Six Tips for a successful Semester

Fear the semester no more!

The fall semester might be challenging, but with the tips below, you’ll be ready to conquer the semester.

You must first be mindful of what is expected of you in a course. Read the syllabus carefully to understand what you will learn and what your assignments look like. Write down all the due dates in a planner and organize your time accordingly.

Use the office hours on the syllabus to meet with your professor or TA. You can ask them as many questions as you want, and they will happily help you. The Student Success Center also offers a wide range of learning services that you can find on Concordia’s website. Countless workshops are crafted to help you better navigate your semester. 

Volunteering on campus is a rewarding experience that allows you to make connections and improve your confidence. Say you’re in journalism, you could join Concordia’s radio station, but if you are a JMSB student, you could be part of one of the committees at John Molson. Volunteering will allow you to get hands-on experience in your program of studies. You can find all student clubs on Concordia’s website under Student Life and find the best match for you. 

Regular physical activity can improve your memory, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boost your self-confidence. I find exercising to be a form of self-love, because you get to challenge yourself to push through, spend time alone and improve your overall well-being in the long term. In the EV building downtown, Le Gym offers both online and in-person fitness classes. If you are interested in martial arts, aerobics, dance or yoga, among others, now is your time to sign up!

Many students struggle to balance classes, social life, volunteering, working and paying bills. After a hectic day, you might feel a little overwhelmed and drained. It’s essential to spend time looking for a relaxation technique that helps soothe your anxiety. That could be mediating, breathing exercises, or practicing mindfulness. Sleep is another vital aspect—insufficient sleep can affect mood and intensify stress. It is recommended for adults in our age range to get at least seven hours of sleep. 

If you have concerns regarding your mental health and need professional help, Concordia offers counseling and psychological services. You can book an appointment online on Concordia’s website under Health & Wellness. 

The last thing you want to experience is going through all the course material a night before the due date. Find yourself a study space that will keep you motivated and focused. Concordia’s Webster Library, downtown, is open 24 hours. Make sure to be consistent and plan your study time. Also, turning your phone off for a while can be a game-changer. 

Have a successful semester!


Community Student Life

Gen Z, what’s happening to our desktops?!

Recent study shows nearly half of Gen Z gave up on filing their digital documents

I was stunned when Philippe Gingras, creative writing and scriptwriting student at Université de Montréal, opened his laptop in front of me. With a B&W Charlie Chaplin movie wallpaper and images like old-school typewriters to replace those boring file icons, the 25-year-old’s desktop looks like a cool vintage poster.

“I see so many people in class whose desktops are really messy, and it kind of disturbs me,” he said, adding that his own desktop reflects his passions and motivates him.

However, messy desktops are pretty common among Gen Z — those currently aged between 11 and 26. According to file encryption company Nordlocker, almost half of Gen Z respondents leave all their documents on their desktop without a home.

Concordia journalism student Alexa Toguri-Laurin said her old laptop was very messy. She recently got a new laptop and worked hard to organize it better than the last one. “It doesn’t look too messy on my screen, so it doesn’t cause me too much anxiety every time I open my computer.”

The study shows 45 per cent of Gen Z respondents simply use their search bar, or the lovely CTRL+F (or CMD+F for Apple users) to find files rather than look for them. 

While Toguri-Laurin agrees the search option on her computer comes in handy, it’s useless without a consistent labeling system for your files. For her, naming files strategically is much simpler and less chaotic. “There’s so much sensory overload with how messy my desktop was,” she said. “It was so overwhelming for me to scan through my entire desktop and fish out one particular document.”

Tips and tricks from fellow university students

The human brain requires order to focus better. According to a Harvard Business Review article,  messy spaces are mentally exhausting and affect your ability to concentrate. Sarah-Maude Dussault, school and adaptation student from Université de Sherbrooke, uses an iPad but organizes her files thoroughly in Notability. “I have attention deficit disorder (ADD), so if I don’t save it, it never existed in my head,” she laughed. 

So, how do we organize our desktops?

Language and linguistics student at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and journalist Rosie St-André shared some handy tips. She explained that she learned how to organize her computer by watching YouTube and TikTok videos. She said that watching creators like Julia K. Crist, her favourite on YouTube, organize their digital space motivated her to do the same. “It also helps you identify what kind of style you like,” she said.

After watching a few videos, St-André decided to make her own wallpaper on Canva, where she could design and colour-code her background as she pleased. She split it into three sections: school, work, and finances. She also added a motivational quote and some pretty pictures for the aesthetics.

Organization as motivation

“I feel like people get discouraged when it comes to studying because it’s so complicated to get set up for it,” said Gingras. “It isn’t hard to study, it’s just hard to sit down and do it.”

For him, having an organized desktop means sitting down and avoiding a 15-minute search for his documents. We know it – motivation comes in temporary bursts. We need to seize it while it’s there. “I love knowing that I won’t have to search for my documents every time I sit down to get some work done,” said St-André.

Although Toguri-Laurin admits her desktop isn’t your typical aesthetically pleasing desktop from Pinterest, she’s happy with her progress. “It’s an example of how much better I am at organizing my life and making things better for myself,” she said. “I’m really proud of myself for accomplishing that, because I don’t have to stress myself out like I did five years ago.”

Student Life

Let’s talk about trash baby!

“One day, I was browsing Reddit and I saw a lot of posts that were tagged #TrashTag; it was a picture of before and after of a trash cleanup,” said Lucas Hygate. “I saw that and was like ‘hey, I can do that.’ Then I thought I’ll do it way bigger and now it’s TrashTalk.”

Hygate, a 21-year-old philosophy student at Concordia, began TrashTalk Montreal, or TrashTalk for short, earlier this year. The idea started in February and has massively evolved from the stages that began in Hygate’s basement.

“Now, we’ve grown and evolved into a much larger, official organization that really tries to cater towards hosting these cleanups and inviting people to an event that is really something that we do, rather than just for helping the earth, the motivation is really to try to have some fun with it,” said Hygate.

Photo via @trashtalkmtl

The project came into fruition in April after floods devastated many communities in the West Island. Hygate recalls the intersection of Pierrefonds and Saint-John Boulevards was so flooded that it resembled a lake more than a street.

The organization is a non-profit that aims to pick up trash in public areas that’s been discarded and collecting for years – but why call it TrashTalk?

“One night I was telling my friend Sam about this idea, he was driving me home,” said Hygate. “Suddenly, he looks at me and goes ‘Lucas! I have the perfect name for you: TrashTalk’ and then it was TrashTalk.”

“We want to make sure it’s not just superficial talk, we actually want to turn that talk into action,” said Kayleigh Tooke. Tooke is the VP of communications for the Concordia club of the same name that was started on Oct. 7 to facilitate the non-profit’s activities, according to Hygate. She also works with the nonprofit by trying to connect to people to get involved with the organization. Also members of the nonprofit are Malcolm Adamson, Nicholas Tsibanolis and Nicolas Vyncke.

“Half of the name is Talk: more than just cleaning it up, it’s preventing it for the future,” said Angad Malhotra, a computer engineering student at Concordia. Malhotra is one of TrashTalk’s members, taking care of the visual design and marketing aspect. He and Hygate know each other from John Abbott College, where Concordia has a sister club, but it wasn’t until TrashTalk that the two became closer.

“I didn’t talk to Angad three years prior but I still had his number in my phone,” said  Hygate with a laugh. “We don’t remember why. And now we’re friends.”

Diego Rivera, the VP External in charge of event planning for TrashTalk Concordia, is also a philosophy student, which is how he met Hygate and decided to join the club. He spent time in Cambodia over the summer and heard about Tijmen Sissing, the Trashpacker who backpacked across Asia picking up trash.

“Out of that, I really wanted to start some kind of movement that, when I met Lucas, I was like ‘holy shit, this is perfect’,” said Rivera.

Photo via @trashtalkmtl

On the note of international trash cleanup, 18-year-old Joseph Poulin, who recently joined the club after meeting Tooke, was also inspired. During his trip to Kigali, Rwanda over the summer, townspeople would congregate every week or so and clean the community. Not only has the movement inspired him to join TrashTalk to pick up trash, it has also inspired him and those around him to create less trash.

Native to a small town near Quebec City, Poulin’s family owns a sugar shack. “We started a garden right next to it so that reduces our amount of trash,” said Poulin. “Instead of going to the grocery store and buying packages, we produce our own stuff, like fruits and vegetables.”

“On the first cleanup, it was me and my friend Nick,” said Hygate. “We were going out and we went to this place right next to this very popular commercial area. We looked at it and we started picking up. We cleaned for a solid half an hour or so, not too long, and we found a $10 bill – our first piece of good karma came out of the very first cleanup.”

Since its founding, TrashTalk has conducted approximately 15 cleanups in various areas throughout the West Island. Each cleanup takes approximately four to six hours and can yield massive amounts of trash. To plan a cleanup, they usually scout a few areas that potentially have lots of trash, choose one, then tell city councillors  they plan on conducting a cleanup. They’re well supported by the community in this respect: most of the cleanups attract local politicians, city district members, large groups of volunteers.

One of the places that they’ve worked on is Angell Woods in Beaconsfield. Their most successful cleanup at this location resulted in 1,275 pounds of trash collected – in a space no larger than a couple of hundred square feet. After the trash is picked up and sorted and divided, it’s usually brought to the edge of the location and sectioned off until city workers pick it up and properly dispose of the various types of trash. The boroughs also often offer gloves and garbage bags to facilitate cleanups which, as Hygate explains, is already a solid blueprint for successful trash removal.

“At all of our cleanups, we’re able to find some very interesting things,” said Hygate. With the interesting trash they find – tractor parts, decomposing cars and 50-year-old 7-Up cans with branding that no one recognizes anymore – they plan to create art pieces such as sculptures. The aim is giving passerbys an incentive to keep the space clean and to not litter in the first place.

“There’s a lot of layers that add up to why TrashTalk is a fun thing to do and a purposeful thing to do as well,” explained Hygate. “People need the opportunity to come out and engage with the environment in a whole, very productive manner where the impact is direct and you see it right in front of you. When you’re done a trash cleanup, what will happen is you’re going to turn around and the place you’ve just been slaving at for three or four hours, and you took out a thousand pounds with another 20 people, you look back and that place really does look cleaner and it really does have a great difference to it.”

For more information about TrashTalk, how you can participate or to donate, visit

Feature photo by Laurence B.D.


Better road planning through crowdsourcing

Concordia professor inventive app helps city of Montreal organize construction

This month, the city of Montreal is using an innovative smartphone app, called MTL Trajet, to track Montrealers’ trips through the city in an effort to better plan road networks, construction detours and bike paths.  

It’s the second time the city is running the project. Last fall, more than 11,000 Montreal residents downloaded the app.

MTL Trajet is a version of the Itinerum app, both developed by Zachary Patterson, a geography professor and director of the Transportation Research for Integrated Planning (TRIP) Lab at Concordia University. He developed the app in 2014 as a way to collect travel behaviour data around the Concordia community.

Patterson said the MTL Trajet project has the potential to serve as a new way to collect data that can be used to plan transportation networks. According to the Société de transport métropolitain (STM), their main source of transportation data is Origin Montreal—a phone survey that is conducted every five years.

“Young people are being left out of these surveys,” Patterson said. “[MTL Trajet] is a method by which you can hopefully have more detailed information on people’s trips and be able to capture segments of the population that are being less and less captured in these traditional surveys.”

According to Patterson, the project is one of the first of its kind. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority pioneered crowdsourced data collection in 2013 through the use of an app called Cycletracks. Cycletracks used GPS data collected by cyclists in San Francisco to help plan bike paths, but according to user reviews, it didn’t always map routes accurately.

“These cycling apps, in order to record your trips, you had to open the app and say you’re taking a bike trip,” Patterson said. “What’s different with what we do is that MTL Trajet automatically detects when you’re taking a trip.”

In 2015, Patterson was asked by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to use a version of the Itinerum app to map out bus routes in Accra, Ghana. Accra’s transportation network was a semi-formal network of buses called trotros, operated by independent contractors. Patterson said the inexpensive nature of the Itinerum app allowed them to accurately map out Accra’s public transit system.

What he and his team found was that many of the listed routes taken by the buses in Ghana weren’t actually in use at all.

Patterson cited battery life as one of biggest challenges in creating a data-mapping app.

“Our goal was to be able to collect data every block so we could identify people’s itineraries accurately but not change their [phone] charging schedule,” he said. “That was the hardest thing.”

Patterson sees a future for crowdsourcing apps like Itinerum and MTL Trajet as an easy-to-use and inexpensive tool for researchers. “My hope is that it will be available to be used not just by people who have a deep understanding of programming, but also by students,” he said.

The more people who use the MTL Trajet app, he said, the more useful and accurate the data will be.

MTL Trajet is available for download on the App Store or Google Play Store.

Exit mobile version