Refined Ramblings: Poetry to Make You

Today I want to introduce you to a great poet that I know and her poetry. Her name is Alex Nastasa. We came to know each other when we were both students of Science One, but it wasn’t until the summer following that school year, when we happened to both enrol in the same creative writing class, that I realized the extent of sheer awesomeness that I was dealing with. I mean, this girl had brains and confidence and could sing a pretty damn good rendition of your favourite pop song (side note: if you’re into choir, consider joining the UBC C4 Choral Composition Club, which she founded), but now you tell me she’s a brilliant wordsmith too? Dude, some people have it too easy.

After second year, I saw less and less of Alex as our classes never intersected (she’s a Biophysics major with a Creative Writing minor, I study Behavioural Neuroscience and English) and UBC is just too darn huge to have too many coincidental meetings, but I never forgot how amazing it was to be able to read her work that one summer and to talk about books and authors and craft and the purpose of writing, if there was any.

Just last year, though, a friend pointed out that Alex ran a blog, REFINED RAMBLINGS , where she publishes gems such as these:


By Alexandra Nastasa

The human brain fills me with awe. There’s a hint
of lemon and a whole lot of human. I am scared
of the dark
because I do not know it.
I don’t want to think about serial killers
and monsters in the closet
and guns. The thought of going
to space terrifies me. I sleep
like a tranquilized muskrat. I love lilacs
because they smell like cat
pee and comfort. Once, I held someone’s hand;
it was awesome. Someone somewhere
crossed a river, and someone else
died because of it. Never leave the top
off the toothpaste. De ce
nu ai nici un castravete? Never again
will I offer to carry things for whole
groups of other people. Grace is
curling your pinkies in but not
touching the cup.

And obviously my first reaction was to wish I was talented enough to write poetry as beautiful as this and gosh, I was sooooooo jealous, but then I stopped being jealous because as I kept scrolling through all of these lush, gorgeously written poems, all I could feel was: <3 <3 <3. Because for me, those poems were a reminder of what it felt like that summer to rediscover my relationship to writing and, for maybe the first time, what it was like to have friends who also loved to write and read and talk about writing and reading as much as I did. And I was so happy to discover that Alex had never stopped writing for herself, that her writing was more intelligent than ever, and all I wanted was for her to keep writing for a long time so that I could always be inspired by her.

Anyhow, I hope that in sharing Alex’s poems, they inspire you too. Ha ha, I’m such a fan, but seriously, people, check her blog out–and leave a comment if you can! ????


Knowledge Mobilization inAction: My TEDx Audition

This post in part rant, part reminisce with some comparison. Knowledge mobilization: a rant A while ago my friend Ernesto wrote a blog post Knowledge Mobilization and Interdisciplinarity: A rant. In this post he criticized academia’s obsession with knowledge mobilization and the shallow rhetoric  of interdisciplinarity.  Ernesto rightfully called out our educational system that ‘talks the … Continue reading Knowledge Mobilization inAction: My TEDx Audition

First Year – Term 2 Course Memories (Each in 10 words)

Math 103 – Integral Calculus with Applications to Life Sciences

FREAKING OSH, converge to 0, +C, Jellyfish live forever, integration

Biology 140 – Laboratory Investigations in Life Science

Tenebrio molitor, Reject Null Hypothesis (α = 0.05, p <0.05), Forcing Research Papers to Make Sense.

Chemistry 123 – Thermodynamics, Kinetics and Organic Chemistry

“Alrightttttttt”, “Ok!”, Chair structures, Entropy, Gibb’s Free Energy, Ice Cream.

Chemistry 123 – Lab

Vitamin C, “the patient is dead”, pure caffeine, no instructions.

Music 119 – Introduction to Music Technology 

“everybody ropes, everybody rides”, MIDI, Technical Difficulties, Goats Beard.

Science 113 – First-Year Seminar in Science

“so, what is science???”, “Weeellllll…”, “alright, carry on”, constant confusion.

Taking Summer Courses for the First Time

A little less than a month ago, I finished my first Summer term at UBC.

And oh my goodness was that a wild ride. Mistakes were definitely made; at often times life decisions were reevaluated with no improvement in sight.

After hearing many stories of 4th years in science rushing to finish their 6 credit communications requirement (Basically English and writing courses of some sort), I didn’t want to be that upper year stuck in a room with 29 1st years, so I decided that I would finish my communications requirement as soon as possible. I didn’t take an English course in first term, and I took Scie 113 (that course made me feel many conflicting emotions that weren’t good) in term 2, so I chose to take English 112 in May.

Being the crazy person that I was, and partially being influenced by my equally crazy and delusional peers, I thought taking 1 course at a time, downgrading from the 5-6 courses I took at a time during the winter term, was kind of an underwhelming course load. (Mistake #1: Thinking 1 core course in the Summer is too little. Past Katie was a very naive soul) I aimed to specialise in Biology, which I got into btw (yay me), so I needed to take the infamous Chem 233 – Introduction to Organic Chemistry. From multiple outlets I’ve heard that the prof teaching Chem 233 during the Summer, Jay Wickenden, was amazing, (which he is, he’s probably my favorite prof so far) and that it would be easier than taking it during the Winter. I had one of the earliest registration times for Summer courses, so I decided I would take Chem 233 and get it over with.

In the end, I took English 112 and Chemistry 233 during the 1st term of Summer.


I was ill prepared for how fast and intense Summer courses, (Mistake #2: I was very dumb and didn’t listen to the plethora of warnings and advice not to go overboard with Summer courses) and my work quality and marks were damaged significantly. Because of my poor judgement, my English 112 and Chem 233 marks are the two lowest marks I have out of all the courses I’ve taken so far. I’ve reasoned with myself that it’s because these two courses are meant to be more challenging anyway, but I know that I could’ve done much better had I known what to expect.

Aside from taking two classes, I continued to be crazy and decided to increase my work availability at my part-time job (Mistake #3: increasing work hours while taking two summer courses. Don’t do it.). One bad decision lead to another, I was taking classes from 9 am (ENGLISH AT NINE FREAKING A.M.) (Mistake #4 take a 9AM courses during the Summer) and ending at 2:50 pm on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, and working on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Basically what I did was completely remove most of the time I had available to study and muster up energy to stay awake and sane. It did not register in my mind that one 3-hour lecture during the Summer was basically a whole week’s worth of material during a Winter term. I quickly fell behind, and soon I was writing argumentative essays and cramming for OChem midterms simultaneously while bussing to work (Mistake 5# reading on the bus makes be dizzy). I did not assign enough time to prepare for each course, and that was my downfall.

In the end, I finished Eng112 and Chem233 with decent grades, but still much lower than what I wanted. I feel like if I had taken these two courses separately, one per term (like the plethora of advice suggested and I ignored hahaha why me why), I would have done much better and enjoyed my courses much more. This is more about Chem 233; I feel like I would’ve been miserable in English 112 no matter when I took it

[Side note about English 112: the course was called “Millennials in Love”, and we spent the whole course talking about different kinds of love, romantic, parental, familial love etc. For me, that was absolute torture. Also, technically, I’m not even a Millennial. All the essays and readings we had to do were about love, and that made it really hard for me to engage with the material without sounding incredibly cheesy. I already struggled with English courses and writing to begin with, and having the sole topic of love added on top of that, it was inevitable that English 112 is my lowest mark so far.]

Because of poor time management and having to go to work after classes, I usually ended up going to class incredibly tired. Lack of sleep added to me not eating properly from some reason made focusing in class really hard, so that also added to my two month struggle with OChem and English.

After this whole ordeal, I learned many things that I will keep in mind for the future.

  1. Taking two Summer courses at once can be incredibly risky. Maybe not if you’re taking an elective and a core course, but two core courses is definitely hard. Also, midterms usually happen around the same time since there’s so little time to distribute them.
  2. Sleep is very very very important. I haven’t been sleeping well during that time, and it really made studying and paying attention much harder.
  3. Maybe don’t increase work hours. I thought I could handle it, but I could’ve spent a lot of time I spent at work studying, and that would have helped a lot. Earning money is great, but my priority is still my education, and I didn’t set my priorities straight this time round.
  4. Give yourself time to review and preview everyday. I didn’t do that consistently, but if I had done more reviewing it wouldn’t have been as hard when I was prepping for midterms and finals. For Summer courses, the material on the midterms go up to the class before the day of the midterm, unlike the cut-offs they give us during the winter terms. Even though it still seems like you have time, prepping the material that you learned earlier beforehand leaves more time to focus on the new material you learned the day before the midterm.
  5. OChem with Jay Wickenden is great. Jay Wickenden is a great OChem prof, but his exams/midterms are quite intense. He makes classes really enjoyable and interactive, but the course material is still challenging nonetheless. I would recommend taking Chem 233 during the Summer just for the prof, but just make sure you give yourself lots and lots of time to understand the pile of new material. It really takes time to understand and practice.
  6. I have a new appreciation for OChem/science jokes now and I hate myself. dark times, dark times.
  7. Writing about love kind of made me lose my soul. I have friends who enjoyed this course a lot, but it just wasn’t for me. What does being in touch with your emotions even mean wth. But, on the bright side, I have to take an English course again~~~ ????

Surviving First Year: Tips, Trick and Useless Information


If you’re reading this and will be starting at UBC in September, congratulations! You’ve successfully managed to maneuver your way through the black void that is applications and personal profiles. You’ve been selected because you’ve showed, on paper at least, that you have what it takes to thrive at UBC.

You’re probably wondering what comes next. By now you have selected courses and the only thing remaining is for two months to pass and you to show up and begin your education. Understandably, you may feel nervous or uncertain about beginning this new chapter. I know I did. To be honest, I’m still nervous and uncertain about where I’m going, but I’m eager to start and I hope you are too.

I wasn’t the perfect first year or anything like that, and in fact a lot of what I have to say are things I learned because I was a lost little first year. So without any further ranting, here is a list of things I picked up during my first year that may be useful to you. Or it may not be! Who knows, I don’t ????

1. Utilize Imagine Day, But Don’t Idealize It

As most of you already know, Imagine Day is UBC’s way of welcoming all first years with tours of the campus, orientation leaders, club booths, music, free food and a pep rally. Santa Ono might even play the cello for you guys!

It’s a super fun day and a great way to ask orientation leaders any questions you may have and also just get to know the campus and other first years. However, don’t expect to have made all your friends and figured out your whole university life after just this one day. A lot of my friends, myself included, felt a bit disappointed after Imagine Day because they expected more from all the hype.

Especially if you’re not a sociable person, chances are you may not meet too many people on Imagine Day because others are probably feeling shy as well. But don’t worry! You’ll have so many chances to make friends throughout the year, through frosh events, classes and clubs. Imagine Day is just a start, so enjoy it and don’t take it too seriously.

Fun fact: My birthday was on Imagine Day last year, so during the pep rally the entire university actually sang “Happy Birthday” to myself and about 30 others. Talk about a big welcome.

2. Set Goals

Something I’m just starting to do now and definitely wish I had done in first year was set goals for what I want out of the year. Ideally, they should be specific and achievable (google SMART goals). For example: “I want to be a part of two clubs by the end of December” or “I want to get more than 80% in MATH 102 (lol).” Once you have those, you can easily give yourself tasks that will help you achieve those goals, such as “I will do practice math problems every night (again, lol).” I just find that having these written down is super useful when trying to decide how to spend your time, what to get involved in and what to pass on.

3. Get Ready to be Humbled

I mean you’ll see what I mean when you get there but there are a lot amazing people at UBC who are incredibly high achieving in every area of life you can possibly imagine. You probably made it to UBC because you are also extremely talented and motivated with the ability to stand out amongst your peers in high school. But this is a different game, so you can’t expect to play by the same rules. I guess what I mean by that shitty metaphor is: don’t expect to be the best because it probably won’t happen. What I do encourage you to do however, is to talk to as many different people as you can and be inspired by them. Every person has something unique to offer, either through their words or actions so why not get to know everyone?  It’s better to be inspired than to be jealous.

4. Make Time for Fun and Self-Care

I already wrote an entire blog post about this so that should tell you this is pretty important to me. Your mental health is important and should always come before grades. Setting aside time to watch some Netflix and detach from the piles of anxiety you’ve been carrying is essential. It doesn’t even have to be Netflix, it could be spending time with friends, going to parties, even taking naps. Anything that is separate from the source of all your responsibility and stress, you should make at least a bit of time for. People have written books and done studies on this shit so I’m not kidding.


5. Commuters, Commuters, Don’t Despair

If you will be living on rez this year, then you can pretty much skip this section. But if you are commuting, welcome to the family! It’s definitely not easy to be a commuter student, especially if your commute is upwards of 1.5-2 hours each way. I would say the first week is definitely the worst because it can feel like you’re wasting so much time. Eventually though, you get used to it and it become a regular part of your day. I like to be productive during my commute so I usually do homework on my laptop, do readings, read ebooks, and I’m a huge podcast fan so I’m always listening to something too. For early morning commutes, if you can manage to get a seat, I would suggest just sleeping. You already have to get up early, why not make up for it by sleeping during the commute. I’ve also found that when you get out of the bus and step into the cold air, it wakes you right up so you’re awake and ready for class!

Time management also becomes more of an issue when you’re a commuter. It’s often hard to stay for events of club meeting because they’re usually late into the evening when you need to be getting home. It’s hard not to feel isolated from the social/extracurricular crowds at UBC. What I would recommend is picking one club that you really enjoy, and devote your time to that club. That way, you only really have to stay late once a week for their meetings. If there’s any benefit to commuting, it’s that it makes you prioritize what is worth your time and energy and what is not.

One last tip for commuters is to join Collegia! Seriously, the space is amazing, the people are amazing; everyone I know would recommend it.


Aaand with that, I think I’m out of dubious advice for the moment. The most important thing I have to say is to not be too hard on yourself. First year is extremely difficult (the academics can be almost fatal) so it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you’re learning. I hope you have a great experience. I will be a Jumpstart leader in a few weeks and an Orientation leader in September so if you’re in Science, I may see you and give some shitty in person advice as well!

Best of luck~