Creativity & Inspiration

By Annie 

Vic Ones, the second semester of your first year is coming to a close. I know the temptation to waste away scrolling through memes and pulling all-nighters is a strong one, and I know that that reality may be unavoidable for a lot of you. But here is my final attempt at urging you to make the most of your time in Vic One.

First, I recommend re-reading the quotations from my Frosh Week blog post. Reflect on which quotations inspired you then, and which you have come to appreciate now.

Here are some quotations I hope will emphasize the importance of creativity and finding inspiration, even when work seems overwhelming, or when endings are in sight:

Look around you: I mean it. Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. I’m going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. It’s this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things. Neil Gaiman, Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done. Austin Kleon

No one is you and that is your power. Dave Grohl

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love – these are what we stay alive for. Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

Art must take reality by surprise. Françoise Sagan  

Maybe it won’t work out. But maybe seeing if it does will be the best adventure ever. Anonymous

A REMINDER: As you create things you love, you are creating yourself. Create things that make you better – not necessarily happier, but perhaps more open, more expressive, and impressed with yourself.

ANOTHER REMINDER: Not everything you create has to be perfect. I have dozens of Word documents filled with streams of consciousness and deplorable poetry. Even though my daily ramblings and attempts at being ~deep~ can be cringe-worthy, I always feel better when I’m creating. I find out something about myself, no matter what.

Thank you for a lovely year, Vic Ones. 🙂


Vic One Recommends

by Annie

End-of-year projects, exams and festivities approach, Vic Ones, and I know that it can feel like you’re preparing for the apocalypse. I also know that reading can feel like a chore.

Take time to read something for yourself, not school. Check out these Vic One community-approved reads:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

“Ishiguro is probably my favourite contemporary author and I highly recommend all of his books. Never Let Me Go is one of his better-known novels and it’s also my favourite! It’s quite sad but it’s also intensely beautiful and thought-provoking.”
– Recommended by Alex Southgate, Pearson Stream mentor

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

“The book follows four characters from various backgrounds who come together and form a bond in 1970s India. The writing is exquisite in its simplicity, the plot is gripping, and the characters will hang with readers long after they’ve finished the final pages.”
– Recommended by Amy Kalbun, Pearson Stream mentor

The Confessions by Augustine of Hippo

“This is an auto-biography from the fourth century CE occurring in North Africa. Augustine retells his sinful and unethical youth, then transitions to his discovery of Christianity, which he credits with saving him from his deplorable actions and instead urging him to spread God’s message. Whether Christian or not, this story promulgates a powerful lesson applicable to us today: regardless of your past decisions, what truly matters is how you learn form them in order to make better decisions in the present and ultimately future. There is always hope!”
– Recommended by Jeremy Rizzetto, Frye Stream mentor

Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück

Louise Glück’s poetry sparkles, ignites, and inspires. The simultaneous clarity and dreamlike quality of her writing astounds me and makes me want to be a better writer. These are poems you want to copy and paste all over your life. Faithful and Virtuous Night is a winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Poetry.
– Recommended by Annie Truuvert, Vic One Assistant

Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno is a fictional thriller. It tackles the debate of overpopulation through an exhilarating art history mystery. It also focuses on the issues and consequences scientific discoveries and theories come with. This novel has something for everyone!”
– Recommended by Denisa Popa, Vic One Assistant

Everything You Didn’t Learn In School by Rishi Sholanki

“Thinking about life after school? Do you feel that you have the practical knowledge necessary to navigate the complexities of the real world? Probably not, none of us do, sadly, and it takes years of trial and error to learn it all. Set yourself up for success with this helpful survival guide designed specifically for young adults ready to make their mark in the world. Topics include buying a car, filing your taxes, renting apartments, your rights as a tenant, understanding your pay statement and even buying a home. You’re probably tired of textbooks, but if there’s a book worth reading while you sip that cup of coffee, it’s this one.”
– Recommended by Lylah Khan, First-Year Liaison Officer

Top 3 Things to Do This Holiday Season

by Annie

Staying in Toronto for the holidays? Make sure you check out these *cool* events:

  1. Go skating at Nathan Philips Square or the Harbourfront Centre. At Nathan Philips, skate rentals are available 10am to 10pm, including holidays. The Natrel Rink at the Harbourfront Centre hosts free DJ skate nights on Saturdays, 8-11pm, December 17th to mid-February.
  2. Shop, eat and wander around the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District. Pretty lights, vendors, caroling, hot chocolate – what more could you ask for?
  3. Watch The National Ballet of Canada’s performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. I’ve watched this spectacular ballet almost every year during the holidays as part of a family tradition. This beautiful production will take you back to your childhood sense of wonder.

Looking for somewhere to eat besides Burwash? Try:

  1. Pi Co. Pizza at Bay and Bloor – Get a mini, self-designed pizza all to yourself. It’s quick, inexpensive, and stylish!
  2. Sushi Club at Bay and Charles – Cheap sushi with quick service, close to campus!
  3. Pai Northern Thai Kitchen at Adelaide and Duncan – This one’s a bit further away, but it’s worth the trek. The warm, buzzing atmosphere, twinkling lights and green curry served in a coconut (!!!) are to die for.

Have a fun, safe break, Vic Ones!

Keeping a First-Year Diary

by Annie

The phrase “Dear Diary” has always intimidated me. It reminds me of flipping through an old pink notebook, cringing at my fourth grade handwriting and excessive use of the words “BFFs” and “4ever.”

I picked up journaling again in my first year, and I’ve been thanking my past-self ever since for writing down moments I’ll never want to forget – details I can go over again with friends who were there with me, or stories I’ll want to tell my children.

Every time I’m feeling a little lost in my own head, I go back to my thoughts from that time period. Looking back never fails to ground me in a striking sense of nostalgia. I’m reminded of who I was and who I wanted to be.

If you aren’t already in the habit of journaling, my recommendation is to write at least once a week for thirty minutes. Pro tip: Never start off with the archaic and writer’s-block-inducing phrase “Dear Diary.”

Here are 10 journaling prompts for a rainy day:

  1. A list of people you met in first year, how you met them, and how your impressions have changed.
  2. Words you want to use more every day or in that novel you want to write.
  3. That re-occurring dream you have every now and then. Be a little self-indulgent in your analysis of what it means.
  4. A childhood memory you think about every day.
  5. Your favourite quotations. (My list helped me write the Frosh Week post!)
  6. That idea you have for a screenplay.
  7. Midnight attempts at poetry.
  8. Your goals for the year or the next four years.
  9. Everyday observations and details about people.
  10. Things you think people should pay more attention to.

How to (Not) Study for Midterms

By Annie

You flip your textbook open. Your colour-coded sticky notes sit neatly on your desk. Your uncapped pen hovers in mid-air, as you wait for genius to strike.

You pull out your phone – to check the time, of course – and figure you should see if @VicOneProgram recently posted a Snapstory.

Suddenly, two hours have passed, and you’re three years deep into your cousin’s friend’s sister’s Instagram.

Sound familiar?

It’s midterm season, Vic Ones, and you know what that means: your best procrastinating starts now! Knowing that you are all extremely capable and responsible students, I don’t want to give you study tips you’ve already heard and tried time and time again.

Instead, here are 10 things you can do for a study break instead of scrolling through social media.

  1. Play an instrument. There are piano rooms in the basement of Margad!
  2. Do your laundry – nothing like fresh sheets and pillowcases!
  3. Check out the Sid Smith poster sale during the week of October 10th.
  4. Call or FaceTime family members or friends from back home.
  5. Balance your student budget.
  6. Explore Yorkville, Kensington or campus.
  7. Decorate or clean your common room, if you have one.
  8. Work out (or start a dance party in your room or residence).
  9. Catch up with your roommate or neighbour.
  10. Draw or paint.

Good luck with your midterms and essays, and make sure you take care of yourself during this busy time.

Decisions, Decisions: Thinking Ahead to Avoid Stress

by Annie

I know, I know. You’ve JUST settled into your first-year routine and the last thing on your mind is what you’re going to do next year. But deadlines are approaching, so keep reading!

Want to go abroad?

Mark these deadlines down:

  • Deadline for Summer Research Exchange Programs: December 2, 2016
  • Deadline for Summer Exchanges – Round 1: January 13, 2017
  • Deadline for Summer Exchanges – Round 2: February 27, 2017
  • Deadline for Summer Exchanges – Round 3:  March 10, 2017
  • Nomination Decision Date – Round 2: April 7, 2017
  • Fall, Winter & Full year program deadline for all institutions: January 13, 2017 and February 27, 2017 (or earlier)

Important links:

International opportunities

Check your eligibility for an international exchange

Apply for an international exchange

Summer abroad – information for Summer 2017 by mid-December

Not going abroad? What about your living situation?

PRO TIP: PLAN AHEAD if you are considering renting an apartment or house instead of living in residence or commuting. Remember that most leases for apartments are for 12 months, and utilities and Wi-Fi are often separate costs from monthly rent.

In first year, I lived in Margaret Addison Hall residence, but I decided I wanted to make my own food during second year. I currently live close to campus in a two-bedroom apartment with two other girls, where one of my roommates lives in the living room. We started planning in February, toured apartments in March/April and signed our lease in May. Feel free to ask me about it in-person any time!

Helpful links to compare costs of living in residence, elsewhere and commuting:

Sample student annual budget

Estimated living and housing costs

Frosh Week: The First Chapter of Your First Year Experience

by Annie

“All right, let’s go around in a circle. Everyone say your name and one fact about yourself!”

Cue the existential crises.

Introductions can be overwhelming when you’re still figuring out who you are. Remember that everyone in first year feels the way you do – everyone is scared, and everyone is still trying to figure out what they’re doing (no matter how put-together and prepared they may seem).

The first few weeks of university are special. You can start fresh and introduce yourself to as many people as you want. Going up to random groups of people in the dining hall or at activities is normal, and very welcome. You may never have this opportunity again, so make sure you take advantage of it!

The following are some of my favourite inspirational quotations that relate to meeting new people, beginning a new chapter in your life, and simply being yourself. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to make the most of the first chapter of your university experience!

Scare the world: Be exactly who you say you are and tell the truth. Iain Cain Thomas

There’s a lot of unspoken pressure to keep liking the things you used to like and to keep dressing the way you’ve always dressed and to never question what you believe in, and basically “be yourself” has slowly morphed into “be what everyone knows you as,” but trust me when I say if you just give it up and simply make decisions and take actions based purely on what would make you happy, you’ll gain a very comforting sense of self peace. anonymous,

An amazing thing happens when you stop seeking approval and validation: You find it. People are naturally drawn like magnets to those who know who they are and cannot be shaken! Mandy Hale,Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

See the light in others, and treat them as if that is all you see. Wayne Dyer

Take wrong turns. Talk to strangers. Open unmarked doors. And if you see a group of people in a field, go find out what they are doing. Do things without always knowing how they’ll turn out. You’re curious and smart and bored, and all you see is the choice between working hard and slacking off. There are so many adventures that you miss because you’re waiting to think of a plan. To find them, look for tiny interesting choices. And remember that you are always making up the future as you go. Randall Munroe

Connect with people who remind you of what you truly are. Ralph Smart

Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all. Nathan W. Morris

Believe in anything. Believe in everything. Open every book and look around every corner. You’ll never look like this or move like this or think like this again. Enjoy it while it lasts or hate every second. But feel. Feel every damn thing.

For what it’s worth: It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over. Scott Fitzgerald 

See you soon, Vic Ones!


How to Manage Your Student Budget

by Annie

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So, it’s time to manage your own money. Panicking?

No need.

Before starting first year, I designed a spreadsheet to track my spending, and I’ve included my spreadsheet template here, ready for your download and usage.

  • Know what to expect in your bank account at the end of the year – planning jobs and rent for second year will be much easier if you know how much you actually spend.
  • Note that being financially responsible does not mean keeping every receipt in a drawer at your desk that you plan on “dealing with later.”

How to use the spreadsheet:

1) “BUDGET 2016-17” is a list of how much you INTEND to spend within each category.

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  • Visit the U of T website and ACORN to find out your meal plan budget this year.
  • Don’t forget about snacks and other groceries. Remember that you have Vic Dollars that you can use at Ned’s Café! For places to eat on campus/downtown check out this blog post.
  • The ‘Phone’ category will force you to keep a total bill charge in mind, preventing you from using extra data playing Pokémon Go.
  • Personal items can add up. The Shopper Drug Mart near Bloor and St. George has a 20% student discount on Thursdays if you show your T-card!
  • Learn about TTC prices here

2) Once you’ve entered in the amounts you wish to budget for each category, you can see the highlighted subtotal budget box. Enter any scholarship you received into the scholarship box. Your new total budget should appear.

3) The “REALITY” section is what you’ll be using throughout the year. At the end of each day, go through your receipts and enter the date and description of what you purchased, as well as the amounts you spent below the appropriate categories. The total will appear in column B. The total you spend under each category will appear above each category name. The total you’ve spent overall will appear in the highlighted B21 total box.

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Basically, as long as the SECOND highlighted number is of a LOWER value than the first, you’re good. If it’s getting close, you have to start being more careful of how you’re spending your money and where you’re spending a little too much.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 11.37.45 AM

4) To be extra careful, review your credit/bank card statement(s) at the end of each month and make sure that it matches up to your spreadsheet.

5) At the end of the year, compare your numbers. Where did you spend less/more than you thought you would? How can you adjust for next year? What type of job will you need and how many hours will you need to work to support your lifestyle? (And did you really need to spend that much at Starbucks???)


Good luck, Vic Ones!

A Vic Student’s Guide to Downtown Toronto

By Annie

Caffienate and Snack

Photo 2015-06-03, 6 29 32 PM

Caffiends in Old Vic
Victoria College’s very own free-trade coffee house with the friendliest baristas.

Aroma Café at Bay and Charles
Healthy salads, sandwiches and soups galore. (There are also cookies and pastries, don’t worry.) And yes, this is the place where they give you free chocolate with your coffee.

Dark Horse Espresso Bar near Osgoode Station
A refined, photogenic and relaxing space for coffee dates and light studying.


Rabba Fine Foods east of Bay on Charles (open 24/7)
Need some groceries at 2AM? No problem.

Wish Café at Yonge and Charles
When you feel like eating brunch in a hipster’s bright, beach-y garden house.

Over Easy on Bloor
Diner-style breakfasts in a bright atmosphere.

El Furniture Warehouse on Bloor
The five-dollar menu makes this a clear winner for ‘where do we eat’ group texts.

Fresh at Bloor and Spadina
Pressed juices and quality vegan food.


The Cat’s Eye in the Goldring Student Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetCentre
Look out for free food days and open-mic nights!

The Royal Ontario Museum
Free on Tuesdays for students! Just don’t forget your T-Card.

AGO Art Gallery of Ontario
Free on Wednesdays 6-9pm!

TIFF Bell Lightbox
Hosts the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival September 8-18. And don’t forget to check out the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival brought to you by young filmmakers later in the year .

Photo 2015-10-10, 10 49 34 AMDistillery District

Check out some knick-knack boutiques, sip on coffee from Balzac’s, grab some chocolate bars from SOMA, and gobble down tapas at El Catrin. The District also hosts the annual Christmas Market.

Kensington Market
Eclectic vintage shops, cute cafés and hip restaurants. Make sure to visit Wanda’s Pie in the Sky!

Yonge-Dundas Square
The Times Square of Toronto! The square hosts free movies and concerts year-round.

Queen St. West
Check out Black Market west of Osgoode Station for cheap vintage clothing and records.

Go down to Union station and explore the Toronto Photo 2015-08-11, 11 53 38 PMlakeshore while you munch on a BeaverTails food truck pastry.

Ripley’s Aquarium
Walk underneath sharks and take photos with jellyfish!


Fearing the Freshman Fifteen?

By Annie

Gaining weight in first year is normal. What’s important is to be healthy and happy with how you think, feel and move.

Where to work out


Hart House

With an indoor track, cardio room, basketball court and art-deco pool, Hart House Fitness Centre offers a low-key environment within beautiful, historic architecture. Interested in a fun fitness class? Hart House holds Zumba, dance, boot camp and Aqua-Fit classes year-round. Not sure if you’re ready to commit? No problem – check out the Drop-In Fitness schedule.

Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport

This is the newest fitness centre at U of T. The Goldring Centre offers a more recreational atmosphere with indoor courts and a fitness room overlooking Varsity Stadium.

The Athletic Centre

The AC offers a more traditional gym atmosphere within the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education. It includes the only Olympic-sized pool in downtown Toronto.

Making healthy choices at Burwash Dining Hall


Look and plan ahead.

Burwash Dining Hall has a three-week menu rotation. You can find the menus here. Knowing what’s offered in the dining hall before you walk in will prevent you from taking everything you walk by. TIP: Burwash makes amazing sandwiches at lunchtime – check out the sandwich menu before you load up your plate at the hot dish stations.

A nutritious diet will help you do and feel better.

Remember that food is fuel for your brain. Serving yourself balanced meals, including vegetables and protein, may not be second-nature yet, but get into the habit now. Your future stressed and/or studying self will thank you. 

The desserts will be there next time, too.

It’s up to you how you want to eat, and the newfound freedom can be exciting. Coming from a family that scheduled dessert on specific days of the week, I was elated when I found out I could have a Burwash cookie (or three) every day. And when I was done my cookie(s), I could head over to the ice cream counter. And after my ice cream, I could grab a gluten-free brownie to go…

It’s important to remember that Burwash will frequently serve desserts. Don’t grab everything sugary in sight. Space out your sweets, and keep in mind that the portions everyone else may decide are appropriate may not be appropriate for you. It’s easy to think that eating three cookies after dinner is okay when your friends do it too. Take time to step back and remember your attitudes toward food in high school. What worked for you and what didn’t?

Burwash pro-tip: You can ask the Burwash staff member at the front desk to check how many meals you have left on your account BEFORE you swipe your T card.