The Courage to be Vulnerable

Almost every day we are asked the question, “How are you?” If you’re like me, you probably respond, “I’m good thanks, how are you?” There are days, however, when that isn’t the truth. Days when I’m not okay, but I put on a smile, and hide my struggles. Days when I may have cried a bucket of tears due to something troubling me, but to everyone else I still look okay.

Behind every smile there is a story

I’ve spent a lot of time hiding tears. I didn’t want to show people moments when I was not at my best. I wanted to appear strong. I did not want to show my weaknesses, for fear that people might think of me differently. Sometimes I feel like we live in a society where vulnerability is weakness, and where by showing our true selves we become ‘imperfect’ in the eyes of others.
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Back to School… Back to Distance Love

In September, campus was buzzing with excited students anticipating the new school year. For many students not from the Vancouver area, however, September meant having to bid our loved ones farewell. It was time to once again hop on a plane, hold back difficult feelings, and brave the many challenges ahead.

Fast forward the days and we are now almost halfway through October. Perhaps, like me, you are in a long-distance relationship. And perhaps, like me, you have felt the challenge of being away from your partner. I have been in a long-distance relationship for over a year now and have often wondered how successful couples cope with long-distance relationships. To help answer this question, I developed an online survey on long-distance relationships and gathered information from long-distance couples.

Here are just a few of the things which I learned from the survey, through reading professional relationship advice, and from my personal experiences:
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Get Active. Get Social. Get INVOLVED!

Growing up, I was not an athlete. 

I picked flowers during soccer games, hid in the change room during gym class, and ate lunch inside to avoid being pulled into an impromptu game of tag. Even in high school, as I started to improve my physical fitness, I struggled to find a sport I felt passionate about or a team to feel like I was a part of, but then I came to UBC and that all changed.

It started almost exactly a year ago with Day of the Longboat. I was a last minute addition to the team who, after 3 tough races, was crowned the UBC Women’s Champions. I felt like a champ, and not just because my shirt told me I was. For the first time in my life I was part of a real team… and it was with a group of girls I barely knew.
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What Now?

I am 21 turning 22, but at times I don’t really feel like I am a 20 something. I don’t feel as adult-like as I thought I would be. In fact, I feel lost at times, trying to navigate my way through so many undiscovered roads in life.

Most, if not all of us in UBC have dreams, uncertainties and hope. Knowing that I am graduating next May brings even much more uncertainties in my life.  I am sure many of us, especially graduates-to-be, have asked this question at certain points in our life: ‘What Now’?  Maybe, like me, you’ve asked, “what now?” Almost. Every. Single. Day.


What Now? How do we respond to this question?  Here are some things:

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Out of the Comfort Zone

Have you done anything this summer that you never imagined you would ever do?

I have.

This summer, I am interning at a counselling center back home in my country, in a different state from where I am originally from. Coming here to intern was not easy.When I came here, I wondered why did I ever choose to come here when I could have done something less challenging.

I stay on my own in a state in which I barely know anyone, walk about 20 minutes in the scorching 31 degrees celcius to work, and daily cross dangerous roads with inefficient pedestrian crossing system.  And, the public bus transport system is not that convenient or user-friendly.


Serious haze in my country — out of my comfort zone (Photo by Cordelia)


I was challenged by my supervisor to make friends here. I began taking note of the ways in which I was stepping out of my comfort zone in different areas of my life:

  1. I talked in Mandarin with a grandmother although I rarely dared to speak Mandarin.
  2. I conversed in the local language although I used to think I sounded like a robot when I spoke it – not anymore.
  3. I traveled between states in my country alone – something that I am really scared of doing as it is not that safe here.
  4. I made a few new friends and put in effort to contact old friends.


What are some things that you have done this summer which are out of your comfort zone? What are some things on your to-do list that are challenging?

How to have more money

My story, why I’m broke:

My parents always wanted the best for me, and although they found every way imaginable to save money, I always got what I needed. The key word being ‘save’. As a kid, my mom would do things that would be totally frustrating, like refusing to ever turn the heat up. I would say, ‘Mom, it’s freezing in here.’ And she would casually tell me to go put a sweater on.

On my side of things, I was getting the things that I wanted, like new basketball shoes, cool clothes, and toys that the other kids had. What I didn’t realize back then was that my parents held onto every penny like it was worth it’s weight in gold. They grew up poor in big families. Saving was not a luxury, but a necessity. But money was never an issue in my little bubble, and that’s probably where my fiscal irresponsibility began. The words ‘want’ and ‘need’ just meant the same thing.

As a university student, I began to understand that I couldn’t live like this. I guess I started to grow up (finally at the age of 21), and I knew that the big safety net that are my parents wouldn’t be there forever.

Some steps I’ve been taking to mitigate my awful spending habits:

Sample budget from the app ‘Mint’

 1. Make a monthly budget: Knowing how much I can spend on certain things like eating out and gas have helped me spend a lot less. I found that I tried to lie to myself about how much I would spend week-to-week. Be totally honest with yourself, you’re doing it for your own benefit and no one else is going to know. It’s funny how all the little things add up to devastate my bank account. I’m semi-dependant on my iPhone, so I got an app called Mint to help me out. It links to all my bank accounts and categorizes my spending. It’s a great visual to see if I am overbudget. I love it, and you might want to give it a try.

 2. Limiting my credit card use: Money just pours out of me with no filter when I have my credit card on me. Going out for drinks and eating out are huge money wasters. So recently, I’ve been leaving my card at home and taking out cash before I go out. Creating a limit so I don’t go out of control. Shopping online can also be a problem, so at one point I gave my parents my credit card so I would need to get their approval before buying anything. Obviously, they didn’t approve anything, which helped me limit spending on my ‘wants’.

 3. Being smart, thinking like my parents: Going out to a bar to watch the game or stopping by MacDonald’s for a snack can add up. Instead, I’ll invite a couple friends over to watch the game, have a few drinks, and I’ll make some nachos. That’s less than $10 for a fun time instead of spending $50 at the bar. It’s not nearly as frugal as my parents can be, but it’s definitely a good start. There are always ways to have fun without emptying your bank account, just take an extra second to think before making that impulse-buy.

I know a lot of you are way smarter than I am, and you’ve probably been doing this your whole life. But, if you’re like me, these 3 steps are a good place to start. And check this site out for more tips! Feel free to leave a comment about what you think. How have you been saving money lately?

Indoor Tanning or Indoor Burning?

Summertime Fun

Going to the beach with a couple friends to de-stress and get some colour is one of my favorite summertime activities. But just like all good things, moderation is key. You’ve heard it a thousand times: use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, keep hydrated, and most importantly, know what works for you. If you’ve been sensitive to the sun in the past, you’re not all of a sudden going to develop Snooki-esque skin. So get out in the sun and soak up that Vitamin D you’ve been craving all Winter. Read our previous blog post about Fun in the Sun for more tips and strategies!

Indoor Tanning Kills?

For all you super-keen tanners who have or are thinking about going indoor tanning, here are a few things to think about:

  • Studies have found that even just one-time exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning can increase your risk of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin-cancer) by 75%. This percentage rises dramatically with each use. [1]
  • A survey of adolescent indoor tanners showed that more than half of them had burns due to frequent exposure to indoor tanning beds/lamps. [1]

And it’s not just melanoma, you are increasing the risk of many other types of skin cancer too.

You’re probably thinking that this isn’t a big deal. Over the years, we’ve heard it all…Stress causes cancer, certain foods lead to cancer, inactivity leads to cancer and the list goes on, and on, and on, and on. But, of all these things, indoor tanning is the real deal. It’s your one way ticket to skin cancer. If you already tan indoors, stopping now will save you years of pain later. This infographic gives a great visual representation of some tanning myths. [2]

What is your worst tanning story? And what are your thoughts on indoor tanning?

I would love to hear from you, so leave a comment below!


[1] – American Academy of Dermatology

[2] – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As I Go On, I Remember the Lessons I’ve Learned

“It’s almost April?!” A time when students are a) stressing out b) trying to not stress out OR c) being totally cool about studies. While it’s good to learn to manage stress during this season, it’s also a good time to reflect on life lessons that we’ve learned during the past 7 months of the school year.

Reflections of life. Photo credit: Cordelia

Here’s what I’ve learned during my years here in UBC:

1. Conflicts are not necessarily bad 

When conflicts happen in a romantic relationship or any kind of relationship, it is not the end.  What matters is how you manage and solve conflicts.  When trying to resolve conflict, say “I feel…when you…” instead of, “You did this and it’s your fault!”  Listen to the other person’s point of view without interruption and with understanding.

2. Long Distance Relationships work when both partners are willing to do what it takes

I’ve gone through this journey everyday for almost 8 months now. I know how difficult it feels, (especially with the time zone difference) but with patience and courage, you can succeed in a long distance relationship.  And the good thing is, I improved my communication skills after countless hours of meaningful conversations through Skype vid calls.

3. Miracles happen when you believe.  Just don’t give up.

I’ve had tough times. But I’ve also seen miracles. I’ve seen a broken relationship fixed, and it’s even better now than it was in the past. Also, this year, I had quite a number of interviews. I didn’t get accepted for most positions. But I was offered one position and it was the one that I really needed for my future career. I am now a step closer to my dreams and I thank God for His provision. Keep believing in your dreams and keep persevering.

What are some personal lessons you’ve learned? I would love to hear from you, yes YOU!

Healthy Life Journey: Acceptance. Growth. Change.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference”

– The Serenity Prayer adapted from Reinhold Niebuhr’s original Serenity Prayer

Travelling through the road of acceptance, change and growth. Photo Credit: Cordelia

Acceptance. Growth. Change. 3 processes that all work together for our good.

1. Acceptance 

I find it a struggle to accept my rather extreme introversion. But gradually, I came to a realization that being introvert isn’t a negative thing – I was really encouraged when I heard Susan Cain’s (the bestselling author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking) TED talk on introversion.

Is there anything that you find hard to accept about yourself, others or your situation? Learn to accept it if there is nothing you can do to change it or when you know that have done your best to change all that you can.

2. Change

“If only he/she would do this, then all will be fine,” says person A. Have you said this before? Instead of expecting others to change, let us take up the courage to change for the better. Change is not easy because it takes us out of our comfort zone, but it is worth it.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Seasons change, and so should we
Photo credit: Cordelia

3. Growth

When I came to Vancouver, I had to grow a lot in the areas of volunteering, planning my career path, having the discipline to cook meals instead of eating out, learning to build deeper friendships and trying new things that I had never done before.

Write down areas in which you hope to grow during 2013.

Any thoughts to share about acceptance, change and growth?

Commerce Wellness Fair February 13th

Submitted by Abby Nann, UBC Commerce Student

I find that it is so easy for me to get caught up in school work etc. out here at UBC that it is always helpful to find ways to remind myself to take care of both my physical and mental health. There are so many resources offered on campus geared towards student well-being that it is just a matter of connecting with them!

As a commerce student myself, on Wednesday February 13th I plan on attending the Commerce Wellness Fair which is happening from 11am – 3 

There will be many informational and interactive booths (UBC REC will also be present) in the main lobby– the CA Hall- of The Henry Angus building.Also, word on the street is that there will be free samples/giveaways- which I am super stoked about.

So I guess, in essence, this is a call to all commerce community members to join me at the fair.

Health is wealth, take care of yourself.

Failed resolutions? Love yourself, forgive yourself!

It’s February – the month of love when our city is filled with reds, whites, pinks, cupids, roses, chocolates, cards… It’s February – the month that comes after the month you made New Year’s resolutions for yourself.

Midterm season has begun and as I was preparing for my midterms, I felt a bit disappointed in myself because, at the beginning of 2013, I resolved to be a better test-taker.  I’ve even made plans as to how I would achieve this goal and for a while, I was following through.  Unfortunately, I found myself caught up in stress again with my midterms because I felt that I hadn’t adequately prepared for them.

Although I wasn’t too happy with myself, I am not going to give up my resolutions altogether just because I wasn’t successful on these first couple of exams.  A lot of the times when we fail to do something, we may feel that we are no good.  But that’s not true — we’re all amazing!  Facing successes and failures as a student and an adult is like a baby learning to walk: the baby takes two steps, falls, (maybe whimpers), but gets up and tries to walk again.

So let’s all take some time away from stressing out about whatever it is that we’re stressing out about, reflect on the past month and see what went wrong and what went well, and get back on track!


Gratitude: Open door for satisfaction and happiness

Gratitude has more social benefits than the apparent “self actualized” aura that gives a person. Gratitude leads to a positive outlook on ones personal life and life long happiness. The motto “ Just be thankful,” is the key to happiness.


What makes gratitude so great?  Gratitude shifts the focus from what one lacks in life to the abundance that is already present, says McCollough and Emmons. A study conducted on several hundred people where different groups were asked to log all their daily experience (i.e. either just positive experiences or just negative experiences) found that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy.

In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.

The story does not end here. Have you felt the lack of creativity? Do you fall sick often? Relationships don’t work too well? Gratitude seems to be the answer to all these problems according to the research by Dr. McCollough and Emmons.


Furthermore, to say that we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means that we are aware of our blessings.


So how can you be more grateful in life?

  1. You have so much to be thankful for in your life already that you are taking for granted. You can do an exercise where you can imagine losing some of the things that you take for granted, such as your home/residence, your ability to see or hear, your ability to walk, you laptop, friends etc.. Then imagine getting each of these things back, one by one, and consider how grateful you would be for each and every one.
  2. Start finding joy in the small things instead of holding out for big achievements—such as getting accepted into University, getting A or B on an assignment, getting a question right in class, seeing your favorite dish at Pacific Spirit place, free food at a club event, etc.
  3. You can also give thanks to appreciate life more fully. Use gratitude to help you put things in their proper perspective. When things don’t go your way, remember that every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit. In the face of adversity ask yourself: “What’s good about this?”, “What can I learn from this?”, and “How can I benefit from this?”
  4. Let people know that you are grateful for having them around by talking to them, writing a letter, message or even a simple text message.
  5. Keep a gratitude journal.


Remember Gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving. In an experiment looking at the effects of a grateful outlook on subjective well-being on 221 early adolescents, it was found that counting blessings was associated with enhanced self-reported gratitude, optimism and life satisfaction. And I am sure you will find this last statement convincing to be more grateful in life; significant relationship has been found between gratitude, satisfaction and school experience. Being grateful, counting your blessings and acknowledging things that you have started to take for granted will help you increase your satisfaction and happiness in life..

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”

Oprah Winfrey


Happy Throughout the Year : Gratefulness and Contentment

“Happy New Year!” is a greeting we say to each another once the clock strikes 12.00 am every December 31st. How can we start off 2013 on a happy note? How do we remain joyful throughout this year in the midst of our busyness and trials of life?

1. Be grateful for the little things in life:

Try to  ‘count your blessings, name them one by one’ (Count Your Blessings song). Sometimes I feel really homesick that I wish to fly back to my home country. But saying, “Thank you God for allowing me to come to Canada,” helps me to not take for granted the opportunity that God has given me to study at UBC.

2. Be contented: 

Sometimes we may keep wishing for more that we forget to be grateful about the things that we already have – friends, family, a place to stay, food to eat, good education, etc. It is important to strive for better things, but let’s not let our striving affect our joy. I recently read a blog of a woman who lost her husband to an accident. She wrote that wives should be grateful if their husbands are alive. So let’s be contented that our loved ones are alive – don’t focus on the imperfections of our relationships.

One way to become more grateful is to keep a gratitude journal. You will reap many benefits be it physical, psychological or social benefits.

Gratitude Journal
Photo Credits: Cordelia

Feel free to suggest other ways that we can remain happy and joyful throughout the year!

New Year’s Resolutions: Hard to keep, but you can do it!

Happy 2013!  A new year brings us a fresh start – this means that if you didn’t follow through with your new year’s resolutions from 2012, you can start again!

I’ve never been very good at achieving goals, but I’m not going to give up trying!  In addition to trying out the SMART method, the one thing I have learned and will try to do more is to turn actions into habits.  For example, we could push ourselves to floss our teeth before going to bed every night.  Something else we could do is to get ourselves to attend a professor’s office hours every two weeks.  Eventually it’ll turn into a habit and voila! –  You don’t even have to think about it anymore.  Goals aren’t that hard to achieve after all, and maintaining resolutions are even easier.



Below is a list of our other blog posts which I pulled up from the past years that have to do with making resolutions.  Take a look!

‘A New Year, A SMARTER Me?’ (how to set SMART goals)

‘Healthy Resolutions’ (some sample resolutions for a healthier lifestyle)

‘It IS All About YOU’ (always feeling overwhelmed with how much you have to do? This is the post for you!)

Direct Your Future (if you’re looking to work on your answer for every student’s favourite question: “What are you going to do after university?”)

‘Monthly Resolutions’ (for those who like to, or would like to learn to, break down those big assignments)

‘Lasting Resolutions’ (tips to help you persist with those resolutions!)

‘Revisiting Resolutions’ (to help you keep yourself on top of those resolutions)


Teaching Assistants – More than just a course tutor

You’ve heard it many times: “Make good use of your TAs!” but you may reply: “I get everything, there isn’t anything I need help on!”  While it may be true that you are breezing through assignments and doing well on all your exams, visiting your TAs’ office hours can still be very beneficial.

So what kind of things can you talk about with your TAs?

(1) Ask them for studying tips.

TAs are usually students who are completing their Master degrees or PhDs — where better to learn about successful studying skills?

(2) Ask them about managing student life.

We all know how difficult it is to balance our school work, extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, part-time jobs, and significant others.  How do your TAs achieve this balance?

(3) Ask them about involvement opportunities.

Are you interested in gaining research experience in a lab?  Many of your TAs are graduate students who run their own studies with the help of undergraduate research assistants.  Ask them if they are looking for volunteers or if they know other graduate students who are!

(4) Ask them about why they decided to go to grad school.

Are you trying to decide what you want to do upon the completion of your Bachelor’s degree?  Talk to your TAs about it as they have a lot of relevant knowledge and advice to offer!

 (5) Just chat!

This could be anything from discussion about broader ideas of your course material to small talk!  One of my TAs told me about his travel experiences and that, for me was very exciting and inspirational!

TAs are not only good tutors, but also great advisors and mentors!  Never forget that our TAs were once undergraduate students like ourselves.  They’ve been there and done that and most are more than happy to be our guidance!

An Encouragement to Pick Yourself Up and Dust the Dirt Off

I sang the words, “Everybody falls sometimes, gotta have the strength to rise from the ashes and make a new beginning” (What Faith Can Do Song) a million times last year. Have you ever gone through a really tough time?

Last year, I went through the hardest time of my life. I felt that I will not make it through. I cried myself to sleep almost every night. I cried through all my studying. Every day I dragged myself to classes. I slowly and gradually picked myself up. Things got better and finally, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Here are some things that you can do when you fall down:

  1. Read self-help books and apply the things you learn
  2. Listen to uplifiting songs that encourage you
  3. Get support from your family members and close friends
  4. Play inspiring songs on musical instruments
  5. Write about your struggles in a blog or journal
  6. Talk to a counsellor
  7. Have faith that you will make it through

Good came out of what seemed bad. Because of all I went through, I grew a lot and knew what I wanted to do in the future -become a Marriage and Family counselor. This led me to try new things. If it were not for those difficult times, I would not be writing this blog post today.

Here’s a song that I hope will encourage you:

What Faith Can Do by Kutless

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What are some things you do to pick yourself up?

Healthy Relationships: One Life to Love Other Lives

“Hey!! How are you? ” is a question many of us ask and respond to several times everyday.

The response to this question could be “Good, how are you?” However, it is common for students to say “Good…just feeling tired. Been rather busy with work, volunteering, midterms and assignments.”

As students juggling multiple things everyday, we may be overwhelmed with the list of things-to-do and the various difficulties that could come our way. Not surprisingly, I was so caught up with my studies to the point in which I forgot to treasure the gift of life.

Recently, I was reminded of life’s  fragility when I heard about the news of my friend losing her loved one. Suddenly, my worries about midterms seemed small in comparison to the bigger picture of what matters the most – life.

I was deeply moved and wrote a letter of appreciation to my boyfriend, telling him how grateful I am that he is still alive and well!  Take a moment to ponder about your life and the life of your loved ones.

Decide anew everyday to:

You only get one life to love.  So take this chance today.


One Life to Love Official Music Video by 33 Miles

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