Part of my building self-confidence challenge

I have to confess that I used to think that caring about make-up was shallow compared to caring about excelling academically. Same about fashion – who cares and who has time if you have career goals to reach for right? I was wrong. A couple friends and I undertook a challenge for self-improvement. Each person’s […]

How us very-nerdy spend Friday

During the summer, I love having every weekend packed with adventures and social plans. I was always excited to hang out with friends on Friday all the way up to most of first year. I guess now I’m older (ha) and actually need sleep to be functional at work the next day.  I hear you […]

An Open Letter From My Biggest Supporter

Dear Alyssa,

Look at the time, where did it go – five more weeks until the end of your FIRST year of university? Wow. I know this year has been a constant balancing act for you, with your different involvements with the community as well as adjusting to the unfamiliar rhythm of post-secondary. But I also know that you’ve revised some old dreams and realized some new ones. And while others may think that it is not a good idea to leave the box that holds you and what you are “capable” to do, I have one thing to say.

Screw it.

Screw comfort. Screw expectations. Screw all the preconceived notions that you were not built to succeed in anything that is not music. They said the same thing when you applied to university, but hey, look where you are now- studying at a highly-esteemed university in a renowned faculty.

I’ve known you for so long. You thirst for challenge. Comfort bores the hell out of you. You long to do the very thing they said you couldn’t do and prove them wrong.

So don’t stop now- not when you’ve finished the first leg of the marathon.

I know your dreams have changed a little bit, and I know you’re worried about a lot of things – time, fulfillment, money- but please remember that this is your calling:

To be a visionary and to see it through.

Those dreams of yours deserve to be brought to life. More importantly, remember those who believe in you. Shoot for the stars. They’re giving you wings and a trampoline- take it.

Also, don’t forget about me- your biggest supporter.

See you at the finish line,

Alyssa

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Coffee on Campus: Mercante

Hello! I’m proud to introduce a new series on the blog: Coffee on Campus! I will be exploring and reporting on all the hidden gems and coffee stops on campus, so you don’t have to waste any precious time or money. You know, just to help you out. First up in the series is: Mercante!

Mercante

Location: A bit out of the way for the typical ” direct from bus-loop to Nest” go-er, Mercante is tucked away in the corner of Ponderosa Commons, at 6488 University Boulevard.

Hours: On weekdays, you can grab your latte as early as 7:30, and as late as midnight. The hours change up a bit on weekends, when they are open 10 AM – 10 PM.

Staff: The very friendly and hardworking staff are adamant on keeping the line moving and making sure you get your order as fast as possible. Just remember your number (it will be on your receipt or told to you) and you will have no problems whatsoever.

Food: Mercante is best known for its food, has some of the best on campus. The pizzas (cooked in a stone pizza oven!) and pastas are the affordable comfort food that dreams are made of. They also serve breakfast and have a variety of adult beverages for you to enjoy.

Drink: Mercante has one of the best lattes on campus, hands down. Don’t let the extra foam and light colour fool you, the strong espresso has a deep taste with a hint of chocolate, which makes it seem as if the tiramisu became a decadent drink. There’s no bitter aftertaste which makes it a smooth latte that you can enjoy. Another easy-sipping factor is that the milk isn’t brought to a high temperature. Downside: The latte goes cold more quickly than some of its counterparts. Upside: you can drink it as quickly as you want, without fear of losing your tongue in a terrible scalding hot coffee related accident.

Price: A small 14 oz. latte will take $3.62 out of your pocket.

Find out all the info you’ll need at: http://www.food.ubc.ca/place/mercante/

Be sure to follow along on Twitter and Instagram @elizabethlately, or at #ubccoffeeoncanpus for pictures, and which coffee will be featured next!

When It Rains…

It rains a lot in Vancouver. That shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve been here long. Sometimes I resent the rain. I bear the long, cold walk to the bus stop from my home or from my class, head down, hair disheveled. I think, “My glasses need windshield wipers.” The rain has dampened my coat, soaked it right through (which probably means I should invest in better clothing), and it has dampened my mood. Other times, though, when it’s late in the evening and I’m in the midst of studying, I take a small pleasure in hearing the pitter patter of raindrops against the roof. I feel calm and content. As much as I complain about Raincouver, I guess it isn’t always so bad.

Not too fond of how I have to walk a bit farther to get to the 99 bus stop, but you have to admit, the new bus loop looks pretty clean.

Volunteering While in School

I’m not going to deny the fact that your studies right now are mega important. Ever hear the saying, “Pain is temporary, but GPA is forever”? It’s entirely reasonable for you to be dedicated to your academics. Sometimes you can get too excited and think, in the whirlwind of opportunities that present themselves, that you can do, well, a bit more than you can actually handle. It happens. My advice is to focus on a few goals at a time and do them well, instead of spreading yourself over too many activities without really exploring or dedicating yourself to any of them. In my experience, you’ll feel much more accomplished pursuing your goals this way.

But I have more advice, since I can’t seem to stop dishing them out. (Forgive me, in this instance, for my pompousness.) Let one of those goals you prioritize, in addition to your academics, be some form of long-term volunteering. You get to decide what “volunteering” means. It can be the typical charity, it can be in association with a club or due to your own initiative, it can be in some way (but not entirely) related to what you’re studying now, like working in a lab with a prof. What I’m saying is that you should have an activity that won’t affect your grades in any way, and it doesn’t have to be so demanding that it becomes detrimental to your mental health and grades, but it should be regular. As you keep working with this schedule, you’ll become better at managing your time around it, and you’ll feel good about yourself for accomplishing more than just schoolwork.

Yes, volunteering can look good on a resume. But don’t volunteer for anything that you think will just impress a potential employer or judges of your XYZ application. Those opportunities can be important, but if they don’t interest you, and you even feel dread or anxiety doing those activities, then you’re really better off doing something you are truly passionate about. When I was in high school, I got involved in a conference that somehow evolved into a med school student talking about–you guessed it– med school. I imagine a lot of you are trying to get in. I don’t pretend to know the secrets of getting into med school, but I can tell you what she told me: getting involved in various activities is awesome–if you like what you’re doing. Don’t do it if you think it will increase your chances of getting into med school but bores you to death or gives you a mini heart attack just thinking about starting it. The most successful applicants, she said, are those who are passionate about what they do, even if it doesn’t fit into the what you might consider to be the norm. Your personality comes out better that way. I think that applies to many other programs or jobs you might be aiming for.

It’s hard to think this way at times, I understand. Sometimes I wonder, “Damn, shouldn’t I be doing something that seems super impressive like That Other Guy and stop dawdling around with this silly stuff I do instead? What I like doing doesn’t seem to be worth anything in the long run. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be like That Other Guy, who knows the right things to like?” But when you encourage that kind of thought process, you’re criticizing yourself too much, and nothing you do will ever be good enough. Foresight is hard to achieve, that’s for sure. Have some faith that what you like is worthy, because in the end, it will be the most worthwhile. (Or at least, that’s what I try to tell myself. I have a friend who also tells me, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”)

Volunteering shouldn’t be a chore; you won’t be able to keep it up if it was. I volunteer at a hospital on the weekends, wheeling around a mobile library cart, which is really just an excuse to strike conversation with people who might need a bit of company. Yeah, I hate waking up to my alarm in the morning to do the work instead of sleeping in, but afterwards, I am infinitely more satisfied with getting out of my bed to volunteer than catching a few ZZZ’s but later feeling useless. Instead of thinking, “Dude, this is going to earn me so many brownie points!!!” when I volunteer, I marvel at how much interacting with these patients has actually helped me. Imagine that. You go in expecting to do some good for a few people, and you come out realizing it was the other way around; they were really helping you. When I volunteer, I remember that even though I might be going through a tough spot at school, the world isn’t just made up of school. It’s filled with many people, who are occupied with many worries and aspirations too, and which are different from your own. It doesn’t mean that school isn’t important anymore, but volunteering gives me the invaluable knowledge of perspective.

I write this blog post knowing that it’s filled with stuff you likely already know. But it’s nice to have a reminder, and it’s nice too, I think, to have that reassurance that someone is out there supporting you with whatever passions you might be nurturing. School is part of your passion/a stepping stone to your passion, but it’s not the only one, and you don’t need to give up the other aspects of yourself to make it through these next few years, is what I’m saying. If you’re just starting out, it can be scary putting yourself out there, hitting a few roadblocks before you find a good fit. But take my advice: don’t be so hard on yourself, and take it a little at a time. It’s doable.

????

Thought of the Day

Q: How do you know it’s the weekend in Durham?

A: The pubs are full to the brim by mid-day (at the latest).

My college accommodation is in the center of Durham on one of the main streets, which means that I am constantly surrounded by pubs. Every time I leave my building, no matter which direction I go, I pass a pub. To get to class, I pass The Library pub. To get to Tesco, I pass The Shakespeare. I just can’t escape.

From Sunday evening to Thursday evening, the pubs aren’t too busy. I mean, there are definitely people in there, but it’s nothing major: just an average day. On the weekends, however, it’s a whole other story. Pubs are full on a Friday. It starts at about mid-day, maybe earlier, and stays that way until the end of the night.

I always love Fridays because I have to walk to my Harry Potter module at 4 (I will save talking about the shit-show that is this module for another post) and have to walk past three pubs to get there. Without a doubt, they are always SO full and it really makes my day. I don’t have class very regularly for most of the week (pros of being an arts student), and I often tend to forget when it’s the weekend. Walking past these pubs on a Friday, however, instantly reminds me and I just love it. It’s just great. I can’t explain.

Anyways… just thought I’d share ????

The 7 Sins of Memory

TRANSIENCE We forget all the time. The more time passes, the more we forget. We forget what someone told us a minute ago, 5 minutes ago, yesterday, last week, last month. You’ll probably remember these 7 sins of memory right after you’ve read this post but you’ll probably forget them after a day or two. […]

on self-version control

version control: manages changes to files. at school, I use git and Facebook messenger (industry standard here). at work, I’ve been using perforce. this way, we have access to previous versions of files–so if anything goes wrong in future revisions, we at least have access to older, working files.

There are two recent experiences that fueled my thoughts in a recent bathroom break Instagram caption. One was seeing old friends, and the other was an introductory lecture about quantum physics.

A couple weekends ago, I saw some friends for the first time in 2.5 years. I was apprehensive about it at first, because I was scared I wasn’t going to live up to whoever they thought I was. Their last memories of me were 2.5 years old. I couldn’t summon myself from 2.5 years ago and present it for an entire weekend; I didn’t even know who that was. I assumed my friends liked whoever I was 2.5 years ago if we were making plans to see each other, and I didn’t want to ruin that.

I can’t be stagnant. I’m not static. As long as I’m feeling good about where I’m going, I can’t refuse to go and grow in fear of growing out of my old communities. But it’s scary. Support, communities, comfort. I want to be wanted; if I feel wanted where I am, and if I feel that people want who I am right now, why would I want to put that into jeopardy? What if I want to grow, change, become? How do I control who I was and who I’m becoming; how do I reconcile all these different versions of myself? Who was I; who am I; who do I want to be?

Confidence. I have to be confident in my decisions, and about who I am. And it’s so much easier said than done, but as long as I’m okay with myself, I have to trust that I want to be around people that are also okay with me. Is drifting from people hard? Yes. I’m awful with goodbyes. But is it possible to be no endings and all beginnings?

And last week, I learned some basics about quantum physics: that possible states exist all at once, and that you can only observe one at a time.

So maybe I’m already everything I’m going to be, and I just need to put myself into different situations to observe all of who I am. Maybe I’m everything all at once, but I can only give so much in one go. You’ll never know my entire life and all the contexts it exists in; how would you? And I’ll never know the same for you. But: I can see snapshots. I can share moments with you. I want to share pieces of my life with others, too. We’ll observe each other one state at a time, and eventually be able to piece each other together a little bit better. Common experiences. Friendship.

Maybe it’s okay to be so fragmented yet so together. Chapters with common threads weaving themselves into a spine. Photos arranged into a scrapbook. Whoever I am, wherever I am: it’s me. The way I talk to my parents? me. What I do at work, what I do at night, whatever happened in Quebec? me. How I talk to my cashier, how I enjoy the different contexts of my high school friend group, my university classmates, and my friends from that exchange program how many years ago? (me)

I’m always, always trying to figure out who I am, and I check in with myself to see how I’m feeling about…me. Do I care how others feel about me? Honestly? Of course! Should I? Probably not as much as I do right now. Maybe that will come with experience; for now, I’m trying to acknowledge that my own perception of myself comes first. I know all of my different states and who that forms. And if I’m happy with my whole, I am whole.

Seeing my friends after 2.5 years? It was really great. I missed them, and it was really exciting hearing about what they’re up to now. I hope to see them soon. The bubble tea was good, too.

the Instagram caption:

am I supposed to keep records of who I was? (maybe)
am I a different person around different people, and do I get scared I’m not going to be that person for them all the time and that however I present myself at a given point in time is going to disappoint the people I’m with and shatter their image of who they thought I was? (yes)
do I consciously act different around different people? (no)
do I feel like a chameleon? (yes)
but do I think that all these versions are me? (yes)
call me tiff quontum: everything at once, but collapsing into one when observed (call us all out for being complex, everything, full of multitudes, for delivering consumable frames, presentations of ourselves, for sharing ourselves in snapshots; it’s hard to show everything we are in little moments when our lives are repositories of experiences and connections and lessons and more and hey: that is ok, and you are too)

—-

did I ever get called out in English class for parentheses ruining formal writing voices? (yes)

Switching Your Major

Some people get into university knowing exactly what they want to do and get straight to doing it; they just cannot wait to just get on with the good upper level stuff already, because that’s pretty much going to be the rest of their life. Some people are a little unsure, and go about their academic career trying this and that until a good fit comes along. Some people think they know what it is they really want…until, that is, they’re trudging along that path and start to think, “Hm. You know, maybe there’s something better out there for me.” It’s okay to be any of these types of people. I happened to fall into the very last category.

Personally, I think Science requires you to declare your major too early. Other faculties like Arts have students declare their major after second year, but Science needs you to do it right after your first year is done. Sometimes majors look better on paper than IRL, and sometimes you won’t know enough yet to differentiate between the two. It’s true that second year courses are more or less all the same for Science students, regardless of the major, but having a major to your transcript feels kind of binding, you know? It’s like you’ve already chosen to shut some doors before you even had the chance to open them, take a peek at what’s in there.

It definitely felt that way when I was in Biochemistry. Biochemistry and Chemistry majors are kind of secluded from the other Science majors out there in that students have to take several core courses which are restricted only to that major (I’m looking at you, Organic Chemistry!). Students follow a timetable, too, so there is little you can do to play around with what courses you want to take and what you have to take. So if you’re switching out of Biochemistry (not that it’s a terrible major or anything, but just because that’s what you want to do), the process seems more than little daunting.

But last summer, I switched my major from Biochemistry to Biopsychology (or Behavioural Neuroscience, if you’re reading this in the future, since currently the major is undergoing a name change). I was in my first, actual Biochemistry course in the second term of the last school year when I knew absolutely–no ifs, ands or buts about it–that Biochemistry was just not right for me. I mean, here was my professor at the front of the class, so pumped about ATP, and there I was, hunched and disheveled in my seat, unable feel the same and knowing it. I really, really wanted to like Biochemistry like I thought I was going to. I really did! But the truth was, I dreaded each class knowing that there were yet more steps of whatever cycle we were on to memorize. I dreading going home to crack open my textbook to cover stuff I thought was–yes, I confess–boring. I dreaded the inflexibility of my course requirements and how pursuing a double major  would be that much harder. I could have finished my undergraduate years at UBC without a major change, but would those years of ennui and stress and no payoff (if I wasn’t going to continue with Biochemistry anyways) be worth it? Hell, I would be bummed and burnt out by the end.

I don’t regret being a Biochemistry major for that one year, even if it does set me back a little for the major that I am currently pursuing. I had the support of many Science One friends, and I did enjoy a lot of the courses associated with the major–loved loved loved Genetics, Organic Chemistry (ha ha, can you believe it?), and even Math, which I thought was going to sink my GPA like what the iceberg did to the Titanic. Biochemistry taught me a lot, and it helped me establish my ground again after Science One. But I am glad that I switched. I might being going through a lot of stress with my assignments and midterms still, but at the very least, I can get excited about what I am learning, and I want to learn more.

Switching can be kind of trick and a whole lot scary, but have courage if you think that it truly might be the right thing for you. If you go along a path that you thought you should follow when you were X years younger and a whole different person, that path might not be the right one for the you of today. It’s hard to accept that, and it’s hard (for me, at least, who loves it when plans work out without a hitch) to become an active player in your life instead of just letting your past decisions define you, which might seem easier in the right now–but won’t be later on. There’s definitely a bunch of stuff you need to take into consideration if you are going to switch, like the if you meet the requirements for switching and the catch up later on, but if you’re willing, I think you should go for it, whatever you think will make you happiest.

Resources if you’re thinking of switching majors:

  • The UBC Academic Calendar. Please, please check this out. Remember what I said about some majors looking better on paper? You should go through all of the courses the major requires and see if you’ll like them or not. By now you should have enough experience to say for sure whether, for example, 4 hour Chemistry labs make you squeal in joy or terror.
  • The department website of the major you want to switch into, because there will be some deadlines that you need to note down. Still talk to the Undergraduate Advisor if you can, but it’s good to be prepared before you meet up with him/her. Speaking of which…
  • The Undergraduate Advisor who oversees the major you want to switch into. For example, last year when I was thinking of switching into Biopsychology, I had a chat with Dr. Barnes to see if I met the requirements for the switch and what courses I would look forward to taking were I in the major. You can find out the contact info of the Undergraduate Advisor by looking up the department website.
  • Your own Undergraduate Advisor if you’re feeling uncertain about staying or going. Who knows, you might just be hitting a rough patch right now, but it could be all downhill after this point and you might actually want to stay on, you just need the reassurance.
  • Academic Advisors for your faculty. They usually have drop-in hours, but you can schedule an appointment with them too. They can give you more details on who to contact. I went to them when I was having concerns on whether to break my timetable or not.