Keeping up with the chaos of being a student

Why the daunting task of saving up is almost impossible when you’re in school

Does anyone else feel as though the world is rigged against students? I’m referring to the financial pressures to keep up with the trends and behaviours which have been glorified by society. For example, as a student, you have to pay for your tuition, books, public transit, etc. This is just a small list of the necessities. You also have to consider the coffee it takes to survive these long days, the phone plans we all have to pay to stay in touch, and our basic needs such as clothing and so on. Honestly, the daunting list never ends.

Even a student who receives help from their parents will see the bills add up, and fast. Is it just me or is all of this one giant trap set up by the society we live in? How are we supposed to pay for all those basic necessities, while keeping up with the latest travel or fashion trends, let alone save anything? There is so much pressure to be living our lives to the fullest, yet if we do so, we end up broke with an uncertain future.

Another aspect that needs to be mentioned is that we are expected to achieve high levels of education with acceptable grades, but we’re also supposed to work and be productive members of society. On the surface, this is a good thing, since working allows us to gain experience, meet people, become responsible, etc. But the harsh truth is that not all university students have the time to work. Different programs have different schedules that aren’t flexible and make it difficult for some students to work consistently throughout the semester. Yet, the expectations and expenses are the same for all of us. How does that make sense?

The solution could be to make sure students are educated on when and how to spend money, and how to budget. However, if our parents don’t teach us how to save, the difference between bank accounts, and how to set them up, we’re already five steps behind. The banking system is overwhelming and intimidating to say the least, and anyone who isn’t taught how to move within it may be too scared to ask the questions needed to achieve success. Essentially, students who aren’t good with saving money might find themselves torn between wanting to pursue a desirable, luxurious lifestyle that’s promoted in society, versus aiming for a financially stable but ‘boring,’ life.

Where do we go from here? Do we live in the moment, travel and gain memories that last a lifetime? Or do we focus on our future and save for our first car and down payment? The truth is, it’s up to you, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to achieve a little bit of both. It seems the best solution is patience. Hold off for one more summer before going on that trip; skip those unbeatable sales for a few months and accept that this is the choice we all have to make at some point.

The pictures we see on social media of our acquaintances’ amazing travels don’t show how hard they worked or the debt they acquired from that trip. The amazing fashion influencers we try to keep up with don’t advertise the best places to get similar, cheaper alternatives, nor do they acknowledge the fleeting moment of a trend and how quickly it will be replaced.

While a certain lifestyle might seem easily accessible, there is often a lot more hard work involved than advertised. Attention must be given to the negative impacts of these trends.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Student Life

Tips on taking the dive into the dumpster

A discussion about the food industry through the dos and the don’ts of dumpster diving

When faced with the idea of diving into a dumpster to collect dinner, some may think ew. In our society, garbage is thought of as filthy. So, naturally, a stigma surrounds the dumpster diving practice. But think again.

On March 10, Concordia students Isabella Donati-Simmons and Aven Fisher organized a workshop to talk about the art of ‘diving.’

The workshop, coordinated by Les Échelles, a collective with a focus on a sharing lifestyle, explored the dos and don’ts of the practice, as well as the larger problem of food waste in Canada. The event gathered about 30 people, half of them already experienced divers.

“We are not experts. We are just avid dumpster divers,” Fisher said to start off the workshop.

The participants and organizers discussed major problems surrounding food waste in Canada and around the world. From consumer standards of food aesthetics to transportation and transnational agreements, to the lack of personal connection with food, participants discussed some of the reasons they felt food waste is such a big problem. “The food system is an extremely complex web. It is not just a straight line,” Fisher said.

In Canada, $31 billion worth of food is wasted each year, according to a 2014 report from Value Chain Management International, a global company aiming to improve the efficiency of food chains. This marks a 15 per cent increase from 2010. The same study shows that 47 per cent of this waste comes from individuals in their homes. “It makes you wonder why some are still starving or food insecure, especially the First Nations peoples,” Donati-Simmons said.

Fisher and Donati-Simmons went through “the dumpster rules.” According to the organizers, divers shouldn’t necessarily look at the best-before dates on unopened products and packages. They say it is more important to rely on smell and look instead.

Some products contaminated by mold are still edible. The U.S Department of Agriculture established a list of food which can still be eaten if moldy. This includes hard cheese, firm vegetables, and salami. Donati-Simmons recommends cutting about an inch around and under the mold.

Dumpster divers should equip themselves with a light, preferably a head lamp, gloves and reusable bags. The best places to dive are around small grocery stores or bakeries. The organizers also recommended paying attention to garbage day schedules and store owners’ garbage habits. Fisher also pointed out that it is important not to take more than you need, with respect to other divers.

While the practice is not illegal, it is illegal to trespass. “Most tenants are okay with it and will indicate where to look or even give you wastes, but don’t leave it messy,” Fisher said.

“The best thing is to be respectful [as divers],” Donati-Simmons added.

To clean food collected on a diving trip, a bath of water and vinegar or dish soap does the trick. It must be naturally air-dried before refrigeration to avoid spores during storage. The food can then be prepared or frozen after being dried. The most common uses of recollected food are in soups, jams, smoothies, kimchi or as dried fruit.

The workshop was followed by a diving initiation in the Plateau and a meal at Donati-Simmons’ and Fisher’s house with the recollected food.

“Dumpster diving is sharing, finding new uses, changing the waste culture and realising what our society does,” Donati-Simmons said.

Graphic by Thom Bell

Ar(t)chives Student Life

Selling textbooks without the hassle of the haggle

Three McGill graduates soon to launch a textbook-selling app for Concordia and McGill

As the new semester rolls in, so does a new textbook-exchanging app. Venndor, founded by recent McGill graduates Anthony Heinrich, Julien Marlatt and Tynan Davis, is a classifieds app with the goal of helping students buy and sell textbooks without the need for haggling or negotiating prices.

The beta app, also known as the first version of the app, has been live for two months at McGill.  This period permitted the founders to see how people were using the app and make any necessary changes before officially launching it at both McGill and Concordia. In the time of the beta launch, the app helped students sell textbooks, but also household items such as lamps and furniture. The app will officially launch for McGill and Concordia in mid-January.

The idea started over a year ago when co-founders Heinrich and Marlatt were frustrated because they were having trouble getting a good price for textbooks they wanted to sell. “People would just negotiate with you and haggle with you back and forth on Facebook postings. It was frustrating because it would lead to a lot of wasted of time and it wasn’t enjoyable,” said Heinrich. The app started as a business class subject. The teammates thought about a concept where the buyer offers a price without being given a starting price by the seller. They liked the idea of the final selling price being the middle ground between what the buyer offered and the price the seller initially had in mind. Heinrich gave the example of wanting to sell a phone for a minimum of $20. If the buyer offers $40 upfront, then the final selling price would be $30 if they were using the Venndor app.

This idea inspired the app’s name. Venndor comes from the term Venn diagram—a diagram of two circles overlapping to create a smaller ovalish shape in the middle of the two. The selling price of the textbook is therefore the middle ground, or the middle area of the Venn diagram.

Graphic by Florence Yee

The app includes a bookmark page that acts as a kind of ‘buy later’ section for undecided students. There is also an instant messaging page for buyers and sellers to correspond and arrange a meeting time and place. Instant messaging ensures that students don’t necessarily have to give any of their personal information to purchase textbooks.

In the fall of 2015, after Heinrich and his teammates got good feedback from their professor for their app idea in a class project, the students decided to enter the McGill Dobson Cup, McGill’s annual startup competition.

“We made it to the semi-finals. The judges weren’t really into it but we decided to go after the idea anyway,” said Heinrich. Then, the students got accepted into the 2016 McGill Summer X-1 Accelerator program, an intensive 10-week summer program that helps students create their startup ideas through training programs and seminars. “The entire thing was a huge learning experience,” said Heinrich.

Heinrich said this year’s focus will be observing how students use the app, in order to start planning any changes to the version of the app launching soon.

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