Posted by: | 21st Jul, 2014

Ways to Build your Integrity

by Mohammad Askarian, extracted from

Resolving to adopt a lifestyle of integrity is a decision that will affect all aspects of your daily pursuits — your activities on a personal level as well as on behalf of your family and business. It all starts with the desire to take a self-inventory to discover needs you’re not currently fulfilling in your life and then deciding to take actions to change this.

First and foremost, this process involves declaring an intention that you follow through on with appropriate commitments and actions. Here are some suggested steps to set you on your way:

1. Make promises and keep them. A promise is the first part of a decision, a responsibility that you have chosen to take on. When you do not follow through on your promises, you have lost focus and may fail at fulfilling your responsibilities. Be sensible in maintaining and fulfilling your obligations in a timely manner.

Also remember that there is enough time for you devote moments for yourself and to spend occasions with family and loved ones. Enjoy life before overcommitting to tasks that take you away from how you would like to enjoy your life.

  1.  Be honest in all your communications. Exercising integrity in your communications means saying what you are going to do and then doing so. People understand that life is filled with challenges. When you provide honest communication to others about your obligations and why something can (or can’t) happen in the time frame promised, they will most likely understand. Try to not overcommit to please others. This will lead to a loss of integrity and failed relationships.

3. Keep yourself and your environment clean and organized. This begins with the recognition that you are the core of your business. It’s difficult to exercise influence in the other areas of your life if you don’t make the time every day to be self-aware of your environment.

Do the little things that you have been meaning to do for yourself. When is the last time that you made time to read a book? What happened to that project you started three years ago and never finished? What’s the fate of the one thing you’re passionate about but have been too busy to do while making a living?

Organize the clutter and clear your slate by getting rid of the things around you that detract from your focus. Look at the papers around your desk, mail on the table and tidy up (and discard) the extra things scattered in your home that you have always thought to rid yourself of.

4. Stay focused. Have you ever noticed when your personal care vanishes that everything around you starts to slip as well? Finding the balance in your life to maintain yourself, your household and your business is difficult. I have found that making lists and setting alarms on my phone or online calendar keep me on track even when the clock tries to get the best of me. Notifying people important to you (friends, family and colleagues) of your commitments will help keep you accountable.

5. Allow for the proper influences. To increase your integrity, surround yourself with people you admire. If you don’t feel you can engage personally with people of influence, read books or listen to motivational seminars to help raise your awareness in the right direction. What you feed your mind affects what you project outward. Your integrity in life is affected by your inputs.

The intention here is for you to build self-awareness but not for undue self-scrutiny or judgment. You don’t need to be perfect and it is OK to make mistakes. Commit to make decisions to set things right or just start over again. Decide to make these commitments in these small ways and you’ll find yourself improving your integrity and strengthening relationships.

Posted by: | 21st Jul, 2014

Vancouver Beaches

by Evan Elder

Summer is a great time to be a UBC resident! For the first time in months, the rainclouds peel away, the sun comes out, and Vancouver turns from an urban rainforest into the stunning coastal city that the brochures promised us.

Amidst the myriad events happening around town, sometimes the most appealing option is to head to the beach, soak in the water, and catch some rays. Luckily, Vancouver has no shortage of beautiful beaches to visit, and here are some of the finest:

Kitsilano Beach

Kits Beach is a large sandy beach with a great grass area. Kits Pool, a salt-water pool that is Canada’s longest, is on the west side of the beach, and there are seven free volleyball courts setup on the east side of the beach. There are also tennis courts, basketball courts, and a small playground. Additionally, the seawall is a popular route for runners and bikers.

English Bay Beach

English Bay is one of the most popular beaches in downtown Vancouver for watching the annual fireworks competition, The Celebration of Light. Like Kits Beach, English Bay has a large sandy beach, and a grass area. There are also two volleyball courts, kayak rentals, and a swimming raft with a water slide.

Spanish Banks Beach

Spanish Banks is one of the largest beaches in Vancouver, comprised of three sections: East, West, and the extension. The seawall that runs through Spanish Banks is fantastic for running, cycling, and appreciating the beautiful views of Vancouver and the surrounding mountains. Spanish Banks also has numerous volleyball courts, and barbeques are allowed as well.

Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach is a great beach for watersport lovers. The west side of the beach is reserved for windsurfers and sailors, while the east side of the beach is for swimmers. Adjacent to the beach is Jericho Park, a grassy field that is great for sports or a picnic. Jericho also has two volleyball courts, tennis courts, and a baseball diamond.

Wreck Beach

A UBC favourite, Wreck Beach, Canada’s first clothing-optional beach, stretches 7.8km from the Musqueam Reserve to Spanish Banks West. The 400 step trek down to the pristine beach ensures that every Wreck day is leg day, with the trail access being just off of Gate 6 in UBC. There is no official concession, but snacks and drinks can be purchased from Vendors Row – just make sure to bring cash!

Posted by: | 9th Jun, 2014

So You Think You Want to Travel…

by Linda Yang

Do you have an incurable case of wanderlust? Travelling and studying don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, more and more international learning opportunities are cropping up and many employers now see the value of these experiences and tend to prefer job applicants who have gone abroad. So what are some of your options as a UBC student?


Arguably the first thing many people think about when they are considering going abroad is to do an exchange. Exchange allows you to take courses for your degree that will transfer directly back to UBC and will count towards the completion of your program all while paying the same tuition you would in here in Vancouver. UBC has over 150 partner universities which span all six continents which gives you a wealth of destinations to choose from.

Group Study

Over the course of a couple of weeks, a UBC faculty member will take you and a group of other UBC students to a fabulous new locale and guide you through the completion of a UBC course that relates to your destination. Imagine, you could be learning about wine and tourism in Italy or about sustainability while scaling glaciers in Iceland.

International Service Learning

Spend a week or a month or a few months volunteering for a community partner and see how you can apply what you’re learning in class to the real world. Service Learning allows you to give back while gaining valuable skills and a better understanding of NGOs and living conditions in various parts of the world. You may even get course credit! Some current programs include community health, societal development and children’s rights advocacy in Kenya, Swaziland and Uganda and natural resource management in Costa Rica, Mexico and Bolivia.

Make your own adventure

If none of these programs pique your interest, don’t be afraid to do a little digging of your own to find your perfect program within or outside of UBC. Google is your best friend. Find universities or companies in your dream city and shoot them an email.

So go on. Travel far and travel wide. But don’t forget to come back and tell me all about it.

Posted by: | 26th May, 2014

Cooking Tips!

by Jenna Ostash

Hi There!

 Whether you’re new to suite-style living, or have been here for years, I’m sure most of you struggle with the ever-present dilemma, should I get off my butt and cook a meal, or should I go grab some quick food from somewhere? If you’re anything like me, when academics and other commitments start to pile up, the first thing to go is my eating habits. When I’m stressed I start to feel like I don’t have time to cook an entire meal and opt for a quick (unhealthy) bite from the Village, which can be hard on both the budget and the waistline.

 Here are a few tips that I’ve learned through experience (and through being raised by a thrifty mom!) on saving money and time by cooking smartly, it can’t hurt that the food is way healthier too!

 1. Use Your Freezer!

The freezer is an often under-utilized tool for keeping food on hand and saving money at the grocery store. It’s not just good for Ben & Jerry’s, but you can store most foods in it for a long time, including meats, veggies, as well as fully cooked meals.  If you live in a studio like I do, consider purchasing a “mini-freezer”. They cost around $200-$300 but they can save you a lot of time and money in the long run!

  1. Buy In Bulk!

Speaking of using your freezer, when you buy large quantities of (freezable) things, you can save a ton of money. Forget about those items that come in individual packets (single-portion chicken breasts anyone?) and do it yourself. Buy a lot and use freezer-safe baggies to make individual portions. I like to buy the massive packs of ground-beef ($12 for 2kg from Save-On) and weigh them into 1/3lb portions and freeze them flat.

  1. Plan Ahead!

On the weekends or when you have some more free time, it’s a good idea to plan your meals for the week. This means figuring out what you’re going to eat each day and buying all the ingredients you might need. It’s also a good idea to try to make any “large-batch” items like quinoa salad etc. on the weekend then you can eat the left-overs all week. Plan to eat these leftovers especially on the days you know you’re going to be very busy. If you know that you have a meal planned for each day, it makes you much less likely to pop out to McDonald’s for a Big Mac.

  1. Make Big Batches!

One of my favourite tips for cooking at home more is to make big batches of some staple meals and freezing them in individual portions. Some of my favourites include pasta sauce cooked with lots of veggies and spices , homemade chili, pulled pork (you can even freeze buns!), and homemade chicken soup. On those days when you have no motivation to cook, it’s nice to be able to pull out and thaw some yummy homemade pasta sauce and boil some noodles or have a bowl of delicious homemade soup. Another low-prep big-batch option is to invest in a slow cooker. You can just throw the ingredients in, turn it on, leave for the day, and come back to a delicious meal – I like to do my pulled pork in there.

 If you’re interested in any of the recipes I’ve mentioned here, feel free to email me at and I’d be happy to send them your way!

 Happy studying and happy cooking!

Posted by: | 26th May, 2014

So You Want to Play Guitar..

by Jan Bartolome

I have been playing the guitar for 7 years now and I am still continuing to learn new things. There is a pretty large hump that all beginner guitar players go through before they can really start playing well. In my case, this hump took a year to get over. After that year however, I could learn songs within a few hours and have it memorized that very same day. Not only did I learn guitar, I also learned how to sing while playing.

So how did I learn to play? One word. YouTube.

There are so many beginner guides available on the Internet. YouTube has videos that you can follow and you can see how the other person is doing it. You can also learn at your own pace and you have the power to pause and replay videos. Of course, YouTube wasn’t my only teacher. I had a number of friends who were very into playing the guitar who taught me a few tips and tricks.

I started out learning chords and getting used to the weird position my left hand would get into. After mastering the positions of four chords (G, Em, C, and D) I started to learn how to strum. I started out with single strums for each chord and then progressed into two strums and then a steady four beat strum per chord. This was where YouTube came in handy because I would watch videos on different strumming patterns and how to do them.

From there, it was just a matter of dedicating a few hours every week to learning a song and I eventually got over the hump. Now, nothing relaxes me quite like playing the guitar and singing while lying on the grass or on the beach in the sun.

Here is a video that you can use if you’ve never picked up a guitar before!

I use this website to look for chords for different songs

Heads up for those who are interested… I will be running a program named “Jamming with Jan” this summer in Marine Drive Building 4 every month. I can teach you how to play guitar or the ukulele or we could just jam out if you already know how to play.

Jan Bartolome

Posted by: | 26th May, 2014

Summer Reading List

by Samantha Larsen

If you’re like me then you are delighted by the idea of having the liberty to read anything you want this summer – gone are the days of assigned readings about the post-communism Baltic region, soil sciences or anatomy – unless these are the topics you choose to explore this summer… to each their own.

 Personally, I like to create a summer reading list for myself every year so that I can have the great pleasure of checking things off of a checklist (admit it, you love checklists too!)

I am going to share with you part of my summer reading list, in the hope that it inspires you to create your own, or maybe even take a few of my recommendations.

The Fault in Our Stars:



This is an incredible, tear jerking, and emotionally packed novel. Unlike most typical disease stories, this story follows Hazel and Augustus, two teenagers, and explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

“Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.”

For those of you who do not feel like picking up this novel, lucky for you it is premiering on the big screen on June 6th! Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort portray Hazel and Augustus respectively.

This is my #1 recommendation for everyone to read this summer.

A Long Way Gone:



This novel follows Beah through his daunting life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. This narrative is captivating and unlike any other of it’s kind that I have read.

“In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-six, tells a riveting story. At the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. Eventually released by the army and sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center, he struggled to regain his humanity and to reenter the world of civilians, who viewed him with fear and suspicion. This is, at last, a story of redemption and hope.”

Importantly, this piece gives a voice to violence, and gives a reader a new perspective on war. I read this book in 24 hours, it is truly enthralling.

A House in the Sky:



This is the memoire of Amanda Lindhout, a Calgarian, who only imagined a life of travel and adventure. She backpacked through incredible countries such as Laos, Bangladesh and India, but when she arrived in Somalia, she was abducted by masked men on the side of a road. She was held hostage for 460 days and this novel is the story of her horrors and her search for compassion.

“The dramatic and redemptive memoir of a woman whose curiosity led her to the world’s most beautiful and remote places, its most imperiled and perilous countries, and then into fifteen months of harrowing captivity—an exquisitely written story of courage, resilience, and grace.”

This much like the other books I have recommended is captivating beyond belief. You will not want to put this book down until you reach the final pages.

I hope you have gained some inspiration from this list, and realize that reading can be enjoyable after a tiring year of school. Grab a book, grab some sunscreen and head down to wreck beach and enjoy everything that Vancouver has to offer during the summer.

By: Skyler (Maple House Residence Advisor)

So you remember that time when you couldn’t decide what to do with this new person you are seeing? They are perceived to be bad for you – emotionally unstable, take days to text back, doesn’t really show how they feel about you, a wild card, someone you are absolutely unsure of. And as you contemplate your next course of action, you somehow always find yourself praying for someone who consistently puts you first, is never unavailable and will do everything you ask of them. But when a person like that shows up in your life, you almost always take them for granted, and your fantasies of the bad guy will re-emerge.

Why are humans like that? Why do we always go for what is bad for us? It’s like a drug that throws all rationality out of the window. We find ourselves going back to the bad guys over and over again. But are we programmed to be like this? Or are their underlying societal forces?

Turns out, it is in our nature that we like unpredictability. “A recent psychiatric study, which monitored subjects’ brains via MRI scans, found that when presented with rewards in an unpredictable pattern, people’s pleasure centers lit up far more than when the pattern was predictable. The greater joy was in the surprise. To come back to our issue, most people seek a stable, loving, desirable and supportive partner, but the uncontested reality of infidelity among married partners and the enduring attraction to “bad boys” bears out the study’s findings. Call it a conscious desire for “variety” or a subconscious jones for “unpredictability,” there is now a possible reason why human beings have a hard time resisting pleasure that is erratic — even when it goes against our self-interest or belief system. We’re just wired that way.”

There we go. It’s in our nature to play with fire and go for what we are unsure of. That being said, we can’t expect to fall back on these findings as an excuse for poor life decisions because we’re supposed to “use our conscious knowledge to override our unhealthy or undesirable impulses.”

What are your views on this, ’cause I wanna hear them.

Email me –

Posted by: | 17th Mar, 2014

Sonnet C20

by Tanjot Singh

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth of the ocean,

On my rough heart you are soothing lotion.

When your lights shine, they feel like the sun’s rays.

I love thy seats and thy comforting heat

That envelope me so entirely.

Thy tunes play in my mind eternally.

Your bus drivers, my soul they do complete.

I love thee like a raccoon does garbage.

For you in Marine, I will always wait.

Through junk yards thy parts I would salvage.

My nervousness for midterms you placate.

You make all other busses seem savage.

C20, you beauty, you are so great.

(Based on Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barret Browning)

Welcome back MD residents!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas break and is looking forward to another great year in 2014!

Every January, many of us resolve to better ourselves in some way. Some of us say that we need to travel more, read more books, use our smart phones less, drink less alcohol, or even try an extreme sport. Yes, you got it! We’re talking about New Year’s resolutions!

New Year’s resolutions are a bit like babies: They’re fun to make but extremely difficult to maintain!

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is losing those extra pounds. Try not to be discouraged if weight loss takes time. Effective, long-lasting weight loss involves not only diet and exercise, but changing your lifestyle. Choosing a realistic weight loss goal is just the first step in working towards your ideal weight. Since I love health promotion, we will focus on some of the most common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight.

1 – Not Having a Goal

Starting the year by saying “I need to lose weight” is not a goal, it’s a wish.

SMART is an acronym that will help you when setting your weight loss goal.

S – Specific:  You must identify exactly what you want to accomplish by stating the who, what, where,     when, and why.

M – Measurable: In order to track your progress, goals must be quantifiable.

A – Attainable: It is important to evaluate your situation and recognize which goals are realistic.

R – Relevant: Is this goal relevant to your life and to the “big picture”? Good questions to ask yourself are: does it seem worthwhile? Does this match my needs? Is now the right time for it?

T- Time Related: Every goal needs a date associated with it. A goal without a date is just a dream.


Write them down: This is critical. There is a huge power in writing your goals down even if you never develop an action plan. Also, it has been shown that by sharing your goals with others, it strongly improves your commitment, so make it public!

2 – Eating too little

One of the unhealthiest mistakes you can make when trying to lose weight is eating too little. A lot of people will assume that the less you eat, the faster you will lose weight. Although it’s a fact that you must consume fewer calories, you should still eat the recommended calorie intake for your lifestyle (your calorie range is based on how much exercise you are doing, gender, age, your current weight, etc). But if you’re not getting enough good calories, your metabolism will slow down and will therefore make it harder to lose weight. This is called “starvation mode” because your body thinks it is experiencing a famine, and begins holding onto every calorie you ingest, making weight loss much more difficult.

3 – Faster is Better

Another mistake dieters make is having unrealistic weight loss expectations and wanting to lose weight too quickly. A great diet and exercise program is set up to help you safely lose between one to three pounds per week. Studies show that individuals who rapidly lose weight are more likely to gain it back. So if you’ve lost a few pounds this month—excellent! Don’t discount that just because you see someone on T.V. losing 15 pounds in two weeks. Those that lose weight too quickly, may in fact be losing muscle mass as well, which isn’t the healthy way to go.

4 – Relying Just on Cardio

Although cardio is a great way to “burn calories”, it is not the only one. In fact, the best way to burn calories and lose weight is to find an activity that you really enjoy and that you won’t be bored after the first couple weeks. There are many other alternatives to live an active lifestyle.  It is also beneficial to do a variety of things throughout the program. For example, you can alternate a program with cardio days and weight training days. Maybe play a sport that you enjoy, go to a zumba class, or even to a yoga class. Always doing different things will help you stay motivated and work on the five components of fitness – cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, and body composition.

5 – Trusting Food Labels

Terms like healthy, low-fat, whole grain, all-natural, vegan, and organic are just some of the words that marketers put on their manufactured food products. They want to convince you that these foods are healthy and that it will lead to weight loss, but it’s not always true.

Instead, try to eat mostly label free foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, meat, and grain products. These might seem obvious healthy choices, but it can be very hard to change habits. Choose a plan that makes sense to you and follow it. It is usually recommended to have a diet consisting of about 50 – 60 % carbohydrates, 20 – 25 % proteins, and 20 – 25 % fats (unsaturated fats over saturated or transfats).


Hopefully these tips will help you avoid many of the common pitfalls dieters face and help you keep going with your weight loss new year’s resolution. Just remember that the combination of a healthy diet + exercise is the preferred approach to optimal weight loss.

Although I could keep on going forever, this blog post is becoming too lengthy. If you ever need help designing any type of fitness program, feel free to contact me. I would be happy to help you and guide you in the right direction.

To those that don’t need to burn those extra calories, I still hope to see you around the gym!

Remember: If you can’t find the time to live healthy now, you will soon need to find time for illness.



Posted by: | 17th Jan, 2014

Grad School

Hi there! It’s Winnie, here, your RA from MD1! Here’s the quick and dirty to Academese in grad school according to insiders (AKA grad students who cobbled together a book): a 3 part “play.”

Act 1: Learn to participate
Act 2: The mentor-mentee relationship
Act 3: Learning is situated (that is academese for coffee breaks matter)

Act 1

Learning to participate in grad school is difficult for … well, everyone. It’s not like a local/domestic student has it any easier than a international student; broadly speaking. We all need to re-learn how to participate in conversations and learn the lingo; we all try to covering up ignorance (i.e. what do I cite, what do these big words mean?!!). Read more about the imposter syndrome herehere, and here. But wait, it gets more complicated. When we move to a new grad program at a new school (barring those who never leave their undergrad institution and essentially spend 10+ years all in one place, those lucky dogs), we have to re-learn how to participate in the field’s sociopolitical networks (this is where going to conferences is really handy in trying to figure out who like who and who researches what). To add to that, you can also consider the faculty-student relationship, more on that in Act 2. In conclusion, learning to participate in the academic community is a continual process AKA one never reaches complete acculturation. However, in spite of all this, take heart! Do not be afraid to find your own voice, speak openly, and be honest about your limits. After all, we are all human!

Act 2

Surprise (or not?) Mentoring is a long term relationship (LTR), especially in grad school; in doctoral programs these mentor/mentee relationships can become 4+ year relationships! One great thing about having a mentor (i.e. someone whom you admire, or at least whose work you admire) is the opportunity to work on projects or research that you are both engaged in. From him/her, you can “pick up the tricks of the trade.” True, you might find your advisor intimidating, but do not be afraid to identify and NEGOTIATE (this is a very important word/concept) appropriate tasks (AKA if you are picking up their morning coffee and afternoon dry cleaning, big red bells should be going off. these tasks are not helping either of your academic progress). In the midst of negotiations, recognize that you have a lot to learn from your advisor and be flexible when they have you “suggestions” that might be hard to swallow; but also recognize they are not the be all and end all; advisors have specialties. As a grad student you are taking a few classes with a few experts, so you might have something to bring to the LTR too! Do note, some folks might expect their advisor to be all up in their personal lives – this may or may not be the case, but do NOT be offended if they do not know the name of your first pet goldfish.

Act 3

Grad school, the whole point of it really, is to be in a community of learning. One person simply cannot survive grad school on their own. To be sure, an identity crisis WILL happen in your first year and your self-image will be lowered due to an inability to perform up to standards (i.e. adjusting to English if it is a foreign language, adjusting to ACADEMESE, adjusting to culture (in every sense of this word). Sometimes, life will feel so isolating and you may think you lack goals or guidance. This is where a support networks is CRUCIAL. A support network can take many forms: an academic support network, study groups, your grad program’s administrator, more advanced [doctoral] students. But remember, grad school is a place for you to be an apprentice, you are learning the tools of the trade, not being spoon fed or given the answer. The ability to leverage and navigate and develop meaningful relationships in grad school is all part of the academic apprenticeship process. In the end, your parents and spouse, supervisor/advisor, and friends will play bigger roles than you’d like to imagine, but they matter, a lot. Don’t forget them.

As this holiday season drew to a close, I personally realize how these relationships have sustained me through some awkward life moments. Even though they only have a general vague idea of what I study, I am grateful for everything!

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