Plan for new Spadina-Sussex residence approved by Governing Council

The residence will feature 511 beds for undergraduates, 10 townhouses for faculty

Plan for new Spadina-Sussex residence approved by Governing Council

On October 24, Governing Council approved the plan for a new residence to be built at the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Sussex Avenue. The 23-storey residence will include a total of 511 student beds for upper- and lower-year undergraduates across all faculties.

U of T acknowledged the growing need for housing and estimated that an additional 2,300 residence beds will be needed by 2020 at UTSG alone. Rise in enrollment of international and out-of-province students has been a contributing factor in this demand for housing.

University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) President Joshua Bowman supports the university’s investment to create more residence beds and approves of the centrality of the location. Bowman wrote in an email to The Varsity that “living in residence can be a formative experience.” He further commented, “the friends I made in my first year on residence helped me to navigate a lot of the challenges that… a university like ours can create.”

The residence will be composed of 60 per cent dorm rooms with semi-private washrooms shared between neighbours, and 40 per cent four-bedroom suites. Of the dorm rooms, 23 rooms and adjoining washrooms will be accessible, as well as 84 suite-style bedrooms and washrooms. The residence will also include live-in student dons, townhouses for faculty members, religious spaces, a fitness room, and a residence dining hall that will be open to students and faculty with a TCard.

According to research done by the UTSU, the number of accessible rooms at the Spadina-Sussex residence will be far greater than the average number of accessible rooms currently available at other UTSG residences.

The university began planning the new residence in 2014, but progress slowed in February 2017 when the Toronto City Council designated the Ten Editions bookstore, which is located at the proposed construction site, as a heritage site.

During the ensuing negotiations with the city, the building plan was adjusted to include a reduction in height and an agreement that the Ten Editions bookstore would remain standing by integrating it into the residence. However, despite the negotiations, the bookstore closed earlier this year.

Additionally, U of T has agreed to renovate the Robert Street Playing Field adjacent to the residence and make it accessible to the public.

With the new building design, an application for site plan approval was filed in December 2018 and is still pending.

U of T has released the following schedule: the approval of the site plan is expected by February 2020, the earliest demolition date is May 2020, the earliest construction date is August 2020, and the earliest completion date is April 2022.

While Bowman supports the Spadina-Sussex residence, he has also acknowledged that U of T has a dearth in affordable housing. “For many students, living in residence is simply not an option,” Bowman noted.

Information on the rental price is not yet available, yet, the plan notes that a meal plan will probably be mandatory for residents.

The development of the Spadina-Sussex residence will cost over $20 million. U of T is also in the process of designing an extension for Graduate House and a smaller housing project in the Huron-Sussex neighbourhood.

Your first year of university is a marathon, not a sprint

Run at your own pace, young one, the finish line is years away

Your first year of university is a marathon, not a sprint

So, it’s finally here: university, parties, lectures, and sleep deprivation. Your first year of university can simultaneously be daunting and exciting, and it’s important to pay attention to both of those feelings. Let’s start with the big, scary questions. How do you keep up with your classes and how do you make new friends?

The most important thing to remember when you’re staring at that monstrous syllabus or math textbook is to take everything one day at a time, or even one task at a time.

University is a marathon, not a sprint. Think of your work load in terms of what you need to do right now. Planning ahead is good, but don’t get too wrapped up in the homework of the future, lest you get to the point where doing anything at all feels too intimidating.

Keep up with your readings as best you can, and learn to distinguish between essential readings and supplementary material. Remember to take breaks, and don’t let your self-worth be boiled down to productivity levels. You are so much more than that.

Spending time with new friends is just as important as getting that one extra reading done for the day. If you struggle to let go of homework-related guilt, try thinking of time spent away from the books as a recharge that’s necessary in order to keep up a good studying pace. It also helps to take courses that genuinely interest you whenever you can.

Imagine back to when you were at your first orientation event, chanting for a school that you had only just joined, and looking around at the upper years dressed like camp counsellors, no alcohol in sight, wondering if you should just hide in your room until the week’s over. You didn’t. This is because orientation week isn’t about the events themselves; it’s about making connections with people which you can explore throughout your time at U of T.

This feeling of wanting to hide can creep up throughout the duration of your first year. You may enjoy the whole experience, but don’t sweat it if you feel out of place. I guarantee that many of the kids around you are feeling the same way.

Also, remember to take advantage of communal spaces like cafeterias where you can get to know different people. Everyone is eager to make friends, and meals are a great way to find the time to do so.

As trite as it sounds, friendships need nurturing, so put effort into them and give new relationships a chance to grow. Make time for building up your support network. It’ll be worth it!

You’ll hear it a million times, but it genuinely is a great idea to join a club. Join the quidditch team or debate club, or audition for that play you saw advertised around campus. It’ll help you to carve out time from your schedule for self-exploration and social opportunities.

Remember that this is only the beginning. So, push yourself when you need to and listen to your intuition when it’s time to slow down. Follow the pieces of advice that resonate. Don’t stress it, you have four years to expand your interests and develop your character. Above all, you need to take care of yourself during this adjustment period.

You have a whole chapter of your life ahead of you to learn more about the world and yourself. If there’s something you know you’re interested in, go for it. If not, it could be cool to try out something new.

Enjoy your time at U of T. Validate your fears, but focus on your excitement. A school is what you make of it, and this one has a treasure chest of opportunities just waiting for you to turn the key.

Five podcasts to make your commute more bearable

Learn the secrets of life from the comfort of your subway car

Five podcasts to make your commute more bearable

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any broodingly intellectual commuter must be in want of a podcast to contemplate while flexing Airpods and staring out the train window. Or maybe not, but either way, podcasts can satiate the need to fill your brain with something other than Father of the Bride for the zillionth time, or strangers’ subway conversations.

Finding the right podcast can be a trying task; the perfect piece must combine a compelling subject, a tolerable voice, and a binge-worthy collection of episodes, so I’ve saved you some of the guesswork and highlighted a few of my favourites.

1. Revisionist History

Revisionist History, brought to you by U of T alum Malcolm Gladwell, is an authoritative dive into the unknown sides of familiar institutions, figures, and events. Though Gladwell introduces the podcast as a series of reinterpretations of the past, it is also equally a catalogue of his personal obsessions.

The podcast analyzes everything from Jesuits, to golf, to the evolution of McDonalds’ French fries with equal appeal and the pith of Gladwell’s numerous bestsellers.

The most entertaining segment of the podcast may be the endings, as Gladwell unravels the stories in full form and guides you to his central idea like it’s the innermost piece of a Russian doll you unpacked together. He can spectacularly and stealthily make a point; in several episodes, Gladwell shakes his head at Donald Trump without even saying his name — he has the good sense to let you get there yourself.

2. Great Moments in Weed History

Journalists David Bienenstock and Abdullah Saeed apply a quirky and unexpected lens to the past as they trek into humanity’s 10,000-odd year relationship with cannabis. The pair cover one historical cannabis moment every episode, with Bienenstock acting as the all-knowing storyteller and Saeed as the comedic audience that Bienenstock guides along.

They deliver both the standard weed tales — the origins of four-twenty and Cheech and Chong — and the surprising bits on cannabis’ often hidden role in the past we think we know. From Jesus to Maya Angelou, no figure is safe.

Each story is interspersed with their own annecdotes and the tangents of genuine friendship, as well as the necessary pauses to ‘roll one up.’ Regardless, rest assured that the podcast is more than just stoner fare — Bienenstock and Saeed enjoy destigmatizing cannabis and history equally as much as they like smoke.

3. Someone Knows Something

We all know true crime is overdone — this is where Someone Knows Something comes in. Away from the done-before, CBC Radio and our host David Ridgen investigate the mysterious Canadian crimes that no willing — or living — voice can elucidate for us.

This is the crux of the podcast — someone must know something, but their silence has let disappearances persist as haunting and seemingly unexplainable events. Ridgen chooses cases whose explanations remain clouded amongst numerous theories, each equally questionable.

He manages to make these cases so deeply personal that you will mourn and search for answers along with his main subjects — the families struggling for decades without closure. The first two seasons are the show’s best, though they are not for the faint of heart.

4. Modern Love

Yes, you’ve heard of this a thousand times. But that’s because this podcast is a collection of some of the most genuine, personal stories about relationships you’ll ever hear. You can choose from an arsenal of eloquent, heart-warming episodes, and hear an array of celebrity voices reading essays chosen by The New York Times.

5. Nothing Much Happens

Less of a podcast and more a collection of self-described adult bedtime stories, Nothing Much Happens is meant to guide you to sleep through simple short stories from Kathryn Nicolai. Her vivid descriptions and soothing yoga-teacher-esque voice will quickly make you feel cozy and relaxed — a good avenue to peace when struggling with anxiety or insomnia.

Opinion: Ford burst our bubble — university health care coverage suffers under new policy changes

The UTSU can only do so much to mitigate Ford’s damage

Opinion: Ford burst our bubble — university health care coverage suffers under new policy changes

The Ford government’s changes to OHIP and introduction of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) have brought a number of pressing issues, including access to health care for university students. The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) health care plan is bearing the brunt of the damage.

The UTSU health care plan is meant to fill gaps in other coverage students may have, including OHIP. However, Ford’s cuts to OHIP have made covering all gaps unfeasible, prompting major shifts in the UTSU Health and Dental Plan.

The UTSU’s coverage for prescription drug costs has been reduced from 90 per cent to 80 per cent of the cost of each prescription, up to $5,000. This applies not only to drug prescriptions, but also to vaccines — which have been fully covered to a maximum of $200 in past years.

Mental health services have also been affected: as opposed to providing $125 per visit for up to 20 visits, the new health care plan only covers $100 per visit for up to 15 visits. It’s important to note is that unlike prescription drug care coverage, mental health funding is being capped by both cost and number of visits.

In an attempt to offset these cuts, the UTSU has implemented coverage for visits to registered psychotherapists, in addition to visits to standard psychologists, clinical counsellors, and licensed social workers. This change may seem minute, but it will go a long way to help students.

What is most worrisome about the UTSU’s changes is not its immediate effects but rather its implications for U of T students. In the statement that the UTSU released regarding changes to the health and dental plan, the union acknowledges that there is a mental health crisis at the university.

Mental health is a high priority for the UTSU: in a statement following a student’s death in September, it committed to continue to place its “resources behind addressing the mental health crisis.” Even though it must contend with Ford’s difficult cuts, it should put all its efforts into tackling this crisis. In terms of policy, this means collecting as many resources as possible.

At the UTSU Board of Directors Meeting in late August, Studentcare, the health and dental care provider of the UTSU, sent a message noting that “a lower claims trend was had for mental health coverage in comparison to other parts of the plan.”

In response to this, the UTSU decided to concentrate more on other areas of health coverage, as mental health seemed to be of lesser concern. This projection was also based on the fact that the UTSU would no longer be covering students at UTM, meaning that fewer resources would be needed. However, these predictions do not necessarily translate as facts, meaning that the students at UTSG may be left without sufficient access to resources.

The UTSU is cognizant of this and is taking active measures to improve health care coverage for the following school year. UTSU President Joshua Bowman explained that the executive team is working on restructuring the Student Aid program to “bridge the financial gap in coverage.”

The UTSU hopes to establish a referendum which would allow for students to re-appraise the cost of the plan and possibly charge students more in certain areas and less in others, depending on their needs. These changes would aim to both meet the individual needs of the student while accommodating for financial barriers.

Of course, the UTSU is only a student governing body, and as such, some changes are beyond its reach. The greatest barriers to equitable access to health care are Ford’s changes to OHIP and implementation of the SCI. The true arbiters of change are the members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Just as they were the ones who created these barriers, they are the ones who can break them down. And in light of the mental health crisis, these policies are only driving us further away from the help we need and straight into the arms of physical, emotional, and financial instability.

The Ford government must recognize the harm that is already stemming from these dangerous policies and do everything it can to mitigate this harm and reverse it. Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time until Ford bursts our bubble.

Yana Sadeghi is a first-year Social Sciences student at New College.

Op-ed: Accountability, democracy, and samosas — attend the UTSU’s fall Annual General Meeting

All you need to know about the UTSU AGM

Op-ed: Accountability, democracy, and samosas — attend the UTSU’s fall Annual General Meeting

On Wednesday, October 30, at 6:00 pm, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) will be holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Innis Town Hall. This event is crucial for the governance of the UTSU, and gives our membership the opportunity to debate and ratify decisions and bylaws, and have their say in the direction and maintenance of our organization.

The UTSU AGM is one of our most important events, as it serves as a mid-year check on our progress as executives. As such, we work hard to ensure that the AGM is as accessible and open to our membership as possible.

Through measures like our online proxy system at, we want to make sure all members have a chance to engage with the UTSU on a personal level.

The AGM has been criticized in the past for being filled with “insiders” instead of general members. This is a valid criticism. In the past, the UTSU’s engagement skills were poor, and transparency was dubious. We’ve made strides this year to bridge this gap and want all students to feel comfortable at our AGM.

Our organization functions best when we hear your questions and criticisms, and we want to hear as many as possible. We’re here to listen.

The UTSU has a long history of packed AGMs with students raising their concerns with executives, irrespective of how receptive the executives may be. This has extended to the adoption of online voting — despite its initial failure — the proposed erasure of executive positions, the banning of slates, and the separation of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union from the UTSU.

Suffice to say, AGMs are wholly consequential to the operations of the UTSU.

Before I became an executive at the UTSU, I used the AGM as an opportunity to press my predecessors on the status of our membership in the Canadian Federation of Students, because I was under the impression that we would be pushing for a referendum to leave. As a general member, I was tired of the constant rhetoric — if the UTSU was pushing to leave, why were they still failing to deliver?

Furthermore, I advocated for resolutions that I found merit in, and spoke in opposition to points that I found to be unproductive. I found the AGM and the processes that preceded it to be extremely exciting: The Varsity’s bingo cards that predicted the events before they occurred, the samosas that sat lousily in the lobby of the event, the proxy cards that announced how many members were participating, et cetera. It was a lot to process my first time, and it was really one of the events that motivated me to get more involved with the UTSU.

The agendas are normally as follows: an address from the president and an executive question period; the presentation of audited statements and subsequent ratification of the auditor; the presentation of an annual report detailing the events of the preceding year; a package of bylaws to be discussed and ratified by the membership; and member-submitted motions.

The executive question period is a great opportunity to press executives on their actions or inaction. This period has addressed issues like a lack of water bottles at orientation, the inclusion of students from the satellite campuses, and whether the UTSU is democratic or not. This is a great opportunity, and has been historically utilized to a great extent by UTSU members.

Arguably, the two most consequential pieces of this upcoming AGM agenda are the audited financial statements and the Bylaw and Elections Procedure Code changes. The audit allows the UTSU’s general membership to see the financial health of the organization — where our money is being spent.

In addition, changes to the UTSU’s Bylaw and Elections Procedure Code are important, given that the UTSU’s Bylaws are legally binding and guide the organization’s general direction.

I highly encourage all of our members to come out and attend the AGM, if not for the opportunity to keep executives accountable and assess the health of our union, then for the samosas. If anybody has questions about the AGM, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We hope to see you on Wednesday, October 30, at Innis Town Hall!

Joshua Bowman is a fifth-year Indigenous Studies and Political Science student at St. Michael’s College and current President of the UTSU.

Adulting 101: So you think you can launder?

There is a correct way to do your laundry and you’re definitely doing it wrong

Adulting 101:  So you think  you can launder?

Do any of us really know how to do laundry?

Last Sunday, I pulled out my new white shirt from the washer and it was stained pink — just a massive, in-your-face blotch on my shirt a day before an interview.

How could this happen to me?

I’ve been doing laundry for the past four years, and now it turns out that after all this time I’ve been doing it all wrong.

If you’re anything like me, you probably take a pile of dirty clothes, shove them into the washing machine, throw in detergent, pick both the cycle and temperature based on absolutely no logic, and then let the beautiful pièce de résistance do its magic.

Well, if you can relate to the above, then this is for you. And to those of you rolling your eyes, good for you. You’re nailin’ adulting. Love that — but I can’t relate.

After the last astronomical disaster, I finally went ahead and did some research. I typed “how to do laundry” on Google, and there it was: a long, verbose list of articles claiming to know the secret to doing laundry perfectly. There was an entire page dedicated to whites, a different one for knitwear, another one for colours — each with their own list of instructions.

But don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the details of each of them. I know we’re all busy U of T students, which only gives us time to skim through online readings before getting back to our actual readings.

So, I’ve compiled a brief list of things that’ll help you preserve your Canada Goose jackets, woolen sweaters, and your white shirts for a little longer — or, at least, until after the interview.

1. Do not mix your whites with colours. Come on, don’t do it!

I know that we’re all lazy and that nobody wants to do two cycles, but mixing really ruins your garms. Even if there’s no colour leak, the materials for the two are usually quite different and your whites will get damaged.

2. Best way to load a washing machine? Use the Palm Rule

You need to give your clothes enough space to tumble and spin. If you overload the washer, then your clothes won’t get washed properly. On the other hand, if its not loaded enough, then you’re wasting water. Hence, the palm trick! Place your hand in the drum, and if your hand fits between your clothes and the wall of the drum, then you have the perfect load size.

3. Know your laundry symbols

You know those tiny white clothing labels that are sewn on the inside of your clothes and have all these fancy shapes that are practically incomprehensible? Yes, those! They are important. Some clothes can’t be washed with bleach, some need to be washed with cold water, and some shouldn’t be washed at all! Knowing these could really save your clothes from damage.

4. Now, about your knitwear — this is important to know because we live in a freezer for eight months

First, it’s never a good idea to wash your wool clothes often. Every time you wash them, a little more damage is done to the fibres. If you can’t eat a burrito right and end up spilling sauce on your sweaters, just clean the stain using bleach or stain remover, but please, remember to first check if you’re allowed to use bleach. Secondly, if you want to wash ‘unstructured’ wool pieces, like sweaters, blankets, and scarves, wash them on a delicate cycle in the washer. Always use cool water and gentle detergent; otherwise, it will shrink.

5. A little more complicated advice on the type of wash cycle, but stay with me…

Try using normal or regular cycle for whites, sheets, towels, undergarments, and socks. Always use a permanent-press cycle for jeans, non-cotton items, knits, and polyesters, and a delicate cycle for wool, silk, and other fragile garments. Great, you finally know what the permanent-press cycle is used for!

6. A few things that you should never, ever put in the dryer

Silk, lace, activewear, and pantyhose — now you know why your tights get torn so quickly! Also: those dryer sheets? They can actually be bad for your health. According to a few doctors, they might even be bad for your skin. So, even if you don’t take anything away from this article — and continue to shove all your clothes into one load, or take your laundry back to your parents house every two weeks — you can at least save money on those dryer sheets!

What’s it like having an IUD?

Let’s talk about sex, birth control, and how to become a work of art

What’s it like having an IUD?

I love having my copper Intrauterine device (IUD).

As an individual who does not like the idea of having hormones added to their body, but does want the highest level of protection during sex — it was the perfect option.

If you don’t know, an IUD is a small, T-shaped device with two hanging strings, that you can get inserted into your uterus. Yup, sounds terrifying. At least, that’s what was running through my brain while I sat fidgeting in the waiting room for 40 minutes.

When I was considering getting the copper IUD, there was a major downside. It increases period cramps and flow, and is typically recommended for people who have lighter menstruation cycles.

But hey, I already had a painkiller prescription for my cramps: you know, the type of pain where you have to imagine you’re a Viking warrior with a stab wound — those menstrual cramps. Fun.

My doctor’s response to my IUD request was something along the lines of, “Are you sure? Let me give you another prescription too, just in case.” This naturally made me more apprehensive of the procedure, but I knew that any hormonal option would impact me more than extra cramps.

I also knew that I could get my IUD taken out anytime after its insertion — the myth that you’re trapped with it for the next five years is not true. It is, of course, better to wait two months and see how your body adjusts, but after that, do whatever you want! Now, having had my IUD for a year, my cramps have remained exactly the same.

People often hold on to what’s conventional and I’m grateful to have access to any method of birth control around me at all, but I also know that I should have the final choice over what goes into my body.

What works for one person might not be what’s right for someone else. That is to say, my experience is just one story. When I was growing up, no one taught me about any options beyond abstinence and the pill. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about other forms of contraception, like the IUD.

When I finally got into the insertion room, my doctor was nowhere in sight. After 20 minutes of staring at the harsh fluorescent lights, eyes roving over cheap ceiling tiles with my back pressed into the operation table, I heard a knock at the door. She came in to tell me that they were waiting for the instruments to cool down from their time in the dishwasher, which gave me a whole host of visuals that I didn’t ask for.

When she returned, she placed a little plastic tool inside of me that held the area open, sprayed an antiseptic down there, then talked me through the insertion cramps. I’m endeavouring to be nothing but honest and informative — and maybe, just maybe, slightly entertaining.

Afterward, I rated the pain of having the IUD placed inside of me as a seven out of 10. This may seem like an arbitrary detail, but I want it out there for any person trying to decide what they want to do to have a fun, safe sex life. I’ve had enough friends ask me about it and then decide to get one themselves, that I wanted to share with a bigger audience.

I didn’t have any cramps after the operation was done. I even went to a party that night.

However, some people have reported experiencing pain afterward, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. You don’t feel the IUD itself inside of you at all. You don’t beep going through airport security or anything like that either. Although, I do like to think that the fact that it’s up there makes me a cyborg.

I made the customary second appointment to have my thread checked a few months later. The threads allow the doctor to ensure that the IUD is sitting correctly in your reproductive system. My IUD is soft and high enough in your cervix that it shouldn’t be noticeable. It also curls up with time into a practically non-existent little ball.

Like birth control pills, for a reason that I don’t understand, the copper IUD has a name. Only instead of sounding like something a kid would name their Barbie doll, it’s called the Mona Lisa.

So, if you do decide to go ahead and get one, keep in mind that you are officially a work of art.

How to get crackin’ as an engineering student at U of T

Eight pro tips to make the pinkie ring worth it

How to get crackin’ as an engineering student at U of T

Like the coming of the new year, it was always inevitable. Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes make their seasonal reprise as autumn takes hold, drawing a heavy curtain on the last sultry summer days.

You look back, lamenting the end of your halcyon high-school era. Your first year of university is a period you spend preparing to propel yourself into your next academic epoch. The whole year is a limbo between high school and university, which was best described by Alice Cooper in 1970: “I’m a boy and I’m a man… I’m eighteen and I like it.”

It’s an exciting, albeit unsure time in your life. On one hand, you’re flushed with fortitude, having emerged from high school unscathed. On the other, you stare ahead at the uncharted waters of your college campus in trepidation at what scholarly turbulences lie before you.

If this mental cocktail of eagerness and apprehension sounds at all familiar, don’t worry. For those of you who have been admonished of the difficulties of engineering, I hope to quell those fears with some advice and tips I wish I’d have had when I was in my first year.

Forgot high-school calculus? Don’t sweat it

There is always a group of first-year students flushed with anxiety at the thought of walking into a first-year math course with the everything-I-learned-in-high-school part of their brains scrubbed spotless over the summer, like one of Dexter Morgan’s crime scenes.   

If this sounds like you, you might even be thinking, “Who needs a social life? I’d better spend my fall semester poring over old calculus textbooks, and maybe even read ahead.” Stop right there.

Your professors are not expecting you to remember every nuance of last year’s math. On the contrary, they assume you spent your summer like any 18 year old who just graduated from high school, and, as a consequence, forgot everything. They teach you exactly what you need to know from scratch, which brings us to the second point.

Don’t fall behind

Warren Buffet has two rules when it comes to investing. The first is to never lose money, and the second is to never forget rule one. In engineering, the first rule to follow is to not fall behind. You can guess the second. Just because your professor starts the semester in first gear does not mean you should be fooled into thinking that you’ll be coasting into final exams.

If you think the class is moving too slowly, miss lectures at your own risk; speaking from experience, skipping lectures by telling yourself you already know everything is a sure way to place yourself in academic peril. Sure, today you are sleeping through an introduction to limits, but within a week the chalkboards look like the set pieces from Good Will Hunting.

Be resourceful!

At one point or another, students in pursuit of their iron rings will wallow in frustration and angst, and think, “How on earth am I going to pass this?” Not to worry! At U of T — and at university more broadly — there is a plethora of resources available to you.

Professors’ office hours

The one thing all your first-year lectures will have in common is a professor eager to lend a helping hand. But it’s a two-way street. While professors have been in your shoes before, and understand the trials and tribulations of first-year engineering, they also need new bright candidates for graduate research. That’s where you come in: professors always start the first lecture of the semester by writing their office location on the board.

If something isn’t clear in a subsequent lecture or in your problem sets, don’t hesitate to drop by and ask the professor any questions that pop into your head. Just be sure to attempt to understand the problems by yourself first. Professors, like pro-sports talent scouts, are always looking for hard-working, ambitious students.

There’s no better way to put yourself on their radars than attending their office hours and showing your ravenous appetite for learning. Years later, one might just reach out to you with a job opportunity or research position. If nothing else, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the course material.

Teaching assistants

Whatever the course, its teaching assistants (TAs) will likely be graduate students who took it themselves as undergraduates. Like Sherpas who guide climbers up the Himalayan mountains, the TAs have scaled the hills and valleys of your course syllabus, and are there to guide you through them.

Moreover, if they have taught the same class multiple times, they will have marked previous assignments and exams, and seen where students tend to struggle. They are an invaluable resource, and can help you overcome any hardship.

You may or may not have heard about it yet, but aside from Quercus ­— and Stack Overflow, for you electrical and computer engineering students — the most useful website during your time here is This website contains past years’ final exams and midterms, many of which also contain solutions, for nearly every course you will be taking in your undergraduate years.

It’s a vital resource; not just in studying for exams, but also for gauging the course itself as it progresses. How do you know which lectures are the most important? Which topics to pay more attention to? You can find out all this by simply glancing over old midterms and exams. Based on the types of questions your professor tends to ask, you should have a good assessment of how your understanding of the course even before the midterm approaches.

Make friends

You are entering a program with hundreds of classmates of whom, at best, you know a handful. But fear not: making friends is the easiest thing you will do as an engineering student. Orientation week is a great opportunity to get to know your peers, so be sure to socialize.

The person sitting next to you in orientation may be the person you’ll be asking to help with problem sets in a few weeks. Before you go to a professor’s office hours or emailing the TA, the first and best way to tackle a challenge is by sitting down in one of the many large libraries on campus with a study group.

The key point is that you should not worry. Sure, engineering is a challenging program, but you probably did not come here because it was going to be easy. You wanted a challenge — and a job, upon graduation.

You are now part of a community of hard-hat-wearing students who can chant gleeful engineering cheers. Those of you with early birthdays can take special joy in the paeans to Pilsner, and you can all prepare for the next chapter of your academic lives.

Editor’s note (October 25, 1:14 pm): This article was originally published in The Cannon, of which Varsity editors were not aware. It will remain in its reproduced form with the permission of The CannonThe Varsity regrets the error.