Culture News

Cabane à sucre comes to Concordia

Annual sugar shack celebration brings a slice of culture (and pudding chômeur!) to staff and students.

On Wednesday, April 10, Concordia Hospitality hosted a sugar shack-inspired lunch in the EV junction, bringing the yearly spring celebration back to campus after COVID restrictions had put it on pause. Profits from tickets sold went towards the Emergency Meal Plan Program, a service run by Concordia Hospitality that provides students in need with meal cards to students. 

Tables were arranged around the ground floor of the atrium and attendees enjoyed a selection of traditional Quebec cuisine while Québécois folk music was played on loudspeakers. Meat- and plant-based options were made available to attendees, including tourtière—a meat pie—, ham, pea soup, along with maple-centric pudding chômeur, maple pie and pancakes with maple syrup.

Shortly after the event began, a maple taffy station was set up where attendees were able to roll their own maple taffy with direction from a staff member.

“We like doing the sugar shack because it is very Québécois, and we have lots of students coming who’ve never had taffy before, who don’t know the different food we’re eating,” said Sarah Caille, director of Concordia Hospitality. Explaining the significance of the event, she elaborated.

“First of all, it was an opportunity to bring the community back together [after pandemic restrictions were lifted]. And then at the same time it worked to raise some money towards the Emergency Meal Plan Program,” she said.

The sugar shack celebrations are an integral part of Quebec and eastern Canadian culture, and the event had many students excited about the nostalgic nature of maple taffy, also known as tire d’érable.

“This year I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go to a cabane à sucre, so when I saw this here I was so happy to have this,” said second-year Computer Engineering student Yasmine Abdallah, referring to the syrupy candy on a stick in her hands. Born in Morocco but raised in Montreal, she considers it an important part of Canadian culture. 

“I feel like you just think of maple syrup when you think of Canada,” she elaborated.

This was echoed by final-year Classics student Luca Baldassare. “I was just passing by, got out of the metro and saw some tire [à l’érable] and was like: ‘What am I doing right now, not getting tire?’ It’s honestly that simple,” he said.

It hadn’t happened since COVID and we really wanted to bring the community together again. First of all, it was an opportunity to bring the community back together. And then at the same time to raise some money towards the Emergency Meal Plan Program which is a program our department organizes where we collect funds to be able to give meal cards to students.

Tickets to the event themselves were also distributed to students through the Concordia Student Union (CSU), Campus Health and Wellness, Recreation and Athletics, and the Concordia University Student Parents Centre. 

Caille spoke to the inclusiveness of the event. “It really is a whole community. It’s for students, for staff, for faculty, we even have a couple retirees coming,” she said.

Arts and Culture Community

Fantasy isn’t just for geeks

Book Review: A Curse for True Love.

A Curse for True Love by Stephanie Garber is the last book of the trilogy, Once Upon a Broken Heart, rich in magic and fairytale elements that awakens your inner child. It is part of the many fantasy novels and series that have gained immense popularity recently. 

According to a recent study, 85.6 percent of participants who read gravitate toward fantasy or science fiction, which could explain why fantasy has been gaining massive popularity. Concordia master’s student Dimana Radoeva in the Individualized Program (INDI) and English professor Stephen Yeagen share their extensive fantasy knowledge and dive deep into its structure, role and impact. 

A Curse for True Love was published on Oct. 24, 2023, and concludes the trilogy. The story revolves around Evangeline Fox who is searching for her true love in the Magnificent North. She seems to have finally found it, yet she doesn’t remember much since she woke up in Prince Apollo’s arms, her supposed husband. Evangeline is trying to find out more about her missing memories but Apollo is adamant about keeping her in the dark and to ensure it stays that way, he must kill the series’ beloved character Jacks, the Prince of Hearts. 

The final book started quite slowly since Evangeline was lost trying to remember who she was and what her life had been like before. However, as she discovers the truth and recovers her memories little by little, the pace picks up. I was expecting more plot twists and more drama, and I also believe that the ending seemed too easy. However, it fits into the fairytale concept (spoiler alert!) because it all ends perfectly well; the villain gets his bad ending and the protagonist gets her happily ever after

According to Radoeva, “[fantasy] is inherently a medium that people believe is unrelatable but the core of that is untrue,” since it focuses on human experience and emotions as well as giving life to our biggest desire. Another misconception both pointed out is escapism through fantasy—the belief that reading fantasy is ignoring what is going on in the role is untrue. 

The reality, Radoeva said, is that fantasy “has helped to be more engaged in social and political,” since it draws inspiration from real social and political issues. A Curse for True Love makes you think how dangerous love can make someone and how far some will go to get what they want. Evangeline choices are taken away from her when Apollo erases her memories because he knows she is in love with Jacks. Apollo’s actions opens the door for further discuss on its ethicality which is what Yeagen believes to be fantasy’s strength; it has the effect of making people argue and discuss it time and again.

Yeagen explained that fantasy is a broad genre, so its structure and purpose are not one-size-fits-all and vary from one fantasy novel to the next. He also said that, “fantasy is the scientific technology that is being considered as history.” In other words, it is the historical version of science fiction, it bases itself on history rather than science. Most of the time, fantasy novels draw inspiration from the Middle Ages or other periods for things such as fashion, food, hairstyle and more. 

Additionally, Yeagen said the plot structure that is the most recognized and popular is the hero going on a quest with a goal in mind, such as retreating a magical object or even some sort of power which is the structure in A Curse for True Love. Though, Evangeline is searching not for any literal object but for her memories and her true love. However, Yeagan said fantasy is very a vast genre and this is only one of the many plot structures in fantasy. 

A Curse for True Love contains a common trope: the morally grey character. Yeagen said that, “Morally grey characters are good characterization,” adding that a well-written character is not black or white but is always grey somehow. In Jacks, (spoiler alert!) one of the love interest, is the perfect example of a morally grey character. His goals are to open the Valory and find his one true love and he seems to only care for what would benefit him. However, while he might seem to be cold and selfish, he does care just not in a traditional way. 

Garber kept the traditional aspect of a fairytale with a villain and a love interest, she doesn’t stick to the one-dimensional characters but instead layers them to add depth and complexity. She also confuses readers by hiding the villain in a charming suit and radiant smile.

What I found very interesting is this story’s fantasy elements, especially in world-building. The Magnificent North is a place filled with magical food, clothes, and objects, as well as curses, ballads that come true, enchantments, happily ever afters and a moral lesson. The whole place is perfectly perfect, like a Hallmark movie with snow that never melts and pastry that never perishes. 

Yeager said : “[world-building] should always further the story that you’re telling.”

Garber also wrote another series prior to Once Upon a Broken Heart called Caraval. It is set in the same world, but before the events of Once Upon a Broken Heart. In Caraval, the Prince of Hearts serves as an important side character and we get to discover more about his curse and story. 


Concordia on 64 squares

Learning about life through chess.

Among all the comings and goings to the Hall building’s seventh floor is a group of students all connected by the same passion for chess. Twice a week, a little over a dozen students from the Concordia Chess Club get together to play games, socialize, and get away from the stresses of university life.

Monday and Thursday afternoons are chess time for regular and the less regular chess players of all levels. Even I, with my (very) little experience in chess, was welcomed with open arms, and offered to play with other beginner players. 

Shoshana Wasserma is an executive committee member of the Concordia Chess Club. For her, chess is not only a game, but also a place to relax and forget about the stresses of life. “One of the biggest reasons I started playing chess was because I wanted a distraction from interpersonal struggles,” Wasserman said. “And I was like, man, chess is the perfect thing to throw myself into, because it can be very consuming and it can take up a lot of your mental energy.” 

Calculations, thinking and creating plans in chess are all transferable skills, according to Wasserman. And this, she noted, “helps just keep [her] life a little more organized.”

Sara Salehi is a member who joined the club last fall, and she likes how it gives her the opportunity to meet with friends and catch a break. “We’re fun. We make the environment fun,” she said. 

Whether you are a complete beginner (like me), or a very experienced player ready to take on Dario Martinez, the captain of Concordia’s team at the 2024 Canadian University Chess Championships, you can find someone at your level to play and have fun with. 

“I think it’s a really good opportunity to practise failure in a safe space,” Wasserman said. “Because with chess, there is so much responsibility and accountability put on you as a player that, like when you blunder a piece, when something goes wrong, you know that’s on you, but you are doing it in a contained environment. So you have the opportunity to practice failure and do that in a way where you can still learn from your mistakes.”

The Concordia Chess Club regularly posts information on their Instagram and Facebook pages. However, they also welcome people who simply want to come and play chess, no matter their level.

“Come join, tell us you’re a beginner and that you haven’t played that much,” Wasserman said. “And usually what we can do is we can pair you up with other people who are also just starting out.”

Arts and Culture

SpokenWeb lab’s Poetry in Memory project harnesses creativity and recollection

Dr. Jason Camlot’s team captures the essence of verse recitals, weaving creativity and nostalgia into every recording.

The brain works in mysterious ways. It will sometimes get rid of crucial information, such as important notions for a test, but will vividly retain details about an ordinary day that took place a decade ago. Poems, lullabies and nursery rhymes seem to be a part of this second category—the brain likes to store them somewhere safe, and though you may not give these verses a thought for a long time, they will still be there, intact, in case you ever summon them. This phenomenon is what the team from the SpokenWeb lab dissects in its Poetry in Memory project. 

The team set up a pop-up booth in the CJ building atrium on March 25 to gain some visibility and publicize their project, as well as to collect data. The project consists in interacting with people in various locations and getting them to recite a poem, a nursery rhyme or any other type of verses purely out of memory. The SpokenWeb team records these people’s songs or poems on authentic tape recorders from the mid-20th century, or “vintage reel-to-reel devices,”  and then digitizes the product to preserve it. The team also makes sure to record the story behind how the participants learned the poems they recite.  Since the team moves around a lot and meets people from various backgrounds, the recordings include recitals in many different languages.

Dr. Jason Camlot is the Principal Investigator  and director of the Concordia University SpokenWeb team and is also the mind behind the Poetry in Memory project. He works closely with Isabelle Devi Poirier, undergraduate student, and Ariella Ruby, MA student, who were both present at the pop-up booth on March 25. 

This project has been in the making since before the pandemic, and so far, Camlot’s team has amassed about 24 hours worth of recordings.

The SpokenWeb lab rallies scholar teams from all over North America who specialize in “the preservation of sonic artifacts,” meaning that they study and create projects based on recordings that have historical value. Camlot and his team set up booths in different locations and engage with people who are interested in their installation. They are hard to miss, owing to the authentic Sony tape recorder from 1959 that sits on their table. 

“The portable reel to reel is one of a few we have in the lab for on-site projects,” explained Camlot. “It is a solid state portable recorded from 1959 by Sony. This kind of machine would have been affordable to people for everyday use, and is the kind of recorder that would have been brought to poetry readings to record them in the 1960.”

The Poetry in Memory  project will soon become available to the public. “Some of this audio will be used by Prof. Camlot to produce a podcast on the memorized poem for the SpokenWeb podcast series,” said Ruby, “and all the audio will eventually be integrated into an audio exhibition that is planned for 2025.”

Arts and Culture

Poetry Spotlight: Jessica Wood

I Know I Need to Move Out

I had wanted you for such a long time. 

Could have been perfect, me and you, alone. 

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

My clothes in your closet, hung in a line, 

the very first day that I called you “home” 

I had wanted you for such a long time. 

So how could you let my clothes, in your confines,

be eaten by the mold your dampness had grown?

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

I tried to convince myself we could be fine, 

made excuses to my mom on the phone.

I had wanted you for such a long time. 

I wish that I would have known when I signed 

your lease that you would wear me to the bone. 

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

I thought living alone would be divine.

All you had to do was be my new home.

I had wanted you for such a long time.

Don’t you know you were supposed to be mine?

Arts and Culture

An interview with Heather O’Neill

The celebrated novelist sat down with our Editor-in-Chief to discuss her published works and an upcoming novel. 

Montreal is ripe with celebrated authors, like Leonard Cohen, Mordecai Richler, and Heather O’Neill. On a sunny Tuesday morning in March, following a win on the Canada Reads game show, O’Neill met up with The Concordian to discuss her literary journey. 

The Concordian: Thank you again for sitting down with me. Let’s start by learning a little more about you.

Heather O’Neill: I was born here in Montreal and then my parents got a divorce. My mother took me to the American South, which is where she is originally from and I lived there with her for a while. After some years, she decided she didn’t want to be a mother anymore and sent me back to Montreal to live with my father.

TC: I’m so sorry to hear that. Through all that, when did you discover your passion for writing?

H.O.: I remember it started when I was in elementary school. I remember back when I was eight or nine, I got a journal for my birthday. I started journaling and I loved doing that. It was my favorite part of the day, getting back to my journal and describing my day. It was like the journal was the only person on my side. Afterward, in grade five, I had a teacher who was very excited about my writing. I remember she gave me this little folder and she told me to keep everything because she told me I’d be a great writer.

TC: I love that. Going into your young adult life, what was the first major inspiration for your first novel?

H.O.: Funny enough, I was in a workshop at Concordia. I wrote a short story with the characters that ended up in Lullabies for Little Criminals, Baby and Jules. I noticed that story in particular got a lot of attention and seemed to capture the attention of the readers. So I sent it to a magazine and it got published. After it got nominated for the Journey Prize, I told myself, “Okay, I have something here.”

TC: How do you feel now that your written works are now being studied in courses, like an English class that I took at Concordia?

H.O.: It’s funny because it’s just starting to hit me now, that sort of appraisal. As an artist, you don’t have a sense of the outside world. Now, turning 50 this year, I think I am slowly starting to see that impact. I have so many young women writers who have come up to me and told me that they have read my books.

TC: Which of your books do you find people come and talk to you about the most? 

H.O.: It’s hard to say, but Lullabies for Little Criminals has been around for the longest. I would say The Lonely Hearts Hotel has really struck a chord in people. 

TC: What would your advice be to young writers who are just starting out?

H.O.: I don’t know what exactly my advice would be because a novel is such a strange beast. I think people just get gripped by it and you can’t stop the writing until you finish it. It’s a lot like Narnia, you get into a novel and you don’t know how much time you’ll spend on it. When you finally finish that novel it could’ve been over a span of 10 years or even six months. The madness is real for sure.

TC: What does your writing process look like?

H.O.: I write in a very rough way, where I already have the idea of the novel in my head. It always changes as I go along. When I start the novel, I write the different scenes from different parts of the book to kind of get a feel of how it’s going to look. After that, I piece everything together into a legible book. Then I send it off to my editor and it goes back and forth four to five times.

TC: Do you currently have anything in the works?

H.O.: I have one coming out in September. This novel is my first that is not set in Montreal. It’s set in this little imaginary country and in this country, they base their entire identity on the arts. They have this incredible arts culture, but then they get occupied by another country. It’s sort of how occupying forces first destroy the artists.
Fans have been eagerly awaiting O’Neill’s next novel since her last release in 2022, When We Lost Our Heads. For updates on O’Neill’s newest creation, have a look at her Instagram account, which she shares with her daughter, @oneillreads.

Arts and Culture Student Life

Concordia Arts students collaborate to produce a brand-new exhibit out of a recycled one

The students of the special topics art course ARTT 399 get a hands-on learning experience about sustainability in art.

On Feb. 14, a group of 45 students brought their class to Concordia’s 4th Space to work collaboratively and display the making of their project to the public. They are making a book using materials they’ve recycled from a previous Public Art and Sustainability student exhibit at Place des Arts Aiguilleurs in Griffintown.

Straw sculptures, financed by the Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM), were erected near the Griffintown REM station in an original student exhibit produced by a cohort of students from multiple universities last summer. This transformation will culminate in a book of poetry and drawings in response to the original student exhibit, commemorating nature lost to city transformation in Griffintown.

Course Teaching Assistant Sabrina Rak said this process imbues the project with transformative power.

“This is really a metaphor, taking the actual straw from the other structure, boiling it with soda ash, and blending it to make paper pulp and making the basis of a book which is paper,” Rak explained.

Sabrina Rak and two students enjoy the messy process of their art over tarp floor lining at Concordia’s downtown campus. Photo by Julia Israel // The Concordian.

Studio Arts student Ramona Hallemans registered for this course to learn practical skills to work in the art industry once they graduate. The class works in collaborating teams on book design, communications, documentation, and grant writing. Hallemans describes this project as one with community collaboration as a central value. 

Ramona Hallemans pats down straw pulp to make book paper at Concordia’s downtown campus. Julia Israel // The Concordian.

The ARTT 399: The Artist as Multi-Hyphenate class will present the exhibit in Concordia’s Visual Arts Visuels (VAV) gallery from May 5 to 11. For updates, follow the course on Instagram at @45_passersby.

Arts Arts and Culture

Poetry Spotlight: Jessica Wood

Jessica Wood is a second-year student in creative writing at Concordia University. A writer her whole life, she particularly enjoys writing creative non-fiction, poetry, and autofiction.

Hopeful Romantic

it’s the arms in my heart reaching out to hug the unfamiliar shape of a new friend. 

it’s laughing so hard my “waterproof” mascara runs down my cheeks in the shape of joy.

it’s standing with a friend on a train platform, singing along to the busker playing Sweet Caroline. 

it’s a lipstick shade named Caroline! 

it’s nodding, listening, as my best friend speaks, as her thoughts cross her face. 

it’s learning that hope is a strength. poison is bitter, but so is medicine.

it’s reaching out to new people. 

it’s not reaching out to someone you thought you’d always need. 

                                                (I wish I had two hearts. 

                                                one for the good times I have had, 

                                                and one to keep in a box and only use on special occasions, 

                                                like the fancy soap I bought in Paris when I was fourteen 

                                                and only used for the first time last month. 

                                                one heart that stays safe from the wear and tear of everyday use,

                                                and one to run ragged.)

anyway, I don’t know what it is, but it’s nice. 

I’m a hopeful romantic!

Arts and Culture Photo Essay Student Life

Where I am Writing From

These are the desks I wrote my graduate thesis on.

​​Caro (Caroline) DeFrias is an emerging academic, artist, and curator currently based in Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang/Montréal. They are currently in the final stages of their graduate thesis in art history at Concordia University. Previously, they achieved a Combined Honours with Distinction from the University of King’s College in the historiography of science and technology and anthropology, with a certificate in art history and visual culture, and an unofficial minor in contemporary philosophy.

Their work, through a variety of mediums and forms, explores the embodied politics and poetics of queerness, anticolonial art histories and practices, and notions of inheritance and identity in relation to immigration and (re)settlement. As well, they maintain a critical interest in the construction of the gallery space, the politics and history of display practices, embodied and queer phenomenologies of encounter, and the ethics and pathos of the archive. 

Where I am Writing From, July 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, August 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, September 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, October 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, November 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, December 2023. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, January 2024. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Where I am Writing From, February 2024. Photo by Caro DeFrias.
Sports Wrestling

Past and present Stingers compete at the highest levels of wrestling

Concordia alumnus Alex Moore qualifies for the Paris Olympics, while two first-year Stingers pick up gold and silver medals at the U SPORTS Wrestling Championships.

Last week was an active one for Concordia Stingers and high performance wrestling. Concordia alumni Alexander Moore and Linda Morais competed in the Pan American Olympic Qualifiers held in Acapulco, Mexico between Feb 28 and March 1, while nine students competed in the U SPORTS Wrestling Championships at the University of Guelph on March 2. 

A total of 17 Canadians competed in the Pan American Qualifiers. As mentioned previously, three wrestlers competed out of the Montreal Wrestling Club, run by Victor and David Zilberman, the father-son tandem coaching the Concordia Stingers. 

Out of the three categories which included men’s Greco-Roman and men’s and women’s freestyle, five Canadians emerged victorious, the third-most behind the USA and Cuba who tied at six. They will be heading to Paris in July.

Linda Morais, who graduated from Concordia in 2016, competed at 62 kg in women’s freestyle and had a good run against Venezuelan competitor Soleymi Caraballo in her first matchup on Feb 29. Morais had scored nine points against Caraballo when she was pinned for a fall (VFA). Caraballo went on to beat Chilean Virginia Jiménez to secure a qualification spot alongside American Amit Elor. 

Unfortunately, the young Stone Lewis from Vanier College and the third Pan American participant from the Montreal Wrestling Club was defeated by Puerto Rico wrestler and University of North Carolina Tar Heel Sonny Santiago in the round of 16. 

Both Morais and Lewis have another chance to qualify for the Olympic Games at the World Olympic Games Qualifiers in Istanbul, Turkey, held May 9-12. 

Alex Moore, U SPORTS 2023 outstanding male competitor, gave it his all on March 1 and will be heading to the Olympics at 86 kg. He was happily surprised at his fortune of not needing to face Cuban Yurieski Torreblanca Queralta, who had been pinned by Anthony Valencia Gomez of Mexico. The Cuban and Montreal natives previously faced off in Argentina in 2023 for the Pan American Championship finals, and the former had won by superiority (VSU1).

On Friday, Moore was able to dominate against Argentinian Jorge Llano in his quarterfinals matchup, winning by superiority, 11-0. He faced Venezuelan Pedro Ceballos in the semifinals matchup, where he turned a takedown into a pin for the win.  

Moore had sustained various injuries in his recent career, including a torn ACL four years ago, a shoulder surgery, and a broken hand only seven weeks ago. “I always thought that I would make the Olympics, but to face all the adversity I have, to stick with it and now I’m going to the Olympics, I’m an Olympian! It is the greatest feeling in the world.” said Moore to Wrestling Canada. “

Coach David Zilberman accompanied Moore to Mexico, and is proud of the work he put in leading up to the tournament. “[Moore] worked extremely hard on his conditioning and really pushed the cardiovascular portion of it, which ultimately helped him win that match,” says the trainer. “He was in better shape than his opponents by far. He was proactive in finding solutions, so we were able to find different workouts for him to do.”

On Saturday, March 2, Concordia participated in the U SPORTS Wrestling Championships in Guelph, Ontario. Seventeen schools across Canada participated for the men’s and women’s freestyle categories. Concordia, showing its well-roundedness, placed 8th for both. Stingers men amassed a total of 20 points, while the women accumulated 25. Brock University, which placed first in both the men’s and women’s categories, collected 83 and 75 total points, respectively. 

Two Concordia competitors finished bearing hardware. In men’s, rookie Yann Heymug won the silver medal at 72 kg, while Jolie Brisco won gold at 62 kg in women’s. 

Heymug, a Saint-Césaire native, was able to defeat University of Calgary’s Shane Richards to move on to the final, conceding to Brock University’s Bobby Narwal. Impressive for his first semester with the Stingers. Jolie Brisco, also in her first semester, faced Olivia Lichti from McMaster University and prevailed. 

“Well, you know, [Brisco] is a talented athlete for sure, and she works really hard. She has a lot of experience, so that helps quite a bit,” says David Zilberman.  “And she’s just a fighter.” The coach commended her for winning the tournament so recently after recovering from shoulder surgery just a year ago.

 “With [Heymug]… he has the ability to win,” adds Ziberman. In my opinion, I think he could have won that tournament. They’re solid athletes, so it’s nice to see them do well.”

While the week in Acapulco proves that Concordia has a tremendous past, the Stingers’ performance in Guelph is a demonstration of a bright and dangerous future.


I’m 30 and still in school

Despite my anxiety of being an older undergraduate student, I’m grateful for my experiences.

When I finished high school at 17, I was excited to begin my CEGEP studies. I started at the same time as my fellow classmates and expected to graduate with many of them within two years. I never took a full course load, so I was already behind. I also kept changing my program every other semester, so I had more and more courses to complete before earning my degree. With all the changes, it took me six years to finish my degree.

By the time I started my bachelor’s degree at Concordia, most students from my high school class were already close to earning theirs or were already employed. I was 23 years old then, and I told myself that I wouldn’t take as long as I did in college to finish my undergraduate studies.

Seven years later, at 30 years old, I’m still an undergraduate student. Like in CEGEP, I’ve never taken a full course load. Due to ​​unexpected circumstances in my life, I dropped courses and took a few semesters off. Although I’m now close to finishing my degree, I still feel somewhat insecure that it’s taken me seven years. Seven years is the length of elementary school; it’s two years longer than high school and one year more than I spent in CEGEP. Suffice to say, I’m beyond excited to finish my degree.

When I’m in class, I can’t help but be reminded of my age. I don’t feel like my age until I see new and younger faces every semester. I can’t help but feel out of place.

Although I get insecure about my age, I try to focus on the positives: I didn’t give up on my education, no matter what obstacles were in my way. I’m fortunate to have an education. I enjoy what I’m studying. I’m proud that I’ve made it this far and that I’m close to finishing my bachelor’s degree. These reminders help ground me.

I also believe that everything happens for a reason and that we should trust the timing of our lives. Ideally, I would have liked to have finished my studies earlier, but I know that this wasn’t the path meant for me. 

As I grow up, I become more confident in the person I am and what I want to do with my life. It’s also helped me become a stronger student. I’m serious about doing well in my classes and I put in the work to succeed. If I didn’t enjoy a course during CEGEP, I would have immediately dropped it. In university, I’ve taken chances on courses and I’ve even surprised myself. I stick through the struggles because I’m reminded of my goals. I don’t know if I would have made these same decisions if I were younger.I’ve also met a few great people who I probably would not have ever known had I not followed this path. They’ve made my time in college and university worthwhile. 

So even though my age sometimes brings me discomfort, I’m not perturbed by it because I’ve had wonderful experiences that I would not have had otherwise. And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.


VA stands for Viciously Average

The Visual Arts building used to be a parking garage, and it shows.

If you’re not a student in fine arts, you might never have had the privilege of witnessing this fine institution. Allow me to paint you a picture: imagine a bland, grey-brown box filled with austere, harshly-lit studios. That about sums it up. 

The VA Building is located on René-Lévesque Boulevard., about a five-minute walk from the core of the downtown campus. Before the EV Building transitioned to hold a number of art facilities, the faculty of fine arts used to be concentrated in the VA. At one time, the building’s atmosphere was much more lively—there even used to be a student-run café called Café X, until it was closed in 2017. 

Thinking about this building’s missed potential reminds me of recurring thoughts I have about architecture and how under-utilized many spaces are. We spend so much of our lives indoors; I think these spaces should be as beautiful as possible. It’s especially ironic for an arts building to be so un-artistic. 

The exterior walls of the VA Building seem like the ideal candidates for colourful murals, but are instead blank and gray. This makes what they call a “brutalist” architecture even more foreboding and doesn’t exactly foretell an inspiring atmosphere. Imagine if students were tasked with the job of beautifying the building, and how inspiring it would be to walk into a giant work of art (to go create more art!).

The issues with the building are not just aesthetic, however. Numerous factors make learning an unpleasant or even inaccessible experience. There often seems to be issues with the toilets (especially on the third floor), and the water fountains have been ineffective almost all year (they’ve been replaced by water coolers, to be fair, but still). Don’t even get me started on heating—what began as an icebox has turned into a furnace, and these fluctuations seem to occur minute by minute. Rumour has it that the ceramics studios needed a space heater brought in to help with temperature regulation.

What’s more, the VA Building is often referred to as a food desert. Without any food options nearby, students have spent many evenings nourished only by vending machine cookies. (Yes, I should probably get better at meal prepping, but still—food should be cheap and accessible for students, especially given the brutal four-hour studio classes.)

Sometimes I imagine how wonderful the space could be. My utopian vision for the VA involves a brightened exterior, a revamped student café, and improved social spaces. Students do better work in better spaces, and art should be done in a place that evokes inspiration (and comfort!). 

In the meantime, things could always be worse. Actually, I lied—the vending machine was out of two-bite brownies the other day. We have truly hit rock bottom over at the arts building. From now on, every time I create a seriously mediocre painting, I’ll just blame it on this Viciously Average building.

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