UBC Tax Assistance Clinic for Students

The UBC Tax Assistance Clinic for Students (TACS) is an invaluable resource for those of you trying to figure out how, exactly, this thing called “being an adult” works. UBC TACS can’t solve all you’re adulting crises, but their volunteers can help you file your tax return, which already seems like a pretty scary business.

UBC TACS operates end of February/March. Most students, domestic or international, happen to be eligible for their services, which are free. In fact, by simply submitting a tax return, you’re likely to get some money out of the situation (a $75 refund, typically), if that gives you any incentive. Just schedule an appointment and bring in your documents! Volunteers are usually eager to help and will try to answer your tax-related questions to the best of their ability (and even then there’s always a supervisor to go over the more complicated issues, if the need should arise). They have been debriefed on the basic principles of how taxes work and what the most common student tax forms signify (e.g. T4, T4A, etc.), and they should have had some ethics training before they arrive at the appointment table to assist you.

UBC TACS uses UFile, a free Canadian tax software, to prepare your tax returns. UFile makes the process pretty simple if you want to try filing these tax returns yourself, but if you ever need some reassurance in what you are doing, I encourage you to take advantage of this resource. 🙂

TGS Call for Submissions!

You know what time it is! The Garden Statuary is UBC’s very own undergraduate literary journal that publishes a wide range of genres, from the academic essay to visual art. While TGS is part of the English Students’ Association, submissions are accepted from students of all disciplines. So if you’re an Astronomy nerd with a passion for writing ballads about exoplanets and extraterrestrials, consider submitting! You never know. Also worthy of note: both 7.1 (totally rad work published last term, folks–you should check it out! (*°∀°)=3) and 7.2 issues will be collected in a special print edition by the end of this winter session. Cool beans! For more information, check out the submissions page.

Got something amazing you want to share? Submit to The Garden Statuary by February 16, 11:59 PM!

School Supply Heaven

For the most part, I get my school supplies from the dollar store. Highlighters, binders, ballpoint pens–you name it, they got it. But sometimes I want to be all ooh-la-la fancy and indulge in something of somewhat higher quality. And sometimes dollar-store quality just doesn’t make the cut. (Ever try getting your erasers from there? Don’t. Hard as rock and smudges your writing like hell.) If you’re a stationary nerd like me but also broke half of the time (also me), and you want to explore more of this beautiful city called Vancouver, here is a totally-not-exhaustive list of some of the places I go to stock up:

  • Daiso (or, as a closer alternative: Yoko Yaya 123)
    • Go here for: notebooks, mechanical pencils, erasers, graphite
    • Unless otherwise noted, everything in Daiso is $2. They’ve marketed themselves as a Japanese dollar store, so they have products that are not writing-related (socks, plates, wrapping paper, clay, etc.), but this is a stationary-focused post, so I won’t go too far off topic. I always purchase my mechanical pencils from here, because they rarely jam, last a long time, and come in a pack of five. Lead packs are cheap and come in various grades. Most notebooks sold here are thin and lie flat [cue the angelic music]. Now, Daiso is quite far from campus (in Richmond), but Yoko Yaya 123 is much closer (Gastown/Chinatown area) and sells literally the same stuff, it’s just smaller.
  • Muji
    • Go here for: pens, correction fluid/tape, highlighters, rulers that can fit in your pencil case
    • Like Daiso, Muji sells more than just stationary, but….the other stuff is kind of pricy, imo. That aside, pens here are the bomb: sleek, smooth, and available in an exciting array of colours. (Ha ha, is it weird that I get so enthusiastic about this?) They’re $2 per pen (not as cheap as Daiso, where you could get a pack), but they’re worth it if you’re picky on how well your pen is supposed to glide across the paper. Highlighters are amazing too. I still get mine primarily from the dollar store because I go through highlighters far too quickly, but they have the dual-tip kind that acts as a neon marker on one end and a highlighter with a window (so you can see what you’re highlighting) on the other. Also, ever since Muji has arrived, I feel less worried about buying correction fluid/tape. I don’t know about you, but before Muji, I had the worst luck with finding good correction fluid/tape–they were such a risky investment! Well, not anymore! There’s a Muji in Downtown and in Burnaby (farther, true, but you get the bonus of being at Metrotown, which is, like, the mall that everyone refers to here).
  • DeSerres
    • Go here for: fineliners, sketchbooks, art supplies
    • You get a discount if you’re a student and sign up for free membership. I have a friend who goes here often because she likes to draw and make comics. If you need artist-quality fineliners (e.g. Prismacolor), this is your mecca. Side note: I’m so in love with the colours Copic Markers come in, but why do Copics got to be so damn expensive?
  • Pulp Fiction Books
    • Go here for: some of your textbooks, especially if they’re more commercially available (e.g. fiction for your English classes), Moleskine notebooks
    • Pulp Fiction Books is a used bookstore, but they have new books too, usually displayed at the front of the store. You can also order books, although prices will fluctuate depending on how fast you need them. This is probably your best bet for procuring cheap books, since even new books and books ordered in (with some exceptions) are discounted at at least 20% off their Canadian cover price. Moleskine notebooks, if you’re into them, are perpetually on sale too, although their selection can be small. However, I cannot recommend Pulp Fiction Books enough as a bookworm! You can take the 99 and hit all 3 branches along the way (albeit with some walking if you’re going to the one on Commercial).
  • Indigo/Chapters
    • Go here for: ~fancy~ notebooks/agendas
    • Walk in the store. You’ll know what I’m talking about. Indigo has a far larger selection of Moleskine notebooks  as well as Leuchtturm for bullet journaling (although  stock for that brand has kind of faded over the months, from my own observation). My suggestion, if you really crave these higher-end notebooks, is to come in during one of their (frequent) sale periods or at least rifle through their stock, as many items are marked down but not explicitly advertised as such, like through a poster on a wall. If you take the 99 to Granville, you’ll be right at their flagship store, although there are many other branches scattered about the city.

Got some of your own favourite places to shop for school supplies? Leave a comment below, because I’d really love to check them out! 🙂

Adventures in Commuting

Just some random commuting stories if you’re bored. They’re all true and happened to me at my time at UBC.

Another snowy winter at UBC! 😉

  1. I Pushed a Bus Up a Hill!
    1. I was lucky. I had finished my exams the day before afternoon exams were cancelled due to the weather (although really, it would have been better to cancel the exams earlier that morning, as by 2 pm the snow had turned to slush and traffic was more bearable). Unluckily, however, I had left my sweater in the exam room and had decided to go back to UBC the next day to retrieve it, because unlike high school, who knows where you can find the lost-and-found stash around campus.
    2. At the time it didn’t seem like such a dumb idea. I mean, again, I had just finished my exams, and I was basking in the high of, “I can do whateeeeever I want now that I don’t have anything to study for or any assignments to complete, and this includes taking long bus rides just for the sake of it!” (In my defence, there’s a difference between having to do things and doing them out of your own volition.) I didn’t think the snow would get too bad, since when I had looked out the window before leaving the house, most of the snow had vanished by the time it hit the road.
    3. This changed halfway though my commute, which too much longer than expected. By the time the bus reached Sasamat, we were stuck. We had to all file out and resorted to pushing the bus while the driver slammed on that accelerator. I pushed for a bit, but there was only so much room for people to crowd around in the back, and I was worried I was taking up valuable space from one of the better muscled passengers. (For all of you who pushed the bus: “Thank you, and I’m sorry I wasn’t as strong as you!!!”) We finally got the bus moving after a few minutes, but the driver had to stop so we could all pile back on, and by then, inertia was against us and we were stuck for good.
    4. I trekked the better part of the day through slush, toes frozen and teeth chattering, and when I finally arrived at the building my sweater was in, I had to wait outside, sopping wet like one of those abandoned pets you see in movies, shivering pitifully outside on the doorstep, because there was another exam going on that wouldn’t be done for another hour.
  2. When I Almost Got Arrested on the Bus…
    1. This was back in my first year when we had bus passes instead of Compass Cards. I was busing home after another demoralizing day and had yet to study for my chemistry midterm when the cops decided to hop on and, of all days and of all buses, check if everyone had their bus fare.
    2. Now, I usually carried by bus pass with me, but when this massive officer towered over me asking if I could show some proof of payment, I realized with a sinking feeling as I rummaged through my backpack that I had forgotten my bus pass at home, maybe in my other pants or something. (Of all days, of all buses!) I was escorted off the bus, and the officer gave me “one last time to look” (he gave me three), and I kept patting my pockets and zipping and unzipping the different compartments of my backpack, wondering how much I would be fined because of my oversight and how would I ever be able to tell my parents that I had lost that much in a day and why why why did this have to happen to me when I just needed to get home to study for my blasted midterm (!!!).
    3. I think it was obvious that I was a university student (and thus owned a bus pass) because as I spilled the contents of my backpack before the officer, my Chem 121 Lab Notebook was out there in the open for everyone to see. But surprisingly to me, the officer was very nice, maybe because as I started to tell him that I couldn’t find my bus pass, my voice became quieter and quieter and more than a little shaky. (I’m a good kid, okay!) But I don’t think he wanted to get anyone in trouble. He finally offered me a ticket that I could use to get on the next bus (“Just this once, but make sure you pay for your fare next time”), and that was the last I saw of him.
    4. Moral of the story: don’t be a bum–pay for your ticket or carry your Compass Card!

If you’re looking for stories that are (admittedly) more engaging than this to read over the break, I recommend:

  1. Fox 8” by George Saunders
  2. Horror Story” by Carmen Maria Machado
  3. A State of Variance” by Aimee Bender

Happy holidays, everyone! 🙂

P.S. For those of you who completed your exams that snow day, you’re the real champs! And for those of you who had your exams cancelled, I know it sucks (it’s happened to me too), but I’m rooting for you!

An Important Reminder!

Here’s a short article by the Ubyssey Editorial Board that’s worth a read, meant for everyone but especially those of you who were stressed this final exam period: “Last Words: Your Wellbeing is Worth More than Your Grades“. Wishing you all the best this holiday season. <3


How to Get Into Research Part 3: Getting Out There

Step 2: Submitting an Application

Some labs will specify what they want in their application, but what all applications boil down to is pretty much this: your transcript (a screenshot of your grade summary off of SSC is fine, no need to pay that fee at Brock Hall), your C.V., and a cover letter.

Most labs require a minimum GPA for you to be an RA (usually 75 % or 80 % and above). If you don’t meet that GPA, you can always try to explain in your cover letter why you might still be an excellent candidate, but please, please don’t photoshop your transcript. You know why.

Unlike what your Planning 10 teacher might have told you in high school, a C.V. is not exactly like a resume. It’s more focused on your academic achievements, and you can get a sense of what I’m talking about by looking up the C.V.s of the PIs you’re thinking of contacting. Yours doesn’t have to be as extensive, though, especially as you don’t yet have your Masters and PhD, ha ha. Stick to the resume rule of being no longer than two pages, and you should be fine. Of course, try to tailor the experience you put on your C.V. to what you think might be relevant for the lab. Previous lab experience is great, but assuming you don’t have that, say, if the lab you’re applying for studies infants and you used to volunteer at a day camp for preschoolers, that’s a legitimate point to note down. At least the PI/lab manager(s) will know that you can interact with people just fine.

Most people forget a cover letter. Don’t! Sure, you can just email a PI/lab manager your transcript and C.V. saying, “Here’s my application, Please consider it. Byyyyeee!!!!”, but why not put in a tad more effort? For your cover letter, you don’t want to write a novel, but you do want to include enough information to convey who you are, what experience you might have that makes you a good candidate, and your reasons for wanting to join the lab. Most PIs should have a website that lists the papers they’ve published. It would be in your best interests to go over some of these papers, or at least the abstracts, and note one or two in your cover letter that you found particularly rad to show that you are actually keen on the research of the lab.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get an immediate reply, or even a rejection! I got every response from no replies (this also happened to my friend this summer, so perhaps this is not all that uncommon) to a kind reply about how the PI whose research I was really, really interested in was actually retired (!) and chilling in Papa New Guinea (!!) to a few requests for interviews. In fact, the first interview I was about to have I never got to go to, because later on I learned I needed a lab for PSYC 366, and the lab I wanted to work in couldn’t accommodate. The struggles of applying to be an RA are like the struggles of applying for a job: people get hired when they have past experience in the field, but how are you supposed to get to that point when you have no experience??? My friends, the tough answer is perseverance.

Step 3: Mastering the Interview

Interviews are conducted differently for each lab. Some questions you might be asked are: What are you planning to get out of being an RA? What experience do you have that’s relevant for XYZ, which is a common RA task in this lab? Are you planning to pursue research further after you graduate? My advice? Be honest, and if you really want to be a part of this lab, let your enthusiasm show! In my experience, this is just as much an opportunity for the interviewer to tell you more about the lab as it is for you to convey why you want to be in the lab. Labs need people to run, and it’s best to know from the get-go whether you and the lab are a good fit. Positive feelings have to be mutual.

Step 4: What Next?

There are two kinds of labs; wet labs and dry labs. Think micropipettes for the former and human participants for the latter. As an RA for either of these labs, you’re likely to start out doing administrative work: cleaning, preparing solutions, booking, data entry etc. Take this as an opportunity to explore the workings of your lab a little more, like the people and the research. Once you get a feel for this, if you’re still pretty enthusiastic about what you’re doing, consider asking the PI to take on more work. From my experience, there’s always room for growth as an RA, even if you are just an undergraduate student. I’ve known RAs who’ve taken on actual studies and had their names included in research papers and RAs who have presented in conferences from BC to Texas. If you’re just starting out, consider presenting for UBC undergraduate conferences like LSURC and MURC.

Being an volunteer RA allows you to move onto other positions in the lab that allow you to take on more responsibility. For Psychology/BNS students, you can apply to be a Directed Studies student through your undergraduate advisor. What this involves is taking on your own research project and writing a paper about it, either for one term or the full school year depending on what you and your PI work out. If you want to be more serious about it, consider becoming an Honours student. Conduct wicked science and earn school credit! If you’re more financially inclined, look into becoming a Work Learn student. Get paid to be an RA!

So that’s a wrap! Before I end off this series, I want to say a few things because I can never stop typing, ha ha. (1) It’s never too late or too early to get into research. PIs/lab managers deliberately seek out young RAs (read: first and second year students), because there is potential for these RAs to stick around. If you’re older, that’s not so bad either; you’ve likely accumulated a lot of experience to help you out with the application process. (2) Most labs seek out RAs at the beginning of a term, and some labs even operate over the summer if you want something to do and have less schoolwork to juggle. Keep this in mind when you send off your applications. (3) Some labs are huge and have as many as twenty RAs, and some are small. There are pros and cons to each of these situations. If one lab doesn’t work out because of the people or the research or whatever, you can always try finding another one. (4) You know, I didn’t expect how much I would enjoy being an RA, but it’s really been an eye-opening experience for me. I hope it is for you too if you decide this is what you want to do.

As always, if you have any questions–or even tips of your own, if you’ve been through this–leave a comment! Best of luck!!!


How to Get Into Research Part 2: Resources

Hunting for labs is always fun. There’s so much cool stuff that gets done at UBC, you shouldn’t bother with applying for labs doing research that doesn’t interest you. Something’s bound to come at you with that “Ooohhh” factor.

Now, being an RA is a huge time commitment. Most labs require 6-10 hours a week and either a full-term or full-school year commitment. You should be confident that you can balance this along with your schoolwork. That said, although some labs may require fewer hours out of your schedule, it’s as the saying goes: “You get what you put in”: a lab that requires more commitment might be the better determinant in what you choose to do in the future. I speak from personal experience here.

Just something to keep in mind.

Step 1: Finding the Right Lab

If you major in Psychology or BNS, you might have already received emails from UBC IT SSPA about RA calls for psych labs. (It really is a good idea to pay attention to your emails, folks!) These emails direct you to the Department of Psychology’s Get Involved in Research page, which is a good place to start hunting for labs, since there’s at least some guarantee that the principle investigator/lab manager is looking for new RAs.

Another resource to take advantage of would be the bulletin board on the main floor of the Kenny Building. Lots of labs that don’t always know how to connect with UBC IT post RA calls there. I recommend taking photos of the postings so you can research their respective labs further at home. (Side note: this is also where you might find info about other volunteering opportunities, clubs, and PAID (!) studies that you can participate in.)

If you’re planning to participate in any HSP studies, ask for the contact information of the researcher. The grad student in charge of an HSP study I once supervised let me give out her email address to participants who were interested in joining the lab.

Also, talk to your prof! I know a lot of these resources concern psych labs, but this advice applies to anyone looking to get involved in science. One of my peers became an RA in her first year through this method. Over the summer, a friend of mine sent out emails to profs who had taught courses she enjoyed, and she eventually scored a lab to work with for her Honours thesis. You know how profs are like, “Come to my office hours! I’m down to talking about anything!”? This is your chance, my friends!

Lastly, if you already have an idea of what branch of research you would like to contribute to, you’re in the best position. Snoop around some UBC departmental websites to get a sense of which labs best align with your interests, then politely email the PI listed. For Psychology/BNS research conducted at UBC, check out the Department of Psychology’s Labs page.

And so the search begins! Keep an eye out for my next post in which I go over how to apply to labs and what you might expect once you become an RA.


Submit to The Garden Statuary!

Happy October, everyone! Before I get back to my “How to Get Into Research” series, I just wanted to let you know about an amazing opportunity at UBC to get your work published. (≧∇≦)/

Are you a poet, writer, artist, photographer, musician, film-maker, critic, or just someone with a rad idea for a creative project? Consider submitting to The Garden Statuary, UBC’s very own undergraduate literary journal! The Garden Statuary has published over 140 (!) pieces of student work across its 12 issues, and it’s not about to end there. Submissions are now open, and the editorial board seems pretty eager to review whatever you have to offer. I’m quite excited to look through this new issue myself.

(And a quick note to all you aspiring grad students out there: to echo what my English prof told my class last spring, having your academic essays published in undergraduate journals can be an excellent way to bolster up that grad school application! (^_-)-☆)

The deadline to submit your work for this fall issue is October 20th. You can head to thegardenstatuary.com for more information about submission guidelines. (✿◠‿◠)

Let’s see your awesome work published!

P. S. These emoticons came from Wikipedia, in case you were wondering. I know, I love them too.

How to Get Into Research Part 1: Preamble

Last year on Imagine Day, I sat through one of those “Welcome to your major!” talks that my undergraduate advisor was giving to the newest cohort of Behavioural Neuroscience (BNS) students. One of the points I remember distinctly from his presentation was when he talked about his own experience as a UBC BNS student and how he had entered the program with absolutely no plans to go to grad school. He’s a professor now, so I guess you know what happened next.

“I highly recommend you take on a Directed Studies project,” he urged us several times throughout his presentation. “It will be a worthwhile experience.” For me, who still wasn’t so sure how I felt about this “Holy crap–I actually switched majors” thing, factoring a Directed Studies course into my immediate academic plans was just way too extreme. Other people, real BNS students who got their major right the first time around, got to have this mythical experience of working in labs, not me, the quasi-BNS student.

I forgot how doubtful I had felt about getting involved research until recently. A fellow research assistant (RA) in my lab had mentioned how pursuing a Directed Studies project had never seriously crossed her mind, because she had always thought Directed Studies students were too smart–smarter than she could ever be, at least. Which is totally false. She’s one of the best RAs of the team, I kid you not. But you know what I’m getting at, right? Oftentimes, the biggest obstacle standing in your way is yourself.

So if you’ve been thinking about getting into research (or whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to do, as I’m about to dole out some pretty general ~life advice~) and yet feel kind of nervous about it, just know that if you never put yourself out there, even if it’s at the risk of rejection, you’ll never get to where you want to be. Everyone has a beginning, and you shouldn’t compare yours with someone else’s middle. Try out new stuff! That’s part of the uni experience. If you don’t like it, move on. At least you know. And if you do happen to like what you got yourself into…Well, maybe some attentive students will be listening to your presentation on how you got to where you are in the near future. 😉

Okay, so enough of my “You can do it!” spiel. Time for the good stuff. You’ve decided that something new you want to try out this year is to work in a lab. (Maybe you’re dead-set about going to grad school, maybe not. Maybe you’re just trying to figure out what you want to do with your degree, and this may be just the opportunity that will help you narrow down your goals.) What now? Obviously, you have to find a lab first. In the next post, I’ll go over what I learned applying to be an RA for different labs, and hopefully some of what I’ve written will help kickstart your dazzling new future in research!


A Sick Day

Or rather, sick days. I caught a cold on the Tuesday. The night before, I had worn a hoodie over my pyjamas and, mistakenly, had thought it would keep my warm enough to forgo a second blanket. (I need more blubber, is what my mom tells me.) That could have been the cause, or maybe not, but regardless, I woke up that day with a sore throat, and now here I am, feeling like I’ve done nothing but swallow fish bones for the past few days and my nose constantly dripping. I have taken to carrying a whole box of tissues in my backpack. I haven’t gotten sick since, I dunno, tenth grade? As colds go, this is not the worst I’ve contracted, but I forgot how clouded your head can get. People tell me things, and all of it goes straight through my head like an ragged arrow. It’s like I’m always on the brink of a headache when I try to hold a thought in my head, but that could also be me trying super hard not to sneeze at the same time. There’s so much work I want to do, but maybe I’ll take it easy tonight and have a nap, drink some chamomile tea. Or maybe not.