Early mornings are hard…

…but early morning dance parties make them easier.

Pro tip for keeping yourself from sleeping in on Sunday mornings: make your current favourite song your alarm clock. It’s nicer to listen to than a bunch of blaring beeps, and you might avoid the snooze button in favour of waiting for the best part to come on. Having a coffeemaker next to your bed helps, too. Not to mention gaining an extra hour thanks to Daylight Savings Time.

Now I’m off for brunch at the University Golf Club, crafting for Kwak’s one-week vegetarian challenge, and studying my tush off for ochem and genetics in the Law Library. Productivity, here I come. Hope you do something great with your extra hour, too!

How to Not Cram the Night Before: Samantha’s Approach to Midterms

Time and time again I’ll be reading some poor student’s blog or twitter feed and what I see is basically this: “OMG my exam is tomorrow gotta study all night omg omg I’m so freaked out my brain is exploding!”

More or less, anyway.

Now, I am not a crammer.  I’ve never done it, and I very nearly always walk into my exams feeling confident and relatively anxiety-free, at least when I compare myself to those around me.  And, most importantly, my marks turn out just like I want to, as evidenced by the scholarships UBC keeps offering me.

What’s my secret? Easy: start studying a week before your test. (At least.)  That’s really all there is to it, besides figuring out how you study best.  What I do is do about an hour or so of reading for about three days starting a week before the test, so the material is all fresh in my mind. You can’t start memorizing if you can’t even remember what you’ve covered in the last month.  After those three days, you do some hard core studying in the next three days (preferably on a weekend). Condensing your notes, guessing and practicing answering questions you think will be on the test, testing yourself.  Then, the night before, you get to breathe. Relax. Read over the study notes you made, test yourself a little bit more. What you should find is that as you read over those notes, your brain goes, yes yes, I know this stuff already. And you know why? Digesting information over a longer period of time is going to make it stick way better than if you stuff it all in your head the night before when you’re all stressed out.  And, you’ve accomplished what the course is actually about: learning, as opposed to memorizing for one test and then promptly forgetting everything after it’s over.

If you have several midterms a week, it can be easy to focus on one subject and forget about the other tests, and just study for each test as they come. But, if you do an hour or half an hour of studying each day for each subject a week before the exam, you’ll know your stuff better, and have less work overall the night before each test.

A bonus for using this method: now you have great study notes for when finals come around! Not to mention, you’ll remember more of the material from your midterm when it comes time to write that final exam.

I hope this helps you through your time of midterms!

Midterm Prep: The Campbell Method

Last night I had the dreaded CHEM 233 midterm. If you’re in science at UBC, you have probably hears the rumours about this evil course. So what did I do to prepare? Here’s a rundown of my week leading up to the midterm:

5 days before: Did some textbook problems at Blenz in between Longboat races. Blenz Belgian milk hot chocolate helps soothe the pain.

4 days before: Initiated hardcore study mode. Killed a small forest with the amount of paper I used for practice problems. Completed online acid/base assignment. Aced it.

3 days before: Switched my Monday workout to the morning so I could use my midday break for work. Studied in the Harry Potter room while the presidents of UBC looked down on me in approval. Had a zombie apocalypse social with the rest of the Totem RAs in the evening.

48 hours before: Took a study break to watch talented Totem residents rock the Totem Coffee House. Highlights included QLXN’s Liam playing the hits of the 90s on the bassoon.

36 hours before: Visited my chem prof’s office hours. Spent so much time in the Law Library that people are beginning to wonder if I live there. Bernouilli’s Bagels and coffee are my only forms of sustenance.

24 hours before: Study session in Swing with fellow science student and generally awesome dude, Aaron. Spent most of the time jamming to Kanye and speaking to each other in German accents.

12 hours before: Crammed for a forgotten biology unit test while shoveling eggs into my mouth at breakfast.

8 hours before: Did some practice midterms. Reassured myself that I do, in fact, kind of know what I’m doing.

5 hours before: Chemistry class time. Tried to ignore the looks of intense panic on my classmates’ faces.

3 hours before: Realized that I am incapable of cramming any more knowledge into my brain. Went running up and down the Wreck Beach stairs instead.

90 minutes before: Headed to the Totem caf with fellow RAs and CHEM 233 students. Ate a grilled cheese sandwich and sweet potato soup (comfort food is a must). Made science puns to lighten the mood.

30 minutes before: Began the trek to the Chemistry building. Listened to pre-exam pump up music (“Til I Collapse” by Eminem always gets me in the zone).

10 minutes before: Descended into the toasty warm dungeon of CHEM B150. Found a spot in the middle of the room right next to Melinda for moral support.

5 minutes before: Started to bubble in my information on the Scantron. Watched the clock creep closer to 7 PM. Tried not to be freaked out by how thick the midterm felt.

1 minute before: Deep breath. Let’s do this.

After: Breathed a sigh of relief. Shook off the feelings that it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. Headed to a friend’s place in Dunbar for celebratory margaritas.

Could I have done more to prepare? Definitely. But while I may not have gotten a perfect score, I still had a pretty good week. I managed to exercise, fulfill my extracurricular responsibilities, spend time with friends, and paddle around Jericho Beach while still studying my butt off. Balance is the key to making the most out of university (although we’ll see if I am singing a different tune once I get my score back). Happy studying!

Course Evaluation: PHIL 375

Philosophy 375, or Philosophy in Literature, was not my favourite course. The reason I took it was mainly because I needed a literature course for my degree requirements, this one fit, and sounded interesting. I’d never taken any philosophy before, so I didn’t really know what to expect.

Course Description: To begin with, the class talks about the philosophy of literature, that is, the definition of the word literature.  After a couple weeks everyone comes to the conclusion that literature is subjective, the end.  After that’s out of the way, you explore a variety of philosophical topics in different forms of literature, from morality to self-identity and poetry to Shakespeare to a novel from a list (hello Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!)

Textbook use: The course (when I took it, at least) had a course pack of readings from various philosophers, and some short stories. At first, I did all the readings very diligently, but I found that they were barely touched on in class, and spending two hours on them just wasn’t worth it. I think maybe two of the readings were important for one assignment, but other than that I just didn’t bother and it didn’t hurt me.

Homework: If you do all the readings, then that will take a lot of time, but otherwise the class consisted of four essays which made up the entire course mark. Kinda scary but also not that much homework, all things considered. And one of those essays counted as the exam, so we didn’t have to worry about writing something in a three-hour period during exam time.

Professor: I had Dr. Johnna Fisher when I took this class. She was nice and marked pretty fairly, and her lectures were easy to follow. I found that much of the time the class was discussion, so I didn’t take down everything she said in notes.

Class format: Three lectures per week of a large-ish class size (maybe about 50 people or so). Generally we went over general concepts of philosophy on Mondays, and the other two days were largely discussions.  The only marks for the class were four essays.

Additional comments: The marking scheme for this class was pretty tough, as what they did was find the “most average” essay, assign it a 70, and mark everything else in comparison. The class average was obviously 70. but it made it hard to get an A. The class is also definitely more focused on philosophy than on literature, so if you thought you wrote really good English essays, you might need to revise your writing style. It’s all about content, and pretty phrases will get you nowhere. Also, if you’ve never taken a philosophy course and want to see what it’s about, I’d say this is a decent class to dip your feet into: there are no philosophy pre-requisites, you get a general tour of a variety of topics, and you don’t have to read a ton of articles and memorize different people’s opinions and remember who said what, when, etc. I turned out not to like it, but you might, who knows?



Course Evaluation: MUSC 121

Yet another very late course review, this time for History II. Please note that for this class, my professor was a sessional instructor, filling in until they hired someone to permanently teach this class. So some this about this course may vary somewhat from what I experienced.

Course Description: This class covers the history of music starting around 1600 in the Baroque period and moving into the Classical period, ending with Haydn and Mozart.

Textbook use: This course requires three textbooks, Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 1 and 2 (and the accompanying CDs) and A History of Western Music (Burkholder). The Anthology had excerpts that were studied in class; I found it much more important than in MUSC 120 because while I didn’t really find I needed it in class, there were actually listening questions on tests.  The Burkholder textbook was again mostly to reinforce what was said in class. In fact, a lot of the time what was on the slides in class was almost exactly what was in the text.

Homework: This class didn’t have a whole lot of homework, but more than MUSC 120. There was one large research paper as well as two “library assignments” in which you had to make sample bibliographies.  This term, rather than a quiz every week, we had four “midterms” which were non-cumulative and the final was the same size as the rest of the tests. They were a fair bit harder than the quizzes of term 1 (though not super hard), so more studying would be necessary.

Professor: I had Graeme Fullerton, who like I said was a sessional instructor while the school was deciding who to hire for the position.  I doubt you’ll have him for this course, but if you do get him for something, I find him to be pretty good: he makes his expectations clear and keeps the lectures interesting.

Class format: Two lectures per week in the recital hall, class size of about 80ish? Something like that.  There was a greater emphasis on general concepts than on specific characteristics of a given piece, ie. you don’t need to know “in measure 40 of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony the transition from main theme area to transition was strange…” etc.

Additional comments: I really liked that the tests for this course were not cumulative; it made exam time more relaxing! Also, since there ARE going to be listening portions of the midterms, make sure you actually listen to the pieces you need to know at least a week before the test. Trying to cram them into your brain the night before is not going to work and you are not going to remember them the next day.  And actually listen! Remember different motives or characteristics of each piece, such as instrumentation, tempo, melodies, rhythms, etc, and don’t just have the music playing while doing homework and vacuuming your room: it’s not gonna stick that way.

Couse Evaluation: MUSC 106

Another course evaluation of a course I took in the second term of my first year: MUSC 106.

Course Description: The continuation of MUSC 105, so basically, the same thing except harder. MUSC 105 was really about figuring out how to use solfège, basic dictation skills, easy sight singing, interval identification. It seemed really hard at first because it was something totally new, but it’s important to really get a handle on these skills, because MUSC 106 kind of assumes you’re good at all that stuff now. New course material included identifying more types of chords, trickier rhythms (and having to clap out two at the same time), more difficult leaps to sing, some simple harmonic dictation.

Textbook use:  This course requires the same two textbooks as MUSC 105,  Manual for Ear Training and Sight Singingand Anthology for Sight Singing by Gary S. Karpinski, and the accompanying CD.  The Anthology is more important (I think) than the Manual, because all your prepared melodies for exams come from there, but the manual is also important for when you want to practice dictations at home or read up on a concept you’re not totally comfortable with. The Anthology is used in class nearly every time.

Homework: Again, the homework in this class is not for marks; it’s practicing on your own time.  Since no one’s going to check if you did it or not, it’s tempting to just not do it, but the only marks you have for this class are the midterm(s) and the final. If you don’t practice as you go along, you’re going to be shaky for the tests.

Professor: I had Gordon Paslawski, the coordinator, and I found him to be a really really good teacher, even if he did move fairly quickly. (It meant we actually had time to go through everything.) Generally though, the class is taught by a TA and they vary from term to term.

Class format: Small class size, instructed by a TA, generally practicing things you’ll need to know for your tests. You may be asked to sight sing in front of people, but usually it’s on a volunteer basis.  Attendance is also taken into consideration if you need to take a re-test later (ie. you should show up for class).

Additional comments: First term, I didn’t practice musicianship nearly as much as I should have, and when I did the final exam I came out of it half-convinced that I’d failed. I didn’t, but I resolved the next term to practice consistently throughout the term, and when it came time for the final, I walked out of there feeling like I did pretty much everything right! No nervousness whatsoever. Imagine that!

Belated Course Evaluation: MUSC 111

So it occurred to me recently that I never actually did any reviews of the courses I took last term… I figure I should continue what I started. It might actually end up being useful to someone. So, MUSC 111!

Course Description: This was also brand new course when I took it, and things generally went the same as MUSC 110; some kinks to work out, but generally we knew what to expect by this time. More music theory, but more advanced this time, and it moved more quickly. This term, rather than covering basic concepts of music theory and harmony, we looked at chromaticism, sequences, more chromaticism, and small forms.

Textbook use:  This course requires the same two textbooks as MUSC 110, The Complete Musician and the accompanying workbook by Laitz.  I found that Dr. Benjamin often disagreed with the text, but when he did he would usually make his own hand out to explain the difference.  The Workbook again is crucial; a lot of the assignments come from that book, although Benjie as we liked to call him (behind his back obviously) would just as often make up his own rather difficult assignments. Such as writing minuets. So many minuets.

Homework: A lot of homework, two very large assignments per week. I found that the weekend one would on average take about four hours. This said, that’s mostly just Prof. Benjamin’s style, so if you have someone else, expect still a lot of homework (it is the intensive stream after all), but maybe not quite so intense.

Professor: We had Professor Benjamin again for the second term, which was nice because we didn’t have to adjust to a different teaching style or expectations. He was such a funny guy, I kinda miss having him as my prof… One thing about him was he always said he would not take late assignments, but always did, without fail. Probably because it took him several weeks to grade them.

Class format: Same small class of about fifteen people. Nearly everyone in it was the same as last term, which was really nice to create a sense of community. Assignments made up 40% of the final grade, I can’t remember the other figures though.  There was plenty of opportunity to ask questions; it was mainly a lecture-and-note-taking setup.

Additional comments: The exam was… not as brutal as I had expected, but still fried my brain.  One nice thing was that typically Dr. B. scaled the marks, so we looked better than we maybe actually did… Basically this class is just the same as 110, but if you didn’t come into 110 with a strong or at least some kind of background in basic harmony and voice leading, 110 might be a bit of a challenge because the basics are gone over quite quickly in 110 because it’s assumed pretty much everyone knows it. So if you don’t, you’ll either have to study up on your own time or go in for help.

Third Year Update

Hello everyone,

I can’t believe its already been 2 weeks since school started, this semester really seems to be going super fast!  This year is different for me because I’m working, and I’ve become more efficient overall to make up for the time I lose.  I remember wasting a lot of weekends last year, and I’m too scared to do that at this point.  I am officially in Integrated Sciences in Microbiology and Immunology and Nutritional Sciences.  I’m going to go through the process in its entirety (I’m still getting some things sorted), but I want to turn it into an honors degree.  To help my application for grad/med school, and because based on how UBC has certain courses restricted to only one semester I have to drag it till the following year, so why not make the most out of my time and pursue an honors.  I’ll see how it goes.  This semester I am taking Phyl 301, Micb 302, Stats 200, Germ 100, and Isci 300.  My first impressions after 2nd week are below:

Phyl 301

Why in the world did I buy that textbook.  Besides that, the course is a battlefield, I feel like explaining the 5 minutes before the beginning of this class requires it’s own post.  If you thought you’ve seen crazy at UBC you haven’t till you try and get a good seat in the 11am Phyl 301.  People are literally throwing bags rows away from them in the effort to get a seat, hoping over bars and multiple rows of seats, arguing over how many seats to save.  Yes I have already got told off for saving ONE seat, I let him win and keep the seat, and what happened right after, he saved the seat beside him.  The main problem with the seating issue is that there is an Anat course right before Phyl 301.  Now a lot of those kids are in Phyl 301, so they don’t move, they stay where they are, so then everyone coming in is like in a way competing for the seats that are left.  The prof doesn’t assign readings (well this one at least, there are more to come) and it makes the lectures all the more important.  Each lecture has so much information, that being in the nosebleed seats really isn’t the best.  The class has like 600 students, there are 2 overflow rooms, and they have the option to facetime the prof a question on ipad should they need one.  Thats new!  Overall, I’m understanding everything so far, I think my job has actually turned me into a really good notetaker in class, I can catch information faster, write faster, and use abbreviations I learned while working.  I will also talk about my job more, because I get a lot of questions about it.

Micb 302

Constantly a lecture behind no matter how hard I try, there is just too much information.  I feel like 2 weeks of Micb 202 is in one week of Micb 302.  The course is fine, the professor is great, there’s just a whole lot of information.  This year the changed the textbook, and I really don’t like it.  The book goes in circles, brings up a topic and seems to finalize that topic and move on to something else then bring up the other topic and adds more random stuff.  Like I wish it’d bring up a topic like inflammation, and say everything, every receptor, every protein and molecule that participates, but it comes up every chapter with different jargon, and this would be fine if this were multiple choice, but since the midterms are more short-answer I want clarity so I can be clear with my answers.   I wouldnt dare to cram this course so I’m trying to be really thorough and keep up.  I’m a lecture behind, but thats not bad, I don’t mind staying that way, because she always ends up telling us in lecture :ignore this and that in the book, I’m glad I didn’t read all the intricacies of the complement system  before she said that.  I also notice that going to lecture, getting a solid idea then reading works well for this course, for me at least, this usually isnt the case.  This year they made the change to have 2 midterms, one is in 2 weeks and worth 20% the one after is 30%.  I guess because students from last year complained about having a 50% midterm.  And I wonder if you always want what you can’t have, because now I’m thinking I’d like to go crazy studying for this one midterm and get 50% out of the way, but sometimes I’m studying and I’m relieved there are 2 midterms in case this one goes bad.  I’m never really great at short answer exams. I can understand a concept all the way, all the steps, but not give them exactly what they want and lose marks all over the place.  I hope there are practice midterms, so I can work on this.

Stats 200

I have a fear of probability, it’s just something I never got, so I was worried about Statistics.  I was initially in a 2pm section, and had a class in Buchanan right before my Stats course (in EEB) and I would always come and the class would be full and I’d have to sit on the ground.  I am a horrible horrible morning person, but I had to make the decision to have a seat every class and give my full attention, so I switched to the 9am section which is half empty ( I’m pretty sure a lot of 9am people sleep in and thats why the 2pm section is always full).  I prefer the professor who I’m with now, he goes fast sometimes but explains things in the most simple way that I can actually get all the clicker questions, and understand everything before reading the book, this was shocking for me.  So far, this course is going well.

Germ 100

Iknew while at UBC I needed to do a language, because it’s just something you can really carry with you after you graduate, and it seems like a straight forward arts elective that doesn’t include countless essays.  I was worried about this course because people warned me there will be students who slyly get into the course, and have experience with German, when it’s a beginner course.  And of course, some students have shown they know more than they should, someone actually said ‘oh yeah I took German courses…[see my expression]…yeah wasn’t that serious though yaah.’  I decided to stay because I still want to learn the language, I’m enjoying it so far.  I actually had thoughts of switching out but I’d already taken the wrapper off my book which was nearly 200 dollars so…decided to stay, I’m glad I did now.   There is memorization but once you take a course like CLST 301, memorization isn’t a real problem.  The class is straight forward, so far, the prof is very friendly and organized, I’m trying to make it through to the 200 levels and leave UBC able to carry conversations.

ISCI 300

This is a seminar for Integrated Sciences students.  It’s pass/fail, so I plan to show up, take what I can from the course, and learn some new topics.  I’ve never taken a pass/fail course so I’m still unsure how it works, but the professor seems nice so far.


My Job

Yes I am working as an ER Scribe, it’s the first time I’m working while going to school, so I’ve become more aware of how I spend my time, I’m actually using my planner now, and it’s been a very eye-opening experience.  You can google it to see the basic information, but I’m sure duties slightly differ everywhere.  It’s the only program of its kind in Canada so far, so that in itself is cool, you get to work with doctor’s and see what they do every shift, it’s really interesting seeing the things you read in a book in front of you.  I think I’ve said this before but the only thing thats ever made me cringe was the person who chainsawed their fingers off by accident, other than that nothing really grosses me out.  I saw a stomach get drained the other day, and I literally could not believe how much fluid came out, it filled up like two medium sized bags.  You’d think being the oldest of 6 I’ve seen an ultrasound done of a baby but I haven’t and the first time I saw that was really nice.  I’m still clueless about ultrasounds, a lot of time it looks like a blob, but I’ve actually spotted gall bladder stones, and things like that, and I would probably think it was blobs on a screen a few months ago, so it is a learning experience in a way.  And now I’m kind of understanding why they are adding Psychology to the MCATs.  For night shifts, you can already imagine the amount of drunk passed out/belligerent people that come in, but in the whole 4 months atleast the shifts I’ve worked, there has only been one Code White and it was cancelled.  Overall, it’s been a very rewarding experience working at the ER, I will definitely continue blogging about my experiences there.  🙂


I’m baaa-aaaack!

Did you miss me? The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of highkicking at Advisor Orientation, losing my voice on Imagine Day, and navigating around UBC’s elaborate network of construction fences. You know what that means: my second year at UBC has officially begun.

It’s no secret that I loved my first year experience, but this year is shaping up to be pretty cool as well. Here are just a few reasons second year is awesome:

  • No longer the new kid: Watching first years sprint to class in fear of being late is rapidly becoming my favourite spectator sport. It’s nice to be the one giving out directions to Buchanan B for a change.
  • Everybody knows your name: It’s amazing how many people I know (or at least recognize) after just one year. Today I was late to every single one of my classes because I kept stopping to talk to friends. It was worth it.
  • Hitting your academic stride: I actually know how to study now, which is pretty fantastic. That doesn’t make reading 50 pages of organic chemistry in one night bearable, though.
  • Even more new experiences. UBC’s massive size means there are always new things to be discovered. On Friday I ate half-price Delly for the first time, and in a couple weeks, I get to have my first Longboat race. Not to mention the fact that I’m experiencing first year all over again in Totem Park. UBC, you are never ever boring.

That’s it for now (my BIOL 200 textbook isn’t going to read itself!). As for all you new students, consider this your formal welcome to UBC. Strap yourselves in tight, kiddies, because it’s gonna be a crazy ride.

Gamelan Ensemble

At UBC, it is strongly encouraged to branch out and try something new. After all, how many opportunities are you going to get to just figure out what you like and learn about it with some of the best in the world?

This term, I decided to do just that and signed up for the Gamelan Ensemble.  (Note: I am no expert so my terminology may be off in some places.) The gamelan is a Balinese instrument sort of similar to a xylophone, and here at UBC the instructor for the course is one of the most sought after Balinese musicians of his generation. Wow.  The ensemble is open to all, no experience required, and they start you from scratch. (Actually, we’re looking for a few more members to fill out the ensemble, so if you’re interested, the class is from 1-3 PM every Monday and Wednesday all year.)

Today was the first class. I walked in uncertainly, as I tend to be anxious any time something new or unfamiliar is happening (you should have seen me the day my harp showed up). Dr. Tenzer told us to take off our shoes and have a seat on the floor. I immediately questioned my choice of wearing a skirt today, and sat down. Sudi, the instructor, explained to us that the most important thing we can do in this class is come, and be focused. 70% of the grade is based on attendance, and only 5% is based on skill. Very beginner friendly.

We sat down at the instruments and started to learn. How to hold the hammer, how to dampen the sound.  The gamelan is made of brass, and thus has a very harsh sound; the ensemble playing together is also very loud. I’m definitely bringing my earplugs to the next class. Hearing is very important to a musician!

We began to play, and I noticed that nearly everything about the music is practically opposite of Western traditions. There is no score; we learn everything by ear and by practice. The gamelans are tuned “out of tune” from each other on purpose; that is, the same note on two gamelans are slightly off from each other, because the Balinese like the sound of the waves that the difference produces. The music is very chaotic, and very fast (well, so far we aren’t very fast).  The scale used is not the diatonic scale – that being said, much of Western music has abandoned diatonicism at this point.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I like the music right now. I like the concept of the course, and I like the idea of trying something new. However, the music doesn’t seem to inspire me as it does some of the others in the class. I tend to fall in love with sweet harmonies and soft and soulful melodies; perhaps this is why I take so well to the harp. This class also seems like it will be taxing on my body; the volume level playing on my ear drums could be made better with ear plugs, but sitting upright for so long is difficult when my shoulders are already giving me trouble. Holding the mallet or the hammer for so long makes my shoulder ache, and my feet started to go numb at a couple of points today. I could probably work through these issues, but still.

However, if I switch to a different ensemble where I would play the harp, it would mean more stress for practicing the harp because I’d have more pieces to learn in a shorter amount of time with more pressure, and my fingers would be working double time.

More stress for my mind, or my body? Which should I choose? I think for now I’ll stick with the gamelan ensemble – it’ll probably be good for me in the long run, and I probably won’t have another opportunity for it later on in my degree.