Category Archives: Student Handbook 2017

#UofTAdvice

First year bucket list

  • Show off your campus, college, or faculty pride at the UTSU frosh parade
  • Join a club or student organization
  • Attend a student theatre production
  • Take advantage of events with free food on campus
  • Visit a campus that isn’t your own
  • Go to a house party or frat party
  • Find your on-campus study spot
  • Find your off-campus study spot
  • Visit a prof’s office hours
  • Take advantage of a student discount
  • Vote in a student election
  • Find the perfect cup of coffee on campus
  • Pull an all-nighter studying
  • Go to the Varsity Blues homecoming game
  • Play an intramural sport
  • Attend a demonstration or protest
  • Find a job from the Career Learning Network
  • Attend a formal event outside your campus, college, or faculty
  • Join a fitness class at one of U of T’s gyms
  • Contribute to The Varsity!

Take advantage of the system

Transitioning from high school to university can be a total nightmare, and without the necessary supports in place, it can be difficult to succeed. U of T offers a variety of options for students in need of accommodation, and I would highly suggest you take advantage of them.

Accessibility services:

Available on all three campuses, this branch of the university administration deals with accommodating students in an academic capacity. A visit to their office with some medical documentation is all you need to get started. Once registered, they offer many services and resources:

Test and exam accommodations:

Extra writing time, timed breaks of up to one hour, private writing spaces, and computers are all available for those who need them.

Peer note-taking: Notes taken by volunteers are accessible on a private database. You can also schedule appointments with learning strategists to get help with learning disabilities and writing issues. There are tutoring resources for specific subjects and areas of study.

Funding: You can access specific financial resources related to disabilities and your studies, and you have the option of taking a reduced course load and paying for tuition on a per-course basis while maintaining full-time student status.

Letters of Accommodation:

Based on your needs, you may receive an official letter stating your registered accommodations, which can include due dates extensions, excused absences, and accessible lecture halls. Your disability counsellors can facilitate discussions with the Health and Wellness Centre, your registrar, and professors.

Mental wellness:

The Health and Wellness Centre at UTSG, the Health and Counselling Centre at UTM, and the Health and Wellness Centre at UTSC are great resources and are free for all registered students. However, it is an overloaded system with a long wait time, so start early and use it to your advantage for every year you study. Here are some of the services they offer:

Assault counselling: Aid for students who have experienced physical assault, sexual violence, and harassment is provided by healthcare professionals with specialized trauma training.

Psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy: For students struggling with depression, anxiety, relationship and family issues, mental health issues, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity.

Embedded counsellors: Counsellors are available at designated sites around campus, including some facilities and colleges at UTSG, all of which have shorter wait times.

Group therapy: Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Mood and Anxiety, and Bounce-back Resilience Therapy are available for students.

WellTrack: Available at UTSC, WellTrack is an online self-help tool for students struggling with anxiety, depression, or high levels of stress.

Other tips:

It’s easy to list all the resources we can access, but what’s really important is knowing how to properly access all of them.

Come prepared: Bring all medical documents, IDs, and a printed version of any relevant paperwork.

Get in contact with the administration: If you have any confusion about how to access these resources, call or email your registrar or set up an appointment with a Wellness Administrator. Call your campus accessibility services office or the Health and Wellness offices and ask the receptionists about your next steps.

Express your needs: Be polite, but don’t be shy. Let people know what you need and demand the resources that will help you succeed .

The definitive commuter survival guide

As a commuter, most of your time is spent on a bus, train, or streetcar, so finding ways to maximize productivity and comfort during these times is imperative. Here’s a useful guide to make those long trips home a little easier.

Things to do

With hours of your day spent travelling to and from home, finding ways to stay busy is crucial.

Music: There’s no better way to pass the time than listening to your favourite album. Apple Music and Spotify Premium are available ad-free with downloading features at discounted student prices, which is usually your best bet for seeking an infinite amount of music for an infinite commute.

Podcasts: Use your commute to learn about why Beyoncé’s Lemonade is iconic, discover historic European rebellions, or refresh yourself on the morning’s top news stories. Podcasting is by far one of the most entertaining and informative uses of time. Even better: most podcasts are free.

Readings: If you’re not in the mood for tunes or podcasts, spending time to catch up on your readings or assignments can be useful. Why? Because once you get home, you’re not opening up that laptop ‘til the AM.

Comfy fashion

The only way to tolerate the long and sweaty experience of commuting is to dress comfortably and keep handy accessories.

Invest in a good wallet: As a commuter, your wallet is your everything. From your house keys, your PRESTO card, and your Metro Pass, your wallet is your key to the world.

Good bag = happy back: Along with your wallet, your bag is with you the entire day. Like a best friend, choose your bag wisely. A bad bag can break your back, but a good bag will always have your back. My personal favourite is Fjällräven’s Kånken backpack.

Comfortable sneakers = happy feet: In my first year at U of T, I sprained my foot wearing fashionable yet uncomfortable shoes. You will thank yourself for investing in a good pair of sneakers when it’s 9:40 am and your train leaves at 9:43.   

Saving (and spending) money

If you don’t keep track, money will leave you and never come back.

Pack a lunch: Campus food isn’t cheap, and come finals time, you will love yourself for not spending all your cash. It may not be the most ideal, but you will thank yourself for saving some money.

Maintaining a social life

Living off campus can seem very isolating at a place as large as U of T, but there are plenty of ways to stay involved and make new friends.

Make friends during frosh: When it’s 12 am and you can’t make it home, having a friend on campus who will let you crash is integral to your well-being. Everyone is looking for friends during frosh, so take advantage and you might just find a new companion — and a future place to stay.

Go club-hopping: Joining student clubs is a great way to fight isolation at university. Unlike high school, there is a massive pool of people with a diverse range of interests. Find what works for you!

Utilize your college, faculty, and campus perks: Each college, faculty, and campus has offerings for commuters. From rentable non-resident rooms to free food and common rooms, check out their websites to see what they can do for you.

Schedule, schedule, schedule

As a commuter, staying organized is essential. With a two-hour commute, late night activities can be highly detrimental to your sleep schedule.

Find common areas and social spaces: Every college has a common area, so use them to nap, recharge, and hang out.

Midday classes are best: In university, you learn that classes before 11 am might as well be at 4 am, and classes after 6 pm might as well be at midnight. Try your best to schedule midday classes, and you’ll thank yourself later.

Ready to bleed blue?

The University of Toronto Varsity Blues is a program comprised of 43 athletic teams competing in 25 different sports across U of T’s three campuses. Women’s, men’s, and co-ed Blues squads represent our university in both provincial sporting competitions overseen by Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and on a national level through the U SPORTS organization. Over the past century, U of T teams have won gold in every major sporting championship, from the Vanier Cup in football to the McCaw Cup in women’s ice hockey.

Recently, the Varsity Blues have been dominant contenders in swimming, volleyball, and track and field. As part of a strong Blues men’s and women’s swim program that claimed 62 medals at the OUA championships last year, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Kylie Masse is expected to continue her reign as one of the top swimmers in the world. The women’s volleyball team, led by star striker Alina Dormann, recently tallied an incredible 45 consecutive wins over two regular seasons and a playoff campaign. They were ranked first nationally and claimed bronze at the 2017 OUA championships, held at the Goldring Centre back in March. Toronto’s track and field teams have had steady success over the last few years, with the men’s 4×200 relay team capturing the gold medal at the U SPORTS national championship this past year, and the women’s squad claiming gold for the third year in a row. With promising young coach Ashley Hui at the helm, the figure skating team will look to three-peat after trouncing the competition to win gold in both 2016 and 2017. The coming 2017–2018 season is full of promise for U of T’s talented athletes; this year, take a break from your studies to cheer on the home team!

Watch, train, participate

UTSG

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

Hulking at the corner of Spadina and Harbord, UTSG’s Athletic Centre, known as the AC, is a mainstay of the downtown campus’ athletic and fitness community. The AC’s many facilities include three multi-sport gymnasiums, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, 10 squash courts, a hardwood floor dancing studio, and a strength and conditioning centre. Upstairs, the 57,000-square-foot Field House features a running track encircling a multi-sport area for basketball, tennis, dance, and other activities. After a morning workout, grab a coffee and a snack from the in-house Café AC before heading to class.

PAULINA PETROVA/THE VARSITY

The Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport is the newest athletic facility at UTSG, having opened in fall of 2014. The multi-floor sport and exercise complex is home to the Varsity Blues basketball and volleyball teams and boasts world-class courts, exercise facilities, research laboratories, and a sports medicine clinic. Spend an hour on the exercise bike and watch a football game across the street at Varsity Stadium from behind the Goldring Centre’s enormous glass façade.

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

Less frequented but still dearly loved by its regulars is the Hart House Fitness Centre, home to a variety of activity spaces and fitness facilities, registered and drop-in classes, a suspended indoor running track, and a beautiful 25-yard pool with an Art Deco skylight.

UTM

JACQUELINE ZIMMER/THE VARSITY

The Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre (RAWC) includes all of the amenities of a university athletic complex, including a fitness cardio room, a strength training and conditioning centre, a three-lane running track, dance and fitness studios, and a 25-metre eight-lane pool with a depth adjustable floor. The RAWC’s outdoor component features beach volleyball courts, tennis courts, and two multi-sport grass fields for soccer, field hockey, and more. The centre is home to a robust intramural sports program where students can try out to become a UTM Eagle in a number of different sports, from ice hockey to cricket.

UTSC

MATTHEW MANHIRE/THE VARSITY

A legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, UTSC’s Pan Am Sports Centre features world-class facilities for athletes of all stripes. The centre boasts two Olympic-size swimming pools, a dive tank, a 41-foot climbing wall, and an enormous multi-level fitness centre that features a strength and conditioning studio alongside a cardio studio. The centre’s Field House hosts many of the non-competitive, drop-in, and intramural campus sports on its block of four competition-size gymnasiums, which is ringed by an upper-level running track.

Jointly owned and operated by UTSC and the City of Toronto, the Pan Am Sports Centre serves as an inclusive civic meeting place for those pursuing active lifestyles — it hosts a variety of registered recreational programs, including archery and salsa dancing. It is also a beacon in sustainable urban design: the rooftops feature 60,000 square feet of green space and 1,854 solar panels, as well as a geothermal field beneath the site’s parking lots that supplies 30 per cent of the centre’s heating and cooling budget. And for the early birds and night owls — or those with generally jam-packed schedules, like most students — the facility’s year-round 5:00 am to midnight hours are a huge plus.

How to get started in research

Conducting research as an undergraduate student is a rewarding experience that allows you to gain skills and explore topics beyond the boundaries of the classroom. The following steps will help you get started on your search for a research position.

Identify your topic of interest

Before beginning any type of research, it is important to identify your area of interest. Start by asking yourself a few basic questions: What kinds of skills do I have, and what types of skills do I want to acquire?

Are there any classes or areas of study that I’m drawn to?

Explore available opportunities 

There are various research opportunities at U of T for undergraduates in the Faculty of Arts & Science, as listed below. The Research Opportunity Program consists of 299Y and 399Y courses specifically designed to introduce research to second year students.

The Research Excursions Program includes 398H and 399Y courses designed for students in their third year. Students enrolled in this program can participate in practical or experiential activity under the supervision of a faculty member.

Undergraduate Summer Research Programs are offered by many Life Sciences departments at U of T. Research institutions and hospitals affiliated with U of T also have their own summer research programs. Applications for these are typically released in the winter months.

Find a mentor

Once you have decided on an area of interest, you must find a professor or principal investigator (PI) who will take you on as a student and mentor you throughout your research experience. Departmental websites often have brief academic biographies of researchers along with their relevant publications. This is a great way to find someone whose interests align with yours.

Contact your mentor

When you’ve  found a potential faculty mentor, introduce yourself through email. Your tone must be professional, and the subject line should clearly indicate your purpose.

PIs may receive several emails a day from students seeking positions in their lab, so be sure to spend time tailoring your message to stand out. Sending your emails earlier on in the application cycle can help you do so.

If your mentor accepts, the next step is often an interview. This is the first step to developing a working relationship with your PI. If there happens to be an open position in their lab, you may find yourself at the end of your search and at the beginning of your journey in research.

Start your research

Congratulations! You have now acquired a position as an undergraduate research student. Give yourself a pat on the back and look forward to a challenging yet rewarding experience.

Science on campus

As an internationally regarded research institution, U of T has a well-rounded and active science community. Whether you’re into synthetic biology or just want to contribute to health initiatives in your community, you’re sure to find a group that’s perfect for you.

The University of Toronto International Health Program

UTIHP was established with the aim of training students to become leaders in global health. The program now has several subcommittees and engages with students from multiple disciplines. UTIHP organizes a number of events throughout the year, such as the EarthTones Benefit Concert, the Health and Human Rights Conference, and the Ontario Model World Health Organization conference.

Women in Science and Engineering

WISE is a co-ed organization aimed at encouraging women to pursue careers in these fields. The group’s various networking events and conferences provide a platform for women at different educational and career stages to learn and develop within a supportive community. WISE also offers a mentorship program for undergraduate students and an outreach program for high school students.

Students’ unions

From Immunology to Astronomy, there’s a union for every department. Joining your department’s students’ union is a great way to stay up to date with peers and get involved with student life. Students’ unions offer a community that can connect you with upper-year mentors and provide a platform for voicing your concerns. Most unions will also organize events such as conferences and socials.

International Genetically Engineered Machine

Looking for a little competition? Join the iGEM Toronto team. Over the summer, the group designs and creates a synthetic biology project while initiating community outreach activities and examining the real-world implications of their project. The team represents U of T at an international competition in Boston every November.

U of T Aerospace Team

If you’re interested in aerospace engineering, you might want to check out the UTAT. With five divisions, the team covers categories like aerial robotics, unmanned aerial vehicles, rocketry, satellites, and educational outreach. The UTAT competes in both domestic and international competitions and has won numerous awards.

U of T Robotics Association

Interested in robotics? The UTRA offers a unique experience for those interested in designing and building robots. The group is composed of several smaller teams, each with a different area of interest ranging from 3D printing to bionic combat. Projects have the opportunity to be presented at various national and international robotics competitions.

Arts on campus

Art Museum at Hart House

KATHLEEN DOYLE/THE VARSITY

U of T’s Art Museum is comprised of two spaces: the University of Toronto Art Centre at University College and the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at Hart House. The museum’s permanent collections feature Canadian artists, including the Group of Seven; its rotating exhibitions have used varying materials to create diverse and textured narratives on subjects such as the Canadian environment and First Nations history. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday, and admission is free.

Drama Coalition

RUSABA ALAM/THE VARSITY

The U of T Drama Coalition is the umbrella organization for connection between the many different drama societies on campus, including those of individual colleges and those at UTM and UTSC. Each year’s lineup includes a variety of productions, from Shakespeare to classic blockbuster musicals. Don’t miss the annual Drama Festival, a showcase for original one-act plays that are written, directed, and performed by students at the legendary Hart House Theatre.

Free Film Fridays

Every Friday evening of the school year, the Cinema Studies Student Union (CINSSU) hosts a free screening at Innis Town Hall. Selections range from contemporary flicks to foreign films.

Winterfest’s Battle of the Bands

NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

Having to return to school after the winter holidays can be dispiriting, which is why U of T’s annual Winterfest is the perfect way to start off the new semester. Besides the pancake brunches that rotate between colleges for the duration of the week, there are also events that include open mics, club nights, and a drag show. Be sure to check out Battle of the Bands, where U of T students compete at local live music venue Lee’s Palace.

…and more

One of the biggest perks of going to U of T is that there truly is something for everyone. There’s a club for every interest, especially the arts, from acapella and tango to calligraphy and origami. As cliché as this might sound, clubs are a great way to meet new people and broaden your horizons. Don’t write anything off — you only frosh once, after all.

Attend it for the culture

August & September: The Ex

Spending a sweaty summer night seeking out the most gruesome fried foods at the Canadian National Exhibition (otherwise known as The Ex) is a rite of passage for all Torontonians. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what The Ex is — is it an amusement park? Shopping mall? Overheated food court? Regardless of its true purpose, you can still enjoy this overstuffed Toronto landmark. Just be wary of the deep-fried Coca-Cola.

September: TIFF

VLAD PDVORNY/CC FLICKR

Since its founding in 1976, the Toronto International Film Festival has grown to be one of the world’s most renowned festivals. Its Grolsch People’s Choice Award has also become an early predictor of a film’s future success during awards season. Last year’s festival featured nearly 400 films from 83 different countries. While you’re waiting in rush lines, snag a view of the red carpet early to see the stars emerge. If actually watching movies is more your thing, tickets for the weekday daytime screenings start at $10.

September: Nuit Blanche

NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

On one night of the year, hundreds of art installations are scattered across the city. Taking place from sunset to sunrise, Nuit Blanche is a completely free celebration of contemporary art that has attracted millions of visitors in years prior. This year’s event will take place the night of September 30. Our advice? Don’t wing it — figure out what you want to see and how you’re going to get there. There’s nothing worse than having to wander through packs of drunken teenagers in the cold, asking strangers, “Uh, where’s the art?”

October: Art Toronto

Since 2000, Art Toronto has hosted contemporary artwork from Canadian and international galleries, as well as lectures and panel discussions from distinguished artists. Hosted at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the event is taking place between October 27–30. Make sure to speak to gallery dealers to learn more about the art on display. If you have cash to spare, you can also purchase art from vendors.

February: TBFF

The Toronto Black Film Festival is international, independent, and dedicated to showing exceptional films that portray the realities lived by Black people of different communities. Both narrative and documentary films go on display as the festival pursues its mission of presenting diverse audiences with new perspectives. Brave the cold and make your way to one of the series of host theatres to participate in the festival’s effort to promote understanding amongst all cultural communities.

June: NXNE

NXNE, or North by Northeast, is Toronto’s main music festival, taking place each year in June. It also includes art installations, a comedy festival, gaming tournaments, and discussions on the intersections of the artistic and digital worlds. This year’s headliners included Post Malone, Bleachers, and Passion Pit, in addition to local acts. If you can’t make it to the main events, not to worry — the Game Land series at Yonge-Dundas Square is completely free, and the ten-day lineup also includes a Club Land series at live music venues across the city.

June & July: Pride

MIA CARNEVALE/THE VRASITY

Pride Toronto recently expanded its regular ten-day lineup to an entire month of events focused on celebrating the LGBTQ+ community — the largest Pride celebration in North America. Its programming includes concerts, panels, film screenings, and dance parties. Pride festivities draw thousands of people to the city. Be sure to station yourself in the Yonge-Wellesley area for a look at three of the major events: the Trans March, Dyke March, and Pride Parade.