of course, of course

I felt like doing a review of the various courses I took this year simply because I know there are some future UBC students out there reading the Blog Squad’s work, and hey, it’s helpful when you know what to expect from courses you may be interested in taking. Before I start, a disclaimer: The opinions expressed below are purely mine. Just because I did well in a course or enjoyed it doesn’t mean that others will, and vice versa. University is an incredibly subjective experience due to the diversity of its population.

Arts One aka ARTS 001B (Hendricks):

I have nothing but good things to say about Arts One. This is a full-year course intended only for first-year Arts students. It’s worth 18 credits (6 each of English, History, and Philosophy) and offers a unique mix between a standard and custom timetable. There are two themes you can pick from each year. I chose Theme B, or the Remake/Remodel theme (now called Repetition Compulsion). Even though I am not taking the Humanities route in my future studies, I definitely don’t regret doing Arts One and I recommend it to all first-years who have an interest in it. I’m planning to do a blog post that will be a sort of “Arts One Survival Guide” so stay tuned for that!

FREN 122 (Scott):

I entered university with the intention of majoring in French. I love the language, the culture, the literature, you name it. I have to admit I didn’t enjoy university French classes as much as previous ones. This course is for students with Grade 12 French. It is taught entirely in French, which some people found a shock, but if you have had a good French education up until this point, you shouldn’t have a problem understanding anything. With two weeks of learning in this environment you likely won’t need to translate in your head anymore. This class is about grammar, with some review depending on your past curriculum, but much more fast-paced. I found it difficult to keep up with the work because it didn’t seem as urgent as work for my other courses. The readings are interesting, but like I said, the class is very fast-paced so you don’t get to fully understand/analyze them before you move on to the next topic. Your writing will improve greatly if you follow your prof’s advice, but don’t expect your oral skills to improve. FREN 215 is a class specifically for oral practice if you wish to improve your speaking.

FREN 123 (Scott):

This is the second part of FREN 122. The class is in the same format and curriculum, and I pretty much had the same feelings about it. I would recommend taking both 122 and 123 in the same year if you plan to study French further.

PSYC 101 (Graf):

I’m going to comment very generally about professors for this course. I, like many other students, used RateMyProf.com when registering for courses. For the most part, the reviews are to be taken with a grain of salt. I went into PSYC 101 expecting a mediocre experience, and it ended up being one of my favourite classes. This course covers the biological and cognitive side of introductory psychology. I found the material incredibly interesting, but there is a LOT of it. People will try to tell you that psychology is super easy and a GPA booster but it really isn’t. If I hadn’t found the class so intriguing I would not have ended up with the mark I did. The tests are difficult, but Dr. Graf also provided us with many opportunities to bring up our mark through iClicker questions, quizzes, and a research report. He definitely does not coddle his students, which I personally found refreshing. He is, however, a clear lecturer and passionate psychologist and he made the class very enjoyable.

PSYC 102 (Klonsky):

PSYC 102 covers the social/developmental/clinical side of introductory psychology. I personally found PSYC 101 more interesting, but I think the general consensus among most students is that PSYC 102 is more interesting. There is less material to know in this course, but the exams are equally difficult. Dr. Klonsky is awesome, funny, clear, and he shows videos and gives excellent examples. He also welcomes questions in class and encourages students to comment on the lecture, which you don’t see often in a class of 250 people. Both PSYC 101 and 102 influenced me to pursue a major in psychology en route to nursing school, and I am considering working with psychiatric patients someday.

Overall, I enjoyed all of my courses (some to greater extent than others). I hope that this review can help at least one new student out! Stay tuned for the “Arts One Survival Guide” that I mentioned above and a post on tips for registration.



I guess it’s time for an obligatory post looking back on my first year at UBC. I think is going to be less so for myself, and more for some prospective and new UBC students who may stumble upon this blog. I’ve had a good month to really think about first year, how much I enjoyed it, and how it changed me.

Having taken two years off between high school and university, I was really excited to start my first year. I think that taking this time off really worked to my advantage. I felt very ready to do my best in school, and I think it was reflected in my marks. Not to say that I didn’t struggle with some things – but I think that taking a break from schoolwork really helped me to not burn out as quick as some new students do. Another major difference I noticed between myself and some younger first-year students was that I had a more carefree philosophy when it came to typical university stresses. I admit that I am a very down-to-earth and easygoing person, but I did find myself stressing less than many students. Obviously I didn’t completely disregard my marks…but that French midterm I completely bombed? I realized it’s just one little thing in my university career. It’s not going to affect whether I get a good job immediately out of graduation or whether I get into a Master’s program. I didn’t stress out over the unavoidable Arts One essays, and I didn’t compare myself to other students. One of my best friends (and fellow gap-year student) gave me some good advice: there will always be others with higher grades than you, and there will always be others with lower grades. It’s about doing your best, and challenging yourself to be better than you were yesterday. Even if it’s making a 2% increase on your next essay, it’s important to set goals for yourself and yourself only.

Some – no, make that many – students enter post-secondary thinking they know exactly what their educational career holds for them. They know exactly what they’re going to major in, when they’ll graduate, which school they’ll do their Master’s at…I was the same, for the most part. I think partly because I took time off I really just wanted to settle on one thing I wanted to do and follow through with it. I’m the type of student who loves learning – I enjoy all subjects, and if I could be a professional student for the rest of my life, I totally would. I started first year with a plan to do a double major in French and Linguistics and go to grad school to become a Speech Pathologist. Turns out, I didn’t really like university French classes as much as I thought I would. It also turns out that I am one of those people that really wants security in their job prospects after they graduate. As hard as I may work, and as good as my grades may be, there’s still the possibility that I wouldn’t get into grad school, and the undergraduate degree I had planned out for myself didn’t offer any career choices I was interested in doing. I think it’s important for first-year students to really think ahead to graduation and explore all the possibilities that their potential degree holds for them. Thankfully, there are a lot of resources on (and off) campus that can help you in this exploration.

So what am I doing next year? I decided about halfway through first year that I still really wanted to work in a field that I have wanted to work in since I can remember – the healthcare field. Although I can see myself being a Speech Pathologist, some research I did helped me realize that there are things about the field and career itself that don’t really fit with what I want for my future. One position I have been able to envision myself in for a very long time is that of a nurse. So, I guess from this point on, the content of this blog will change slightly. Although I will still be in the Faculty of Arts next year, I will also be blogging about a new journey – this December I will be applying to the UBC School of Nursing for (hopefully!) entrance into the program in September of 2015. The people I’m close to can attest to the fact that I am really, really excited about this new path I have chosen to follow.

I guess to sum up, some key advice I have for new UBC students is don’t feel limited to what you want to do at this point in time – it’s ok to change your mind! Think about what you want for your future, even if it seems really far away. And don’t just think about what you want in terms of your education and career. Think about your social life and personal life. Do you want to have a family? Do you want to travel? Do you want an opportunity for growth in your career? How much money do you want to make? (Yes, I did ask that last question. Even though you shouldn’t just do something for the money, in this day and age, money is an important factor in quality of life). Take what you want and hope to have and craft your own career for yourself. Push the boundaries of what you can do in your position and your degree.

I’ll probably come up with a list of advice for first-years in a future blog post (because lists are awesome), but today I’m just going to leave this post as it is. First year went by very fast, and it was wonderful. I hope my reflections are of value to any future UBC students who may be reading this right now.


We Are Winter

I’m in Olympic withdrawal. Seriously, it’s a thing. I’ve enjoyed watching the Olympics immensely for years. The earliest Games I can remember watching were the Sydney Olympics in 2000. I got really into them during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. I regret not living in Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics even though I couldn’t have helped it. So now, after 18 days of always having something to watch when I turned on the TV, I’m in withdrawal. I miss not seeing athletes’ faces on my screen 24/7. I know it’s only two years until the Games in Rio but I do have to admit, I prefer the Winter Olympics…and 2018 seems like eons from now.

This time around I felt like I had the maturity and awareness to realize what it is that people like so much about the Olympics. I’ve come to the conclusion that familiarity is responsible for that. All controversy aside, I think we can agree that by the time these Games ended, we were simply just proud to be Canadian.

I’m sure we all saw some of the tweets from various athletes preceding the Games – stories of bobsledders breaking through bathroom doors because they wouldn’t unlock and snowboarders confused over why the water in Sochi was unsafe to wash your face with. It seemed like there was something new everyday! This is the first batch of familiarity that I thought of. As serious as some of these concerns were, the athletes had a laugh about them, and I’m glad that social media is advanced enough that we can laugh along with them.

The hole American Bobsledder Johnny Quinn had to break in his bathroom door after it wouldn’t unlock.

Speaking of social media, I thought it was amazing to see athletes interact not only with each other during the Games, but with their fans too! I mentioned Canada’s speed skating Team Pursuit athletes in one of my tweets and two of them favorited and retweeted it! And yes, I’m still fangirling.

What I think counts the most for the familiarity that makes the Olympics so intriguing to watch is that fact that athletes are normal people. Many of us will never be elite athletes or even win a medal (heck, I’m still trying to win Roll Up The Rim). It can be easy to watch these athletes and feel completely unaccomplished…until you realize they’re just like us, just probably more fit:

  • Canadian bobsledder Kaillie Humphries loves nothing more than to ride her motorcycle when she has the time. As she puts it, she “like[s] fast things.”
  • Lucas Makowsky, a member of the Canadian speed skating team, just finished his degree in Chemical Engineering and Economics at the University of Calgary…all while competing at an elite level.
  • Of course we can’t leave out Canada’s Golden Boy, freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau, and the heartwarming story of his brother, Frédéric, who has cerebral palsy. Alex has stated that his brother lives his dreams through him. To me, they both deserve many congratulations.

Our similarity to our athletes goes beyond the routine of daily life and our mutual abilities to survive in subzero climates. For 18 days every two years, we have the opportunity to go on an amazing journey with our Olympians. We are with them through their triumphs, their hardships, and every little thing that comes their way. And in the end, no matter how many medals we’ve won, we can all say the same thing: that we’re proud to be Canadian.

The Bilodeaus celebrating Alexandre’s win in Sochi.




2014? Bring It On!

Apparently I suck at blogging on a regular basis. Hence, this post will be a mishmash of various thoughts I’ve had since the end of the semester. Advance apologies for my scatterbrainedness.

I think my first semester went pretty well. I’m satisfied with my final marks, but what I’m most happy about is what I learned about myself and my study habits. I now know what I have to do to ace FREN 123 (do I see a future blog post on how to ace a foreign language class?). And I’m really looking forward to PSYC 102, purely for the different approach it will take from PSYC 101. And of course, Arts One is a never-ending cycle of aw-yeah-i-finished-an-essay-oop-gotta-read-a-book-and-write-another-essay-and-reread-the-last-book-and-oh-look-another-essay, but I’m looking forward to working with a new tutorial group and improving my writing even more. I also think the reading list for this semester is super rad (Freud and Jane Austen, anyone?). Basically, I’m excited to use what I’ve learned about my study habits/tendencies to make next semester even better. I’ve already made some little monthly calendars for each class for all my due dates, quizzes, reading schedules, etc. Time will tell how my new approaches will work, I guess. Is it weird that I’m actually excited to go back to school? It is? Ok…

Both of my final exams were on the same day, so I’ve had plenty of time to work and have some much-needed me time. I went back home to Edmonton over Christmas and spent some time with my lovely family and ate a lot and bought Tretorn rubber boots for a fraction of the price they are here. I’ve worked on reorganizing and decorating my bedroom, and I’ve also discovered the brilliant amazingness that is Supernatural nine years too late.

In the coming month, I’m looking forward to the Student Leadership Conference on Jan. 11th! I’ve had the opportunity to participate in similar conferences in the past, but not of the same scale and prestige, so I’m stoked. Anyone I talk to from the Blog Squad that has attended the SLC in the past has given me the same answer:

“I can’t quite explain it, but you’ll know what I mean after you attend it…”

It’s coming up super fast and I promise to blog about it!

Also, I was looking forward to Reading Week (and still am) but I think it’s messed up my FREN 123 schedule. As in, my first midterm is two weeks into the semester. Ah, uni life.

That’s all for now, I promise to blog soon and not be so neglectful of my duties this semester.

And hey, Happy New Year!


Adventures in Writing

Sorry I’ve been MIA as of late. I blame it on a sudden influx of activity into my life starting around the first of October. Most students will call this time of year ‘midterm season.’ Me? I call it ‘essay season.’ Or at least this term, I do.

So I’m in Arts One! I know what you’re thinking – ‘but isn’t that, like, really hard?’ Truth is, I don’t think I can accurately pinpoint it as hard. Challenging, yes, but I’ve never shied away from a challenge. For those of you who may not know what Arts One is, it’s an interdisciplinary program designed specifically for first-year Arts students. It’s team taught by five profs, and only 200 people are enrolled in the program each year. We get to pick one of two themes to unite our study of philosophy, history, and literature – I picked the theme of Remake/Remodel. Mondays, we get a lecture. Wednesday and Friday, I get to participate in a seminar with 15 of my fellow students, and Thursdays, I have join 3 other students and my prof in a writing tutorial. Basically what this boils down to is I get to read a book every week while simultaneously discussing last week’s book and critiquing last week’s essays and writing next week’s essay. This program is worth 18 credits, which is why I’m only taking FREN 122 and PSYC 101 outside of it. It’s also why I call ‘midterm season’ ‘essay season.’

I got my first essay back last week, and I was pleasantly surprised at my mark. Of course, I always have room to improve but I honestly thought my essay sucked, and it turns out it didn’t! I took my peers’ advice and I think my second essay is already an improvement on my writing, although I won’t know my mark until next week. I’m sure by the end of the year I’ll be able to compile a list of ‘Arts One Tips’ from my experiences.

In addition to writing 2 essays, I also had to write my first Psychology research report. Man oh man, was I lost when I ventured on this path. I’ve never done this style of writing before, and to make it even more difficult, I had never used APA format before (I’m sure many of you in the social sciences share my pain about APA). I’m very interested to see how I do on this, especially since I’ve come to really enjoy my Psych class.

Speaking of Psych, you know how they tell first-years to take a broad range of classes because you never know where your interests may lie? I’ve done just that, and I thought (and I’m still pretty sure, to be honest) that I knew I wanted to do a double major in French and Linguistics. I wasn’t expecting a class about behaviorism and memory traces and descriptive statistics to send an arrow straight into my heart. (I mean that in cute Cupid-y way, not a gruesome way). Sure, I still like Arts One and I’m starting to really enjoy my French class, but lately I find myself most looking forward to that first class of the day in the amazing building that is CIRS (which smells like IKEA btw). While I admit I sometimes don’t want to read my texts for Arts One, I always look forward to reading out of my Psych textbook. I’m now thinking of doing a double major in French and Speech Sciences, just so I can get those extra Psych classes in there.

I guess what I’m saying is, if anyone goes into university thinking they know exactly which classes they’ll take when and what the outcome of their degree will be (I did), they’re probably wrong. I was worried that I was gonna fall in love with a subject that I didn’t want to pursue, but I’m feeling really good right now about where my interests lie. Of course, that could completely change by next week. Who knows?

Alas, I’ve gotta get back to reading The Master and Margarita (234 pages down, 178 to go). Until next time, adios!

P.S. I went to two Bon Jovi concerts earlier this month and I still have post-concert depression. It is possible to simultaneously love and hate a band.


Transit 101

If I haven’t mentioned already, I’m a commuter. In actuality, I spend more time commuting to work on the weekends than I do commuting to school during the week,  but I still don’t fail to notice some of the faux-pas people are committing while on transit. So, I decided to write this post as a little friendly reminder of what to do (and not do) during your daily commute.

Here’s my list:

1. DO listen to music on the bus. It keeps you in a good mood!

2. DON’T listen to your music so loud that by the end of my trip I know all the words to Lamb of God’s Sacrament album.

3. DO offer your seat to the handicapped and elderly! What goes around comes around, don’t play to the bad karma!

4. DON’T forget that if a child gets on the bus, you should offer your seat to them, too. The other day on the SkyTrain I saw a mother who had to crouch down and hold onto her five-year-old to keep him from falling over. Not acceptable!

5. DO catch up on your reading on your trip! If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my first few weeks at UBC, it’s that there’s never a bad time to study.

6. DON’T take out your textbook, the novel you’re currently reading, your laptop and your notebook. I don’t want to have to read about trigonometric identities just because your stuff spills onto my lap. Please limit it to one study material at a time.

7. DO take transit when it’s raining! Even if you don’t live far from your destination, make good use of your UPass and take the bus. You only get this awesome deal for the next few years, then you have to shell out the big bucks for transit fare.

8. DON’T put your wet umbrella on the seat next to you so that no one can sit there for the next 3 hours. Thanks, I don’t want to look like I’ve wet myself because you can’t put your umbrella on the floor. Also, DON’T stand in the doorway while exiting to open your umbrella. People are in a rush. You won’t melt if you stand in the rain for 3 seconds to open your umbrella after you’re off the bus.

9. DO take express buses like the 99 B-Line. They run often and get you where you need to be fast.

10. DON’T push your way onto the bus, especially express ones. Lots of people take these lines, and the truth is if your trip is longer than 10 minutes, you’ll likely get to sit down at some point before you reach your destination. Same goes for the SkyTrain – there’s a sign right on the door that says ‘Allow others to exit before boarding.’ Follow the rules and everyone is happy.

Thus concludes the main points of my list, although I’m sure we can all think of a few other pointers to add in!

In my first point, I said that listening to music on your trip can make the time much more enjoyable. So I created a little playlist on 8tracks (those of you who haven’t heard of this site need to check it out, like ASAP). Dubbed ‘in transit,’ my playlist is a bit of a play on words and includes songs with themes of going through change and thinking about the past (but all in a happy-bubblegum-early morning-wake up kinda way!)

Here is where you can find the playlist, and here is the track list:

All In  – Lifehouse

Brand New Day – Ryan Star

One Foot – fun.

Move Along – The All-American Rejects

This Isn’t Goodbye, It’s BRB – We Are The In Crowd

Weightless – All Time Low

Carry On – Hedley

Make It Up As You Go – Plain White T’s

The Remedy (I Won’t Worry) – Jason Mraz

Happy listening and happy commuting!



A New Kid On An Old Block

Well, here I am. Finally! I think I’m almost settled in to my new life as a university student. Finally!

Why ‘finally’ you say? Unlike most first-year students, I haven’t just graduated high school. In fact, I took not one, but two years off, and I certainly wasn’t planning to! I’ve always loved school, from the very first day I walked into kindergarten, to the last moments I spent in the halls of my high school. If you were to ask me at any point from Grade 1 to Grade 11 I would’ve been able to tell you exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then Grade 12 came, and there I was, pretty much grown up and…I had no idea what I want to do or become, and time was running out for me to decide! Or so I thought.

One thing I was sure of that time was that I wanted to leave my hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. It wasn’t that I had any dislike for the city, I just knew that I needed a change. Graduation came, and a month later I was living in Victoria, BC. By this point, I knew I was going to take a year off. No biggie, I thought! I’ll work and earn some good money and I’ll be completely set to go to school next fall. October came and I was already wishing I was back in school, thinking that nursing was the option for me. Turns out the school I applied to in Victoria wasn’t able to accept me until the next next fall. Oh well, I said. I’ll keep working.

January came and I no longer wanted to be a nurse. So I applied to a different university for a science program. I was accepted and ready to go. Then, in true young adult/self-discovery fashion, I had to get out of Victoria. The small city environment was just not a good fit for adventurous me. Vancouver was calling me; anytime I had visited I felt like I was home. So I set my sights on the big city and applied to UBC. This was gonna be my time! I had a good feeling in my gut. (In case you didn’t know, I’m a firm believer in following my gut and I have to say I have a pretty good gut instinct). But…I didn’t want to study science anymore. I tapped into my heart (also an important organ to listen to) and remembered what I’ve always enjoyed learning the most. I applied to the UBC Faculty of Arts, heard back shortly and after a few months of I’m going-I’m not going-I’m going (long story, you can ask me if you want to hear it) I arrived in Vancouver! So here I am, a prospective French/Linguistics major, thoroughly enjoying my first couple weeks here at UBC.

But why have I told you this long (and hopefully not boring) story? I know a lot of people graduating high school think that they have an obligation to go to school right away and know exactly what they want to study. If any of those unsure people were to ask me my opinion, I would say, ‘You know what? Do yourself a favour and take some time off.’ It doesn’t have to be a full year, and it doesn’t have to be limited to just one year! Go out and live. Move away from home, get a new job, travel to an exotic place. Meet new people, have fun, and discover more about yourself. There was a point during my time off when I was feeling pretty down on myself for not being in school when it seemed like all of my friends were leading these amazing academic lifestyles. My mom had an incredibly eye-opening conversation with me that day. ‘Michaela,’ she said, “in the past two years I’ve seen you grow more than you ever have in your lifetime. You’ve had experiences in the real world that your friends haven’t, you’ve met different kinds of people than you normally do, and you’ve learned lessons that will stay with you for life. Be proud of that.’ As always, mom knows best. I can now fondly look back on those years and feel ready. I don’t feel like those years were wasted, in fact, I feel like they were put to good use.

So now I’m here. In the words of All Time Low (one of my favorite bands):

I’ll be the new kid on an old block...I’m just a moment so don’t let me pass you by. 

I’ve gone where many others have gone before. Sure, I’m new but I’m excited to meet and learn from others who have come before me. Although four years seem like a really long time to be here, I know it’ll be over in a moment so I’m going to take what I’ve learned in the past two years and make the most of my time at UBC!

Thus, I leave you with a tune: