The importance of the snack cupboard…

…Even if you have an ingredients-only household.

When I was growing up, my mum would keep one of the cupboards in the kitchen pantry stocked with snacks. She would grab a bag of Goldfish for me for my after-school walks to piano lessons, or cheese and crackers before my five-hour ballet class. On the days I didn’t have an after-school activity, I’d be home by 3:17 p.m., and she and I would sit with our snacks and watch something on TV until she made dinner. 

My dad also frequented the snack pantry—like clockwork, he’d gleefully get his bowl of peanuts from the cupboard, sit with whichever PG Wodehouse book he was reading, and munch away. On the rare occasion my mum and I left chip crumbs at the bottom of the bag, he’d happily nosh on those. It took him a while to realize that he’d never get to eat the actual chips unless he had the day off work.

That being said, when I moved for university, it never occurred to me to have a snack cupboard—deep down, I knew that if I had snacks in my house, I would eat all of them in one sitting. Let’s be honest: it’s hard to not sneak a few too many chocolate chips out of the Chipits bag you got on sale at Provigo. 

The amount of times that I’ve been up late writing a history paper or reviewing English sonnets, and wished that the “snack-Saskia” had done the grocery shopping instead of the “healthy ingredients-Saskia” is more than I’d like to admit. I think the older I get, the more I embody my mum; I used to whine when she would wander up and down the snack isles, and now I do that exact same thing, except I don’t pick up the snacks because the “healthy ingredients-Saskia” thinks that she can make everything at home for cheaper (spoiler alert: I can’t). 

My parents, too,now lack a snack cupboard, much to my dad’s disappointment. Whenever I’m home, it’s a little disheartening to see him shuffle to the fridge to get a morose little glass of milk, sit sadly down with just that, and scroll through his Twitter (X) feed to chuckle at his horse-racing content. More than once, I’ve caught him hopefully poking around in the former snack cupboard, just to see if maybe my mum had replenished the snacks. 

The good news for him, though, is that whenever I’m home, my mum buys snacks—so maybe the underlying reason he likes it when I’m home is that he knows he’ll get snacks that last long after I leave. There’s suddenly a variety of granola bars, salted cashews galore, and the occasional bag of chips. Half the time, it’s me going to Costco with my mum and persuading her to, for pity’s sake, just buy her husband some snacks so he has something. His eyes truly light up when he sees the Costco snacks I manipulated my mum into buying—there is no greater love than between a man and his Kirkland chocolate granola bars.

As finals season rolls around, I think that it’s important to have a stash of snacks—as someone who has curated an ingredients household, it’s not fun to be peckish at night and going into my kitchen to see only raw ingredients bought earlier in the week. What am I going to do? Eat a raw potato with some soya sauce? Absolutely not. 

I am truly my own worst enemy in the snacks department.


The rollercoaster of being an international student

International students are thriving in the midst of adversity.

Montreal is known for being one of the best student cities in North America. With its beautiful diversity, universities in both English and French and a vibrant environment, students from around the world often decide to move to Canada. However, how far is reality from the outside picture? 

Many international students have struggled to secure affordable student housing while still in their country. Some got lucky and found a room in the on-campus student residence, but those on the waiting list who never got a spot had to quickly find an alternative before they arrived. With the rent increase, students are left with the option of either living in a neighborhood that requires over an hour of commute to class or squeezing in with strangers in a small apartment close to campus.

“It was very difficult to find a place to rent because many scammers on Facebook groups were advertising fake houses”, says Haeri Jang, an international student from South Korea. Students from abroad have been scapegoated for housing shortage for the longest time. 

Universities should be mindful of the international students’ residency before giving admissions to thousands. For example, Concordia University collaborated with three off-campus student residencies, YWCA, EVO and Campus1 MTL, to ensure that as many Concordia students as possible have a place to stay.

Another issue that international students face is the increase in tuition fees. The Quebec fees have increased by 3 per cent compared to 2022. International students are charged over thrice the fee Canadians and permanent residents pay per semester. The fees that international students pay consist of the Quebec rate, the international supplement and a 10 per cent international supplement. Concordia University offers scholarships and bursaries to help international students fund their studies. Students can also apply for scholarships funded by EduCanada through their website.

Having started my journey at Concordia University as an international student in 2019, I can confidently say that Concordia has given me all the tools I needed to navigate through the semester and my personal life. The service that has been the most beneficial to me is counseling. I have had eight consecutive sessions with one of the psychologists at Concordia to help me with social anxiety and I have learned many strategies to cope with anxious feelings.

I lived most of my life in Nigeria and Lebanon, and I remember constantly feeling agitated because I always thought my future was doomed. Ever since my move to Canada, the endless opportunities that have presented to myself have truly helped me truly pushed me out of my comfort zone. As a result, my confidence in social situations has improved tremendously.

The path of leaving your country of origin is complex, and it comes with many tears, losses, pain and sacrifices. In the long term, I firmly believe that it will be worth it because we are now given the opportunity to grow in ways we didn’t have back home. 

One of the main struggles that international students face when living in a bilingual city is being unable to communicate in French. This also raises the question of whether they are willing to work in Quebec after graduating since French is mandatory. 

Steven Ye, majoring in political science, says that he is currently learning French alone, and he has been getting some help from his French friends. Ye is presently applying to part-time jobs and hopes to get one in an anglophone area.

International students at Concordia have access to all services offered by the International Student Office (ISO) in the GM building downtown. Some of the services are getting legal advice, renewing CAQ and study permits, orientations and workshops on immigration. 

Aimee Becerril, a studio art student from Mexico, says that the ISO and the John Molson International Committee in John Molson have been the most helpful. The conference held by the JIC helped Becerril learn how to open a bank account, use the STM and gain money management tips, especially regarding grocery shopping.

Studying abroad sounds like a dream to many. The journey starts by feeling homesick, scared, and confused. Then, it continues with questioning our identity and sense of belonging. Finally, after years of going through a series of culture shock, language barriers, and evolving in a new environment, international students will later realize that they are stronger than they think and have what it takes to overcome any obstacle.

How to not kill your plants

A short guide for amateur plant enthusiasts

It’s always the same scenario: you wake up with an abnormal determination to reconnect with nature, or perhaps you’ve built up some motivation after hearing your friends getting excited by their new leafy friends — whatever it is, you decide that it’s finally time to bring home a few plants to take care of.

You read up countless mom blogs telling you how to care for your plants, scroll through “Top 20” lists telling you what fertilizer brands to get and avoid and the different types of soils you must get. After a trip to the store, where you get a couple of cute, small succulents, you set them up on your windowsill… Only to see them grow browner and sadder every week.

Having a collection of plants has become a really popular hobby recently. This isn’t so surprising, considering the many benefits of adding greenery to your home or work space, on top of the desire to bring the outdoors inside while we wait for this pandemic to allow us to leave our houses again.

But for those who have not been blessed with a green thumb, buying a new plant is more complicated than just going to the store, finding a nice looking one, and reading off the small care tag stuck in the soil. As a recovering serial plant killer myself, I thought I’d share some tips to help you one day build your own indoor forest.

Start small. Get one plant that you’ll be focusing your attention on for a little while until you’re certain you have the time and energy to dedicate to your plant friends. Remember, plants are alive, and although you can always go back to the store to buy more, you can save yourself the heartbreak, trouble, money, and negative environmental impact by testing out your ability to care for them before going all out.

Dracaenas and snake plants are pretty safe bets if you don’t have much time to care for or water your plants. They’re both also quite versatile when it comes to the amount of light they can tolerate.

Be realistic. Just like we have to accept that we need to donate that shirt that hasn’t been worn in months but could be useful “at some point,” we can’t pick our plants based on the level of devotion we think we could give it. In other words, don’t pick your leafy friend if it means you’ll have to adapt to its lifestyle and care needs, or at least not while you’re just beginning. Take it from me, someone who has killed more than one cactus thinking less water meant less maintenance, and then went on to forget to water them altogether.

If you’re the opposite and you tend to give your plants a little too much love, try going for a Chinese evergreen or a Boston fern — they won’t turn yellow when overwatered.

Assess your space. Be wary of where you place your pots. Don’t place a low-water plant in the bathroom, where it will be at the mercy of an overly humid and steamy environment. And if you’re not sure where to put that plant that needs “medium light,” you can do a shade test: wait until noon, when the sun is brightest, and stand around in your house. The more well-defined your shadow, the brighter the light in that area.

With time, you’ll find yourself looking into more advanced (and daunting) aspects of plant-owning, like soil drainage and water acidity. You’ll get there eventually, but just focus on keeping them alive for now.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab


Curfew poses a new challenge for student athletes

Stingers athletes are continuing to face obstacles during the pandemic

Despite not playing this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Concordia Stingers athletes are still doing the best they can to stay active. At first, things weren’t that bad, as they could still gather in small groups at the gym or the Stinger Dome, while respecting health measures such as maintaining a two-metre distance between athletes.

However, since the implementation of red zone restrictions last fall, things got more complicated. Stingers coaches started to use Zoom as their main way of communicating with their teams. Workouts were still done in groups, but virtually. The best those Stingers could do was perhaps go out for a run with a teammate, while ensuring both run at an acceptable distance from each other. Stingers athletes’ backyards and neighbourhoods weren’t necessarily the perfect places to train, but it was better than nothing.

Now, with the implementation of the curfew prohibiting people to go out from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., the Stingers have to find even more creative ways to stay active. With the winter semester now underway, it also makes it harder for them to go out and get some fresh air.

Women’s rugby team Head Coach Jocelyn Barrieau said it’s often hard to work out alone, especially if you’re living under certain conditions, like in an apartment, with people above and below your training place.

“Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux builds us training programs to do from home,” Barrieau said. “So far, we’ve tried to keep it up to the beat physically and mentally. We’re trying to create online events for our team in order to do that.”

Breton-Lebreux is the Stingers’ strength and conditioning coordinator. She has a key role for some members of the Stingers team, but generally helps all Stingers teams in terms of training. Her role has probably never been as important as it is now.

Men’s basketball team player Louis-Vincent Gauvin said things will probably be harder now with the curfew. He said that even when red zone restrictions started, going out for a run wasn’t necessarily fun.

“Training from home isn’t always motivating, especially compared to [being] with your teammates,” Gauvin said. “I know Concordia lends stationary bikes, so I asked for one and now I’m doing some at home, along with my other exercises.”

Gauvin said players are still very well surrounded despite not meeting in person. He said they have access to personalized training plans, and that things not related to workouts, such as mental health support, are included and taken seriously.

On the same idea, Barrieau said that the advice she would give to student athletes, and to people in general, is to take advantage of the minutes you have between tasks to go out, or at least free your mind.

When you have the chance to get outside, even if it’s just 30 minutes between classes, do it,” Barrieau said. “Sometimes just going out for a few minutes, and getting some fresh air, doing yoga or whatever, can help. We encourage our players to send a little message text to a teammate during the day. Something positive can really make a difference in a day, especially with school.”


Graphic by Arianna Siviria


The impacts of social media on training

Social media is changing the way athletes approach their training

The permeation of social media into mainstream culture over the years has produced innovative opportunities that are unique to the 21st century.

In sports, this notion was perhaps best epitomized at the turn of the decade when internet personality Jake Paul’s second professional boxing bout against former National Basketball Association (NBA) guard and three-time Slam Dunk champion Nate Robinson served as the co-main event, on a fight card headlined by boxing legends Roy Jones Jr. and Mike Tyson.

In September 2013, Paul gained attention and fame through posting videos on Vine, amassing over five million followers and two billion views on the app, which has since been discontinued. After Vine, Paul turned that fame into fortune by expanding his social media exposure across different internet platforms, and has since dabbled in acting, rapping, and boxing.

For better or worse, the influence and power that comes with social media fame is well documented. When it comes to fitness and health, however, social media has its merits and shortcomings that come hand-in-hand.

At its core, fitness models and online trainers will share their workouts and personal tips online to inspire their audiences. In doing so, influencers are also promoting their respective sports and encouraging others to follow them by accentuating their content for all skill levels. A multitude of people credit social media and its influencers as the catalyst to their unique and fruitful fitness experience.

The primary reason for social media’s evolution in society has always been its convenience. Not only is content and entertainment readily available, it is accessible at a moment’s notice, which bodes well for fitness enthusiasts. Inquiries about methodology, equipment, training routines, and more can be solved within minutes so long as one possesses a device with internet connection.

The fitness industry has wholly embraced social media as a powerful tool to advertise sports. In the past, aspiring athletes could attend training camps and classes that were incredibly insightful, but strictly scheduled, selective, and generally in-person. The concept exists today, but continues to struggle in catering to all demographics. Beginners who are genuinely passionate but self-conscious due to their skill level or body image, are most notably cast aside in these instances.

Nowadays, support groups can be accessed on social media for athletes of all expertise levels and circumstances. These online forums act as communities where members can share their experiences and feedback, post special stories, and make new friends.

Unlike a scheduled traditional class, workouts can typically be performed autonomously with resources and information being made available online. People are more willing than ever to experiment in activities well beyond their comfort zone with the removed fear of embarrassment and potential self-consciousness that comes with in-person gatherings.

However, information from social media must be absorbed with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, fitness influencers have a platform and audience that can overshadow the fact that they may not be professionals in their field. This often leads to the propagation of fitness guidelines that are largely subjective and misleading. A bodybuilder on Instagram might credit an overly extravagant exercise for developing his physique and claim it as an essential exercise for all beginners, but gloss over important intricacies that can make the activity dangerous if one is unaware.

In addition, while images and videos on these platforms are generally meant to inspire the masses, it can have an opposite effect on some individuals. Fitness on social media offers a constant comparison to others while the images conveyed are meticulously chosen in order to optimize appearance. As a result, most posts selectively highlight success and cast aside failure.

Anyone that has partaken in sports knows that failure is an important part of the process, but a beginner who is seeking approval and understanding may not realize that concept while browsing influencer feeds and subsequently lose enthusiasm for the sport.

The accessibility of online platforms can also negatively impact physical activity. The most efficient workouts are those in which the athlete is fully immersed in the activity and removed from distractions. When people take time out of a workout to update their socials or post online, it has an undesirable effect on the competence of the training regimen. Time that could be allocated to further improve technique, breathing, and mental fortitude is instead devoted to the web that adds up quickly over the course of a workout.

In short, social networks are captivating tools that are full of fitness resources. Understanding and avoiding the traps while being honest with oneself with regards to training will unlock the full potential of the modern-day encyclopedia.


Photo by Christine Beaudoin

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