

This market is near the lake, and serves as a gateway into the up-and-coming Distillery District. Try the famous peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery and grab some fresh fruit and veggies at the produce stalls. 

Kensington Market 

Kensington is Toronto’s most unique, dizzying neighbourhood. A carousel of art, people, fashion, and food, Kensington has been around for ages and its atmosphere is like no other. If you’re looking for a place to grab a drink, Cold Tea is lowkey and fun. Mare Pizzeria is the best — and cheapest — pizza in the area, and the market’s thrift shops are good and cheap.

Horseshoe Tavern

A legendary music venue, The Rolling Stones, The Tragically Hip, and The Police have all graced the Tavern’s stage, with live shows still raging every week. The area around the venue is great too, with places like Little Nicky’s, Alo, and The Black Bull, forming a fun and diverse ring around the Tavern. 

Trinity Bellwoods 

Bellwoods is fun in September, October, and April, and is popular with pretty much everyone. The cherry blossoms are one of the park’s biggest attractions, as are the baseball diamonds and soccer pitches. Keep an eye out for the volatile, swaying day-drinkers though.

One of the most underrated things you can do here is grab a book from Robarts and hit Bellwoods early. Reading some André Alexis under a big, old tree at Bellwoods was one of the highlights of my Frosh Week — and made me look super smart. 

Hate your roommates? Landlord? Neighbours? Need a new place come May? Here are some housing options

A breakdown of popular choices for student housing

Hate your roommates? Landlord? Neighbours?  Need a new place come May? Here are some housing options

Finding housing in Toronto is a challenge for many students attending university. Housing costs and competitiveness is at an all-time high within the city. Students looking for housing have a few viable options depending on price range, food, location, and personal preference.

The default housing choice for many students is residence. A meal plan is often mandatory, which might be better for busier students. Also, students will not need to travel as much and this could save some money. Usually, there are several amenities such as cleaning services, supplies, and 24-hour front desk.

Many colleges also organize events that are excellent for social students who are happier living with more people. Residence is guaranteed for all first-year students, but availability for other years can vary. Additionally, residences are often associated with colleges, which lessens the available options.

The major downside to residence is cost. Students in residence for eight months at UTSG pay anywhere from $9,577.50 with no meal plan at Innis College to $19,052.22 with a comprehensive meal plan at Chestnut Residence. It is also common for students to be asked to leave during the winter break, since the university closes.

Another housing option is renting off-campus. The U of T off-campus housing website might be useful in this situation. It can also help you connect with potential roommates if needed. Other services can pair roommates online, and there is no shortage of students looking for roommates.

Renting is a good option for students who would like the independence that comes from organizing your own living. Landlords will typically prefer older over younger students, and leases are often secured based on credit scores, references, and guarantors. That might not be realistic for many students who simply want to rent for a semester.

There is huge variety over possible rentals in terms of price, location, and services. On average, renting near UTSC and UTM is far more affordable than UTSG. When considering where to rent, the price of commuting should also be considered if a rental cannot be found in walking distance. For students taking classes downtown or at Scarborough, a student TTC metropass is $116.75, which is likely the best value for students traveling most days to the university.

Moreover, it is sometimes cheaper to be on the subway line and far away from school than to be close by. Another obstacle is the lease length of most rentals. It is usually 12 months long and not the eight months of the fall and winter semester. This could cost an extra four months rent every year, depending on your plans, unless you sublet.

Fraternities, sororities, and co-ops fill a need for housing as well. Many students know of such organizations, but the housing styles they offer greatly vary. It is important to find the one that suits you. Most organizations post descriptions or have been reviewed online, and they are generally close to the universities.

There are often requirements for applicants, such as a grade minimum, references, or a successful interview. Services differ depending on the house, but many offer groceries, a meal plan, or cleaning. A few of these organizations are not for profit, which saves students a significant amount of money. In this case, students may be expected to help with maintenance.

Renovations and other projects depend on the organization. The houses are often converted Victorian homes that board between six and 15 people. Communities form naturally out of the members and there is often an in-depth participation element to these organizations. Co-ops have the tenants govern the entire organization themselves. Since the organizations are technically charities, another benefit is potentially an opportunity to résumé build.

Prices can range drastically, but co-ops can allow the applicant to choose the price ­— as low as $500 per month.

The grand promise of a new El Mocambo, hopefully

Get in line for some Canadian music this summer at El Mocambo

The grand promise of a new El Mocambo, hopefully

Situated near the corner of Spadina Avenue and College Street lies the once illustrious music venue: the El Mocambo. While the venue has been closed since early 2014 and stuck in various states of endless construction ever since, the El Mo’ is finally slated for a grand reopening this May, just in time for the 2019 Canadian Music Week.

The return of the El Mocambo is especially welcome in a time where Toronto has lost so many key venues. D-Beatstro, The Central and even fellow Spadina Avenue landmark, The Silver Dollar Room, are just some of the spaces the city has lost in recent years to skyrocketing rent prices and condominium development. A new venue opening up downtown is a reason for celebration.

Founded in the late 1940s, the venue had been home to countless world-renowned acts over the decades — from Blondie and U2 to Jimi Hendrix and Vampire Weekend. Its previous owner, Sam Grosso — current owner of Toronto’s Cadillac Lounge — officially closed the El Mo’s doors back in 2014. Shortly thereafter, millionaire merchant banker and former CBC Dragons’ Den investor Michael Wekerle swept in and bought the property with hopes of completely remodeling its interior and bringing it up to snuff.

Having invested a reported $20 million into the venue so far, Wekerle has promised brand partnerships with Imax to provide live-streaming technology and recreational cannabis producer Tweed for an upstairs stage. But despite the multimillion-dollar investment into the building, nothing concrete about the new El Mocambo’s long-term role in the Toronto venue circuit has been disclosed. About two months until the grand reopening and the venue’s immediate future still seems hazy.

The venue’s official website has no new information either. Visit the site and you’re greeted only with a computer-generated render of the building and a slideshow of photos from Wekerle’s press conference where he celebrated the re-lighting of a neon palm-tree sign with Mayor John Tory.

However, having had limited experience in the music industry and no confirmed talent bookers lined up, many of Wekerle’s views on the venue, as well as Canadian music, sound out of touch. In 2014, on the topic of why he bought the struggling venue, Wekerle told CBC: “Because of my own kind of nostalgic feelings toward the El Mocambo and the Toronto scene…  Having tried to be an artist in the music world back in my teen years — obviously not very successfully — but there was no venue. It was very difficult for Canadian artists and musicians to really get a break.”

Most recently, in a November 2018 interview with CBC, Wekerle claimed that Kiss, Justin Bieber, Ronnie Hawkins, and potentially Drake might grace the building’s renovated stages. “When the time comes and I know the dates, I’ll walk over and ask [Drake to perform],” Wekerle told CBC. Wekerle currently lives in the same Bridle Path neighbourhood as Drake’s new Toronto mansion.

Promises of world-renowned artists and brand sponsorships, all to rekindle a 458-capacity venue in Toronto’s peaceful Chinatown neighbourhood, sound a little farfetched. Take Wekerle’s grandiose promises with a grain of salt.

Unhealthy fixations and sleep deprivation

Why do we procrastinate, why do we cram?

Unhealthy fixations and sleep deprivation

University can be a challenging feat. As one becomes bombarded with tests, quizzes, and exams, it is necessary to leave sufficient time to accomplish tasks and study in order to succeed. That, however, is almost always easier said than done. In such a busy and ever-moving society, distractions for university students seem more apparent than ever. Such distractions can lead to unhealthy fixations and sleep deprivation; a project that was assigned three weeks ago is now being desperately completed at 4:00 am due to Netflix’s highly-anticipated new episode of Black Mirror. A typical scenario for many university students. 

Such unhealthy fixations lead students to frantically work at the last minute and cram. Why do students put themselves through this torture? The answer lies in the multitude of distractions that students face. Social media, food, and parties are just a handful of distractions apparent across Canadian universities.

By far, social media are some of the most significant distractions that today’s students face and are responsible for many of the assignments completed at ungodly hours. The various applications and social media platforms available are hugely tempting opportunities to put down the pencil, pick up the phone, and browse through one’s timelines. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, and YouTube are behind many students’ unhealthy fixations. 

The amount of time spent on social media is astonishing: studies from Eye-In Media have found that Canadian millennials spend approximately 3.2 hours per day on their mobile devices — that’s equivalent to dedicating almost one day each week to scrolling through social media. The plague of social media use is likely detrimental to university students’ abilities to focus and probably responsible for much of the work that has been crammed at the last minute. 

Social media does not only take time away from schoolwork. The platforms are also deeply linked to disrupted sleeping patterns. In a study published in Acta Paediatrica, Canadian students aged 11–20 revealed that increased social media use correlated with a greater likelihood of insufficient sleep. 

Between the high stress of being a student and the exhaustion from churning through assignments even as the sun comes up, students often resort to eating while studying, which leads to unhealthy snacking, binge-eating, and eating at unhealthy hours. These tend to exacerbate the problem, the second bag of chips and caffeinated beverage distracting from work.

But it doesn’t stop there. On top of social media usage and unhealthy eating habits, another significant part of university life that contributes to poor sleep and wasted study time is partying. In her article, “The Effects of Drinking on University Grades: Does Academic Motivation Play a Role?,” Jennifer Gilbert from the University of Waterloo explains that “researchers have found an association between heavy episodic student drinking and decreased academic achievement,” noting negative consequences such as interrupted study and the inability to perform daily tasks. 

Where partying is one of the most dynamic aspects of university life, it is also a huge distraction for many students. Beyond partying in itself, a multitude of behaviours and consequences, including heavy and frequent drinking followed by agonizing, stomach-wrenching hangovers, significantly affect students’ abilities to prioritize time for studies, maintain adequate sleep, and sustain overall academic achievement. When immersed in an endless stream of papers, quizzes, and tests, it is not surprising that students struggle to complete all tasks consistently and in a timely manner — and the distractions everywhere don’t help. Social media usage can prevent students from focusing on assignments, in favour of homepages and timelines; unhealthy snacking and binge-eating might encourage students to choose food over the task at hand; and partying and drinking significantly disrupts sleeping patterns and reduces the time that could be spent studying. 

While these distractions are important to understand, we must also remember that balance and prioritization are key to ending those study sessions before the sun arrives.

Concert Review: MadeinTYO’s Sincerely, Tokyo tour

Small venue, big voice

Concert  Review: MadeinTYO’s <I>Sincerely, Tokyo</I> tour

After the release of the critically acclaimed album Sincerely, Tokyo, MadeinTYO hosted his tour of the same name and made a stop at Toronto’s very own Mod Club on February 25. 

The intimate venue in Little Italy proved to be an excellent choice, with the crowd in an utter trance for the entire show. The stage put the artist within arm’s reach of many fans as he jumped, screamed, and spoke in a mesmerizing melodic cadence. MadeinTYO matched the crowd’s high energy, perfectly fulfilling what a musician should set out to accomplish at a show.

MadeinTYO’s set began roughly 30 minutes late according to his set times, but this is a forgivable deed considering the numerous openers — Pilla B, Bankrol Hayden, and most impressively, Thutmose — who captivated the crowd’s attention. It was interesting to see the styles of the different openers in conjunction and the synergy within these acts. MadeinTYO made a good choice picking these artists to support his tour. 

The show carried a good mix of both smash hits for casual fans and fan favourites for his core following, adequately addressing the entire crowd at his show. For instance, MadeinTYO went from “I Want,” one of his biggest smash hits, to “Outstanding,” a distorted trap and bass-heavy record meant to cultivate mosh pits, to “Ned Flanders,” another smash hit with a notable feature from A$AP Ferg. 

After teasing a surprise Toronto guest for several days, fans were anxious to see who the young rapper would bring out. The chatter among fans camping in the line for several hours prior to the show — despite the recent wind storm — was largely centred around this topic. When the time finally came, and the lights dimmed halfway through MadeinTYO’s set, the crowd trembled in excitement. When OVO Sound’s Brampton-born R&B singer Roy Woods came out, it would be an understatement to say that fans were pleased. The crowd went wild, not giving security a chance to rest as numerous fans jumped on each others’ shoulders and rushed to the front of the stage to see the OVO crooner. 

Roy Woods, beginning his set with debut single “Get You Good” and following with his and MadeinTYO’s “Instinct,” exemplified the recurring theme of synergy that was present at this show. Something about the integration of Roy Woods into MadeinTYO’s set — the way their voices bounced off of each other in their joint ballad and the genuine friendship between them — made his appearance such an integral part of the show. MadeinTYO took the time to pause the show and speak about the bond that he and Roy Woods share. While Roy Woods did not steal the spotlight in any way, his presence brought something that definitely could not have been achieved otherwise. 

MadeinTYO’s fans don’t come to the self-proclaimed mumble rapper expecting dense and introspective lyricism — they come to have fun. MadeinTYO’s appearance at the Mod Club provided fans with this and more. This performance was intimate, had several great openers, appealed to both his casual and core fanbase, and brought out a special guest who completely changed the atmosphere of the night. Growing as a musician, it is inevitable that MadeinTYO’s next Toronto show will be at a larger venue. 

The intimate experience at this small venue was one to truly cherish. 

How to put your life together in seven easy steps

Shine, thrive, and be your best self

How to put your life together in seven easy steps

On several occasions I have been called out for doing “the most” when it comes to school. I take a full course load and I am involved in extracurriculars and volunteer activities while somehow managing to have friends, get a full eight hours of sleep every night, and maintain a 4.0 GPA. Sounds impossible, right? Fear not, you too can have it all — it only takes hard work and seven simple steps.

1. Overthink everything. Break down every idea you have until you hate it and move on to the next until you have exhausted all other options and go back to your original idea.

2. Make time for a weekly existential crisis. What is all of this for? Is U of T worth it? Should I have gone to Ryerson? Will I need to cure cancer to get into grad school? Should I join another club to make it look like I’m a well-balanced student even though I’m already on the brink of collapse? Probably.

3. Make coffee one of your main food groups. My preferred type of coffee is iced regardless of the weather, since it wakes you up and gets you ready to go instead of making you want to curl up into a ball. Also, something about coming to class every day with an overpriced cup of iced coffee just gives off a Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada vibe.

4. Live at the library. I really have brought a blanket to Robarts before. I genuinely don’t understand people who study at home — I still think this is a myth. Surround yourself in the monstrosity that is Robarts Library, with its grim interior and fluorescent lights — it’s just awful enough to make you work extra hard so you can leave as fast as you can instead of watching pointless BuzzFeed videos all day.

5. Learn the art of making lists. I make lists for my lists. I have two calendars in my room — plus an agenda that is colour-coded and organized by type of activity. School gets a section, friends get a section, and even going to buy toilet paper gets a pretty glittery pen colour in my agenda. This way, when people in class look over at you, they think you’re just a busy queen who had no time to waste.

6. Be impatient in every moment. There is always something more you could be doing — and should be doing — to get to whatever goal you’re trying reach. Half the time, you don’t even know what that goal is, but the long line to your aforementioned Starbucks coffee from Robarts between classes is definitely directly hindering your dreams.

7. Do one thing that makes you feel like you have your life together. Even if everything else is a mess around you, if you feel like you’re a boss, you’ll give that energy to everyone around you. I must have my life together if I have a fresh set of nails done, even if I haven’t washed my hair in a week. Life is, after all, about balance.

Do it for the finsta

Everything’s better in moderation — even Instagram

Do it for the finsta

The earth stood still. I was empty, sore, and very hungover. It was the day after my 19th birthday, and my grandmother was lecturing the hell out of me. “It’s a question of moderation, dear. Moderation.”

My ol’ Nan was right. I’d gone overboard and I’d paid for it dearly.

Although I’ve always backed the whole ‘everything in moderation’ attitude, ever since that traumatic tongue-lashing I’ve really tried my best to keep to it.

I started by applying this motto to social media, but it didn’t exactly go according to plan. I relapsed and wasted tons of time. This sort of pitiful failure is unsurprising if you ask Tristan Harris, ex-Google employee and current design ethicist.

In an interview with WIRED, Harris said that the “the [tech] industry uses design techniques to keep people hooked to the screen for as long and as frequently as possible. Not because they’re evil but because of this arms race for attention.”

Sitting on the other side of the screen, Harris said, are very smart and cheeky Silicon Valley types, whose “techniques are only going to get more and more perfect over time.”

“There’s a whole system that’s much more powerful than us, and it’s only going to get stronger,” he warned.

According to a 1,500-person survey report from the Royal Society for Public Health, Instagram is one of the most addictive social media platforms. The big red hearts, easy scrolling, and multi-layered editing make it irresistible to our insecure, impulsive brains.

The worst part about Instagram is what Nate Ware calls the “expectation gap.” Instagram showcases fantasy and passes it off as reality. Photos are always fun and edgy, happy and friendful. Life is far from that — it’s rough, volatile, and strange. But that triad doesn’t exactly bring in the ‘likes.’

That’s what the ‘finsta’ is for. These friends-only accounts are for broadcasting legitimately funny, authentic, self-deprecating things — certainly not for the public to see.

However, it seems like the ‘finsta’ is still an all-too real representation of how superficial we are. But is it really that surprising?

Outside of social media, everyone’s got an image they want to convey. If you’re with strangers, even acquaintances, you’re polished: you watch your language, you dress nicer, you make an effort. But around tes amis, there’s none of that pressure; guys can be dudes. Instagram is just a modern example of behaviour that’s been raging since time immemorial.

Some take the polishing too far, though. The worst offenders on this front are Instagram ‘influencers,’ the biggest, cringiest phonies on social media. Influencers gush out streams of random quotes, workout videos, stunning pictures, and passionate monologues. They claim to motivate and inspire, but are often just walking billboards for big, faceless companies.

Take the Fyre Festival. After being offered cash to promote the event, over 400 influencers took to Instagram to talk it up. The ‘festival’ ended up going down flames with acts backing out, workers being shortchanged, and hundreds of ticket-holders getting scammed.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In some cases, Instagram may be used to help. Last year, Bruce Hardy and Jessica Castonguay argued that “social-media use may actually decrease anxiety for young people under the age of 30.” It was a contentious argument, and there are tons of people who believe otherwise. As Jake Pitre wrote in The Globe and Mail, “other studies have shown that social-media use in adolescence is linked with poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.”

It’s real murky territory — which is why, more than anything, it depends on the individual.

The key, as my grandmother rightly told me, is moderation. Most things — Instagram, inspiration, Alexander Keith’s, tequila — are great if consumed slowly and mindfully. It’s only when you go overboard that you end up empty, sore, and regretful.