Unpopular opinion: why I love exams

Here’s one more reason to appreciate finals.

This may seem a little counterintuitive, but I find exams to be the most relaxing time of the year.

I can almost hear university students spluttering in disbelief. How could I possibly think that the weeks of the year characterized by sleepless nights, gallons upon gallons of coffee, and frantic cramming are relaxing? Hear me out, people.

My rationale behind this is twofold. First off, I finally have enough time to dedicate to really mastering concepts. One of the biggest challenges I encounter with my academics is simply not having enough hours in the day to truly understand and appreciate everything in my courses. I simply rush from one week to the next, trying to get things done. For the most part, I end up doing pretty well, but I don’t really have time to organize my thoughts and develop my own ideas about what I have been learning in the classroom. With exams, since I am nose-deep in textbooks from sun up to sundown, I get to really drill concepts into my head and learn things thoroughly.

Secondly, I love the freedom that comes with exams. During the rest of the year I am frantically trying to juggle everything that I have going on, balancing my extracurricular commitments with classes, projects, quizzes, and a social life, but during exams all of that is put on hold. My calendar is blissfully blank, and I can spend my study breaks doing things I enjoy. I have a ready-made excuse to say no to any unwanted engagements or commitments that might come up (“Sorry, I can’t – exams!”) and instead, I get to made use of what little free time I have by watching Orange is the New Black, baking cookies with my boyfriend, or adventuring around Vancouver.

For example, this morning, I got up for an early morning breakfast with some fellow Vanier Residence Advisors. We left at 7:30 AM, just as the sun was starting to rise over Point Grey. We ate a delicious meal at Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe on W 4th as the sun rose, watching the first Vancouver snowfall through the window. By 10 AM, I was back on campus, snuggled up in a coffee shop ready to get down to studying. It was a short break from the books, but one that re-energized me and will keep me going for the rest of the day.


I am telling you this to show that as stressful as the end of term can be, finals season does not have to be all doom and gloom. As with everything else in life, it’s just a matter of perspective.

How to organize your life

Another term at UBC has come and gone, and finals season is once again upon us. As with every new school year, this one has brought a lot of changes, both personally and academically. I have been taking on more challenging classes, balancing more extracurricular responsibilities, and developing new habits. This year, I feel as though I have finally figured out an organization scheme that works for me. I have begun to harness the power of technology to help me get stuff done, and it has resulted in one of my most productive and stress-free years yet. So now I’m going to share some of my favourite productivity iPhone apps in the hope that you will be able to become more productive, healthy, and happy throughout final season and the new year.

Wunderlist: If you love to-do lists but are tired of constantly misplacing your handwritten Post-it notes everywhere, this is the app for you. It is a simple, easy-to-use app that allows you to keep a master list of everything you need to do. For each task, you can set a deadline and even add alarms to remind you to get it done. You also have the ability to break down larger items into subtasks – so you can break down “Study biology” into items like “Review September 21 lecture” and “Read chapter 12”. It also has multiple lists, so you can have separate to-do lists for each aspect of your life. I have Personal, Academics, RezLife, REC, etc. as my lists. It is a seriously amazing, and I have gotten a bunch of my friends hooked on it as well.

Grades 2: Have you ever found yourself attempting to calculate what you need to get on the final in order to end up with a certain mark in the course? I know I have, and in doing so realized that I have completely lost my math ability since first year (just kidding, I never had math ability to begin with). Luckily, Grades 2 does all the dirty work for you. All you need to do is input the different syllabus items and their weights, set a target grade, and update your marks throughout the year. Sure, it’s a little disheartening to see that you need 104% on your English final to achieve your target grade, but overall this app acts as a helpful and efficient way to keep track of your marks.


It’s Focus Time: The Pomodoro method is my preferred way of getting work done – essentially you work in 25-minute chunks, broken up by 5-minute breaks. This app is forever running in the background of my exam study sessions, and really helps me buckle down and concentrate. The key is to ignore all distractions when you are in work mode – I like to have a pen and paper nearby so I can jot down things I want to do during my breaks. Also, if you don’t feel like shelling out the 99 cents, you can still use the online version for free.


Dropbox: Dropbox is one of the best online storage tools there is. I have all of my school documents on here so I can access them no matter where I am – no more emailing documents to yourself before you leave home! I also download lecture notes and organize them into folders, so I have access to them even if Connect is down, and access them from my phone if I choose to leave my laptop at home. It also has a bunch of sharing capabilities so you can send your lecture notes to your friends no problem.

Google Calendar: While not strictly an “app”, Google Calendar is one of the best tools I have started to use within the past year. I am not exaggerating when I say it has straight up revolutionized my life. I used to have a huge problem with writing down an appointment, meeting or engagement somewhere and then completely forgetting about it by the time the day rolled around. That problem has disappeared now that I have my gCal synced up to my phone and can see what I have planned for the day no matter where I am.


Do you have any organizational tools you swear by? Share them in the comments!

To new beginnings.

I have a confession to make: last year was an incredibly rough year for me. In fact, the main reason that I didn’t do much blogging was because any blog post I would have authored threatened to be riddled with stress and negativity.

The year definitely had some high points: winning with my floor at Day of the Longboat, handing out awards plaques at the 2013 SLC, running my first triathlon, having dance parties in fellow advisors’ rooms, and going on a Seattle trip with my first boyfriend ever. But these wonderful moments were fleeting, and were overshadowed by the copious stressful moments in between.

Throughout the entire year, I was feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. I felt incapable within my multiple new leadership roles, and did not know how to manage my involvements effectively. I had conflicts with my coworkers due to my high stress levels. I was burnt out, exhausted, sleep-deprived, and sick almost every other week. I found myself frantically cramming before every midterm and final exam since I hadn’t made time to study. Life felt like a never-ending to-do list – in the time it took to cross off one item, another three had sprung up in its place.

After a lot of self-reflection over the summer, I realized that the reason I had been so stressed out this past year was because I was trying to make myself into someone I’m not. I was doing things because I thought that I should do them, and ignoring what I really wanted. I was pushing back tasks, waiting until they absolutely demanded my attention. I was neglecting my self-care, putting myself last in my priorities list. I was making myself unhappy.

So, this summer, I decided to make myself happy again. I bought a ukulele. I read books for fun.  I started writing again. I had two jobs that I absolutely loved. I had life-changing volunteer experiences. I smiled and laughed as much as I could. I said yes to the things I wanted to do and said no to the things that I didn’t. And some days, I sat around and did nothing, without feeling guilty about it.

Now, with another school year peeking around the corner, I’ve never felt more prepared for a new beginning.

My point is, university will not always be sunshine and rainbows (despite what my blog may sometimes suggest). There will be times when you cry alone in your room. There will be times when you feel like you have no idea what you are doing or where you are going. There will be times when you will feel like a failure. There will be times when you feel as though you have gotten so far off-track that you will never get back on the right path again. There will be times when you are unhappy. But always remember to pick yourself up and keep on going, because your new beginning could be just around the corner.

Welcome to UBC, Class of 2017. You’re in for quite a ride.

The Totem Park Bucket List

After weeks of waiting, refreshing your email inbox, and eagerly awaiting housing assignments, the day has finally come. “You have been assigned”, reads your housing application page. Totem Park is going to be your home for the next 8 months. So, you’re wondering, what are you getting yourself into? With 37 days left until you move into Totem Park, here are 37 things to look forward to experiencing in the upcoming year:

  1.  Arrive at your new home on Opening Day! Be promptly greeted by a swarm of people in blue tshirts who are way too excited about emptying a car full of stuff.
  2. Storm the Totem caf for your first dinner with your house.
  3. Plaster your pristine white walls with posters you bought at the SUB’s poster sale.
  4. Raise your bed up so high you need to take a running leap to get into it. So much room for activities!
  5. Paint your face and lose your voice at Colour Wars.
  6. Become insanely proud of your house. Even if it comes last place in every inter-house competition. I still love you, Kwak!
  7. Perfect the art of the 30-second shower during the Do It In The Dark energy-saving competition.
  8. If you’re in a heritage house: harbour an unyielding, burning jealousy of HMSM and QLXN’s rooms.
  9. If you’re in HMSM and QLXN: enrage your heritage house friends by complaining about the stresses of having a massive room.
  10. Win the TFL season. Have your floor go down in history as the most epic football team West Mall has ever seen. Songs will be written about you for centuries to come.
  11. Alternatively, lose each and every TFL game but have an awesome time while doing it. Or fall somewhere in between.
  12. Miss a TFL game because you’re too “tired” from the night before. Saturday mornings are hard sometimes.
  13. Dance in your fluorescent best at NEON.
  14. Go to a frat party. It has to be experienced eventually.
  15. Realize frat parties aren’t always as fun as they’re made out to be and never go again.
  16. Stay in on a Friday night and make an epic blanket fort with your floor instead.
  17. Deliberately avoid eye contact/pretend to not speak English in order to avoid speaking to promo booth people in the commonsblock. “Just grabbing dinner, but I’ll stop by later!”
  18. Get woken up by a fire alarm. Extra points if there’s multiple in one night. Extra, extra points if there’s one going off in every house at once.
  19. Make conversation with the promo booth folks and discover a really cool event or opportunity on campus. It can happen!
  20. Shave your head at Balding for Dollars. For the children!
  21. Become thoroughly confused by the Totem caf’s musical selections Flo Rida followed by Celine Dion followed by Vampire Weekend? Totem, what are you doing?
  22. Be further confused by some of the food items the Totem caf comes up with. Chipotle chicken French toast?
  23. Eat dinner with plastic cutlery because the caf has run out of silverware. AKA the Totem Cutlery Challenge.
  24. Go to every station in the caf searching for an Eco-to-Go container. Eventually give up on the environment and grab a paper one.
  25. Experiment with veganism or vegetarianism. There are so many delicious veggie selections anyways!
  26. Get way too dressed up to eat off of caf trays for the Totem spring and winter formals.
  27. Develop an addiction to some sort of UBC Food Services baked good. For me, it was the marshmallow covered brownies. Omnomnom.
  28. Ask silly questions (or helpful and important questions) at Talk about Sex with your Residence Advisors.
  29. Perform at Coffee House.
  30. Fall in love with a performer at Coffee House.
  31. Write a sonnet about your newfound love in the Coffee House notebook.
  32. Act/sing/dance/play a tree in the world-famous Totem Park Musical.
  33. Cough up coloured paint for a week after Totem Holi.
  34. Buy your advisor and shamelessly humiliate them. Hey, it’s for charity!
  35. Attend an event exclusively for the free food. (For the sake of whoever’s running it, at least feign a little bit of interest!)
  36. Meet your new best friends who will stick with you through the next four years.
  37. And if one year in TPark just isn’t enough, come back as a Residence Advisor or council member and do it all over again.

My future Totemites, get ready to experience all the excitement, craziness, and fun that Totem Park has to offer. It’s going to be an amazing year.

Reasons Totem is awesome: Holi, Spring Formal, and TFL

So this happened in Totem yesterday:

Why is everyone running around throwing paint at each other, you ask?

Yesterday Totem celebrated Holi, the Indian festival of colour. Groups of people arrived on the Totem field dressed in white, spotless clothes, and left covered in coloured paint from head to toe. The festival was a joint effort by RezLife and TPRA, and is just one example of the awesome events you can look forward to as a first-year resident. (PS: spot a colourful me at the very end of the video)

Thanks for the orange scalp, Liam.
Photo by Visha Thamboo

The residence excitement doesn’t stop there, though. This weekend was also the Totem formal, followed by “The Rezzies” awards banquet and graduation ceremony. I got all dressed up, ate delicious free food, and recited a cheesy poem about TPark. TFL playoffs were also going down all weekend, which got pretty intense. Kwak 6th just barely made the playoffs and though we lost our first game, we still fought valiantly. All in all, it was a great weekend to live in Totem, and one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Tanjot and I reciting our super awkward Totem poem at the Rezzies. At least RJ looks amused.
Photo by Kaitlyn Tissington


Sometimes I rap about Storm on the Internet

Photo by Carter Brundage, UBC REC Media

I know, I’ve been notably absent from the blogosphere this term. This semester has been particularly crazy for me, and between balancing all my involvements and my crazy intense course load, there has not been much time for blogging. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am going to try and pick it up in the last few weeks of class, giving a rundown of the highlights of this past term and offering some hopefully useful information for prospective students during this exciting time.

One of the involvements that has been taking up all my time lately has been my Assistant Director position with UBC REC. I had wanted to be a part of REC since first year, but did not end up applying at first because of the demand of SLC and RezLife. But when some spots opened up at the beginning of this term, I jumped at the opportunity and found myself sporting a spiffy green REC raincoat around campus. I’m now a part of The Point, REC’s online magazine (you should read it and stuff. It’s pretty good).

This is a particularly exciting time to be a part of REC: Storm the Wall is happening this week. As the largest intramural event in Canada and one of the Ubyssey’s 93 Things to Do Before You Graduate, this is a mandatory event for your the UBC bucket list. Here is a video of me and my director, Jill, rapping about Storm. We’re kinda stoked. You should be too.

If you want to catch the action, the wall-storming will be happening in the North Plaza by the SUB. Not on campus? Fear not, you can watch Storm LIVE all week on The Point’s Storm social page! I storm the wall at 11:20 tomorrow (provided my team can find a sprinter ). Hope to see you there!

Creating your story starts here

Registration for the 2013 UBC Student Leadership Conference is open now. You should go and stuff. I hear it’s pretty cool. To register, click here.

Things I Love About Winter Break

Term 1: mission accomplished. The last Scantron bubble has been filled out, the last exam has been handed in, and the last late night study sessions have been completed. Aside from waiting for those dreaded marks going up on the SSC (I’m personally terrified for BIOL 200), there’s nothing to do now but kick back at home and relish in the joys of winter break:

Snow! T-dot has gotten a little sprinkling of snow, but weirdly enough, it’s nothing compared to the snowstorm that hit Vancity on Wednesday. The city got a ton of snow overnight leading to the typical snow-induced widespread panic (the last day of exams were even cancelled. Welcome to Vancouver). Here’s hoping for a White Christmas in the land where good things grow, though!

Not setting an alarm. Gone are the days of my iPhone blaring at 6:45 am, signaling the start of yet another arduous day in the library. Now I can get all the Z’s my tired little body desires. And it’s awesome.

Having a kitchen. Being at home means that I’m able to bake to my heart’s content. Today I made peppermint bark, red velvet shortbread, chocolate-filled snowballs, and peppermint white chocolate chip cookies… I might have gotten a little carried away.

Seeing old friends. I actually haven’t done any of this just yet since all my friends are painfully busy with work or severely ill with the flu (get well soon, Gabby!) but hopefully catch-up Starbucks dates are in my near future. Speaking of catching up…

Catching up on TV shows. There’s no time to keep up with my ridiculous amount of shows during the school year. Now I have ample time to kick back, relax, and finally find out who is Gossip Girl.

Planning for the future. Projects for the break: working on my IntSci application, figuring out summer plans, applying for exchange next year (fingers crossed for Copenhagen!), and planning the SLC Recognition Reception. Speaking of which, have you registered yet?

Hope everyone is having a lovely relaxing break – enjoy every minute, because you’ll sadly be back to school before you know it.

Dancing through finals

Confession: I’m not perfect (I know, right? Most shocking revelation of 2012). Although I blog a lot about how important it is to take care of yourself, to eat right and exercise, and to find balance in university, I don’t always follow my own advice. The days leading up to my first exam, the dreaded CHEM 233 final, were super unhealthy and stress-filled. I was subsisting off of caffeine and UBC Food Services baked goods (the banana chocolate chunk muffins are a particular favourite of mine), spending every spare second thinking about chemical mechanisms, and even dreaming about carbohydrate cyclization. For five days straight I would get to the library every morning at 8:30 and leave when it closed at 10, taking breaks only to fill up my water bottle or to grab a massive coffee from the SUB.

On the morning of the exam, I woke up ready to log a few more hours of studying before my 3:30 timeslot. But after going over a couple of practice finals, I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I was physically and mentally exhausted. The chemical structures were starting to look like hieroglyphs, and my brain felt like the melted Stay-Puffed marshmallow man at the end of Ghostbusters 2. It was bad.

So with a mere couple of hours left before my exam, I threw on some Lululemon shorts, lugged my iHome speakers over to the Totem commonsblock, and turned the ballroom into my own personal dance studio. It was just the release I needed. Instead of agonizing over the steps of imine formation or trying to decide what reagent is required to convert an aldehyde to a carboxylic acid, I just needed to count to eight and try to nail a few fouettes. It reminded me of how thankful I used to be during high school finals when I had no classes but still had to go to dance every night. Dance has always been my stress release, and I miss being able to do it every day. After an hour of jumping, turning, and receiving a few weird looks through the ballroom windows, I changed into my exam attire, went to the SRC with my mind cleared of all stressors, and might have written the best final exam of my university career.

Find that thing that keeps you sane during finals season and do it often. Whether it’s running the Wreck Beach stairs, watching a movie with your floormates or hammering on the drums (like my girl Nirel), make sure your life doesn’t revolve around your schoolwork. It’s a stressful time, for sure, but taking an hour off won’t kill you. Just the opposite, in fact.

PS: Watching dance videos on YouTube makes for a pretty good (and dangerous) procrastination tool. If you’re into that kinda thing, check out some of my favourites here, here, here, and here.

“I am in charge of how I feel and today I am choosing happiness.”

Happy song du jour: Love Love Love by Avalanche City

This is it: the home stretch. Deadlines are coming up. Finals are approaching. Sleep is starting to dwindle. Libraries are getting crowded. Everyone is stressed out. But exams are going to come whether you like it or not. So instead of letting this time of the year send you into an emotional tailspin, you might as well just put on a smile, do the best you can, and decide to be happy instead.

Besides, it’s sunny today.