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Easier said than done: tips to handle stress

Burnout feels inevitable this time of year, as do tips to help avoid it—but do those “helpful tips” actually work?

It’s 4 a.m. and I’ve just finished my fourth cup of coffee. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—burnout season. Exams are somehow just around the corner, but you’ve barely recovered from the last exam season. You’re running on fumes and wondering where all the hours in a day go. Inevitably, you’re burnt out. 

And somehow, burnout really does seem inevitable. Harvard Business Review puts it well, saying that this exhaustion “can stem from the demands of an always-on, 24/7 organizational culture, intense time pressure, or simply having too much to do, especially when you lack control over your work, dislike it, or don’t have the necessary skills to accomplish it.” 

(Felt that.)

Our world seems to just be built this way. School prioritizes results over learning, and work prizes productivity over well-being. That realization begs the question: is there anything we can do about it? 

With the end of semester burnout comes a staple of the season: tips and tricks to handle the stress. The issue is that many of these tips are much easier said than done and don’t address the inherent issues within our education system, workforce, and productivity culture. 

To delve deeper, I considered common advice and asked students from various universities and CEGEPs for their thoughts on burnout to find out whether these so-called “helpful tips” are actually helpful at all, and to discover their own personal strategies to manage stress. 

Get more sleep? This is the one I struggle with the most. My roommate, on the other hand, has no trouble prioritizing her sleep schedule. “All-nighters are a scam,” said Georgia C. Leggett, a McGill anthropology student. “I found I did my lowest quality work late at night, so I started making sleep my main priority. It makes me feel better, I get more done, and I buy less concealer.” 

Eat healthy? Nobody prioritizes their health more than Francesca Foy, a McGill finance student who only knows two food groups during exam season: RedBull and Couche-Tard sandwiches. She claims it’s an absolute must for “the grind,” but she does notice a big difference when she makes the time to eat right. She enjoys meal prepping with friends as a social activity: “That way you’re having a good time but also being productive and doing something good for your health. Plus, I suck at cooking, so this is a sneaky way to let my friends do all the work.” 

Stay active? “The problem is that when you’re approaching burnout, every technique feels like a chore,” said Nicolas Lachapelle, who is studying engineering at UOttawa. He and burnout are good friends, so he tackles the issue by going on long stress walks. Personally, I’m a big fan of multi-tasking—listening to your lectures while going for a run, or even doing a reading on a stationary bike can help integrate some movement into your study grind. 

Make studying fun? You can usually find Dylan Badke-Ingerman in the Concordia library (though she’s a Dawson student), distracting me with gossip and suspicious Bulk Barn jelly beans. We’ve taken to hosting regular study sessions, and though we don’t get very much done, the study parties at least make us feel like we’re in it together. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, ” Badke said. “I actually get lots done when we study together.” Well, that makes one of us. 

Find what works for you! Ultimately, you need to find methods and tricks that make sense for who you are and the life you lead. I may never have a proper sleep schedule or a diet that isn’t 95 per cent stolen leftovers (sorry Georgia), but I do have floor naps and Bulk Barn. And when all else fails, I try to remember: school does matter, but not more than health and well-being. So even though I have three more assignments to finish, I think it’s time to call it a night. 

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News

Concordia students share their thoughts about being back on campus during the pandemic

Many Concordia students agree that a vaccine mandate would make them feel safer about going to campus.

Concordia students are officially back on campus for the first time in 18 months. While some students are more comfortable than others to return to in-person classes, there is a consensus about having everyone vaccinated to have a safer environment on campus.

The vaccine passport was implemented on Sept. 1 for all non-essential activities in Quebec — covering restaurants, bars, gyms, as well as music and sports venues. This means students will need to show proof of vaccination to eat at cafés and cafeterias on campus, and attend some events, such as sports games. However, no proof of vaccination is required to attend classes in any university, CEGEP, or school.

“The government doesn’t define education as non-essential, which is true. Education is an essential component,” said Dr. Simon Bacon, co-director of the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre.

Students are required to wear procedural masks at all times on campus, except outside when a one metre distance can be maintained, or in labs, meeting rooms and offices with proper ventilation, when people are two metres apart from others or if there is a physical barrier like plexiglass between them. Masks are also not required in eating areas or “spaces with activities requiring significant movement or interaction” (such as performance-based courses) when there is a two-metre distance between people. Professors are allowed to remove their masks in classrooms when students are seated and a distance of two metres between them is guaranteed.

Concordia has a mask mandate for students in classrooms, but physical distancing isn’t required. Dr. Bacon said that every measure that can be taken is an added layer of protection, and there’s a hierarchy.

“If you’re a hockey team, think of COVID as someone trying to score a goal on you,” Bacon said. “Your first line of defence is your goalie, the most effective way of stopping someone scoring a goal. So number one, get vaccinated. After your goalie, next thing is your defence. So what’s the best next thing? Masks. And then the third line of defence starts with the forwards. The chances the other team can score are lower. That is social distancing.”

This helps to break down why some Concordia students said they would feel safer if vaccines were mandatory for in-person classes.

Orisha Mitchell, a second-year student from Alberta, moved to Montreal a few weeks ago after doing a year of online learning at Concordia. She said she is looking forward to in-person classes and likes it more than remote learning.

Mitchell has two classes online, one hybrid class (where she has the option to choose between remote or in-person learning), and has yet to hear about her fourth class.

“I think it’s understandable to have some classes, like lectures, be online, especially for international students or students with health issues,” Mitchell said.

“But, personally, I’m very comfortable in person because I came here from a province with virtually no protective mandates,” Mitchell said. “I’m fully vaccinated, I think anyone who can get vaccinated should be, but, it’s a rough legal area for schools to mandate, so I understand why Concordia maybe hasn’t done that yet.”

Laurence Lai is a Ph.D. candidate in Concordia’s clinical psychology program. While he doesn’t have any classes, he is required to go to campus two to three times a week to conduct clinical work and do research. Lai has been going to campus for about four months now, but more frequently for the past two months.

He said he feels “pretty safe” going to campus and that until recently, the check-in process was “quite stringent.”

Just like Mitchell, Lai also thinks that everyone going to campus should be vaccinated, “unless they have medical reasons.”

Dr. Bacon said that students are “100 per cent right” to feel safer knowing everyone is vaccinated.

“There’s a couple of things tied to that as well,” he said. “Not only is it the issue of being vaccinated, but obviously as a certain perspective, you’re conscientious enough to be doubly vaccinated, it probably means you’re also conscientious enough to be wearing masks constantly in the right situations.

Dr. Bacon said that this demographic is “probably less likely to be taking risks around COVID.”

While universities in Quebec are not implementing vaccine mandates, Ontario is implementing vaccine mandates for all post-secondary schools starting Sept. 7.

Sebastian High, originally from Montreal, will be moving to Ottawa to attend Carleton University this fall. “I for one am super relieved about [the vaccine mandate],” he said. “It will allow me to feel safe on campus and ensure that I’m not constantly stressing out about spreading the virus.”

Dr. Bacon said “what gets lost in a lot of the communication around vaccine passports is what they’re really there for.”

“What a vaccine passport actually does is protect the unvaccinated,” he said. “That’s really their safety that’s paramount in that situation, because if they get sick with the delta variant, they’re 22 times more likely to end up in a hospital.”

He explained that if someone is fully vaccinated, they can still catch COVID and transmit it. Their probability of catching and transmitting it are lower, but anytime people are put in high-risk situations, there’s a risk of spread.

“This is the issue we have at the moment, both in terms of schools and universities. We know that they are higher-risk situations. That being said, if the majority of people are vaccinated and everyone is wearing a mask and doing what they’re supposed to do […] it really reduces the risk of transmission. On the flip side of that, we have the Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in Canada, and is much more contagious and infectious than the original Wuhan strain of the virus.”

Dr. Bacon added that part of the issue that we have is that not everyone is vaccinated.

“Relying solely on the masks is trying to say that we’re going to play hockey without a goalie. But we’re still going to try to stop the scoring. That’s not going to be very effective, or as effective as it could be.”

 

Photographs by Catherine Reynolds

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Opinions

Education for social change

Has your mind ever gone on a rant about all the things that are wrong with society? If yes, then I’m sure once you start, you spiral deeper and deeper into it until you come to the realization that everything is related.

It’s like a domino effect. It also seems impossible to pinpoint one solution, because for change to occur, many forces have to act in synchrony. On this note, I’m a strong believer that accessible, collective education would be a great place to start.

Personally, I feel like the more I know and learn, the more convinced I am that society’s evils will not change—at least not during my lifetime. This sounds conformist and hypocritical of me because I still try to be a social activist in my own way, in my everyday life. But it is hard to picture a world that’s more equal, caring, green, tolerant, empathetic, fair and so on when large numbers of people all around the world don’t have access to higher knowledge. One could argue that people can seek to learn in their own ways, but that’s just a weak argument. Especially when you consider how according to Humanium, 72 million children in the world are not in school. Or how poverty, marginalization and inequality have paved the way for 759 million adults to be illiterate and clueless about how to improve their conditions and the conditions of their children.

Isn’t that depressing––especially when you realize that these figures only consider access to primary education? Thus, reflecting how much of a privilege higher education really is. Even though BBC news has claimed that Canada has become “an education superpower,” by having 55 per cent of adults in the workforce with degrees, this still means 45 per cent of employees don’t have one. Plus, these figures don’t even take into consideration all unemployed adults that have achieved further education.

Although this is all a bit too grim, it is a great opportunity for us students to acknowledge how privileged we are to be in a higher education institution. Because even though we might not believe so today, we can change things in the future. Who knows, maybe one of you reading this will become a person with power and high morals one day. Education and awareness are tools we must value and use wisely, especially when you consider the large numbers of people who do not have the same luck. If we work towards making education a right, we’ll have a better chance at social improvement.

Making education available would create an elevated state of collective consciousness. This would challenge the status quo and would make a better world more tangible and possible. But as long as we remain an individualist and capital-driven society, the social gap will continue to broaden. The powerful and wealthy segments of society benefit through inequality, and why wouldn’t they when it is so profitable? This mentality combined with weak morals has kept the population ignorant.

Yeah, that might sound sort of leftist of me, but it isn’t, it’s just humanitarian thinking. 

 

Graphic by Sasha Axenova

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Opinions

The harsh realities of burnout culture

As I open the 47th window on my computer and prepare myself to fill this blank document with thoughts, opinions and rhetoric I hope you’ll find interesting, to my surprise, my computer shuts down.

A black screen is a daunting thing to see when you have so much to do — 12 articles, 11 soulful yet professional cover letters, 10 tests, nine unread emails and a partridge in a pear tree.

As I trudged through the snow to use a library computer to finish my work, I couldn’t help but think that sometimes I feel like my laptop.

Yes boomers — I just said I feel like my laptop, okay?

I’m the kind of person that doesn’t do well without structure, so when my system feels like it’s about to shut down, I often excuse the emerging breakdown with phrases like, “I thrive when I’m busy,” “The more time I have, the more I waste,” “I’d be bored if I did less” or the classic, “I don’t burnout.”

Listen, no one is above burnout culture. Not Oprah, Elon Musk or even that friend that seems like they are constantly balancing a million internships and projects at once. As a research professor at the University of Houston and a recent public figure, Brené Brown says, “your body keeps score, and always wins.” Brown is alluding to the fact that we need to engage with self-reflection and self-awareness in order to live our best lives, pardon the cliche.

At this point, you might think that this is just another article telling you to slow down, smell the flowers, kiss your dog, go for a run and call your mother — in which case you are absolutely right. Telling people to slow down, live mindfully and engage with their life meaningfully is not new, but at the same time should constantly be part of the conversation.

We are trained as students, as workers and as humans in general, that the only way we have a purpose in this confusing world is through being productive. This philosophy is ingrained in us to function in the cold, fast, capitalistic world we live in. If we are not moving forward, we are moving backwards. If our economies are not getting bigger, faster, stronger, then what’s the point? It’s important that we understand this system, to combat it.

Some public figures are restructuring their philosophy to promote a healthier lifestyle.

Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, has been advocating for the prioritization of sleep for a few years now. In an interview with National Geographic, she explained that we are currently in “a moment of transformation.”

“What stops people from prioritizing sleep is the fear that somehow they’re going to miss out, said Huffington. We have so many phrases that confirm that – “You snooze, you lose,” “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

It’s important to remember we are doing our best. If you need to ask for an extension, miss a class, postpone an interview or what have you, don’t beat yourself up. We are all struggling to grapple with showing up for ourselves, listening to our instincts while also trying to succeed. The reality is, if you are constantly pushing yourself and spreading yourself too thin, then you won’t be able to show up the way you want to in every part of your life. You’ll be tired, you won’t be present, and even if you don’t burnout right away, it will happen.

So in the name of showing up for myself and listening to my body, I’ll end this article here. Quite like my computer, I’m shutting down — or at least on sleep mode. Goodnight. 

 

Photo by Britanny Clarke / Graphic @sundaeghost

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Student Life

November Events Calendar

School events:

Nov. 4-9: International business week, JMSB

Nov. 6: Discover Multi-Faith Fair 2019 

Nov. 8 and 28: Therapy Dogs in the Zen Dens

Nov. 9: Music Therapy Workshop

 

Sustainability:

Nov. 8-10: Zero-Waste festival

Nov. 27: Concordia Farmers’ Pop-Up Markets

 

Lifestyle:

Nov. 9: Science Fiction and Fantasy Used Book Sale!

Nov. 9: DANCE PARTY 2000 Icons Edition

Nov. 9-10: Opening The Arts of One World

Nov. 16-17: Expozine 2019

Nov. 23: Santa Claus Parade

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

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Student Life

A collision on the path of life

I woke up for my 10:45 class and hurriedly started making breakfast — an egg-salad sandwich, an unusual breakfast that started off a truly unusual day.   

I left my house with around 20 minutes to arrive to class; I had a 25-minute bike ride to go. Gaining momentum as I went downhill, the wind blew in my face and I felt like a man on a mission who was not going to stop at anything to arrive punctually. I felt invincible and nothing mattered more than arriving to class on time. How wrong and delusional I was!

I completed half the ride in a very short amount of time and I was on schedule. On Victoria St. and Lacombe St., I blasted through a couple of stop signs in a row since there were no cars on the street. After all, I was invincible. As I sped down the street, I noticed a car approaching me on my right. I assumed it would slow down so I could gracefully maneuver around it and be on my way. Nothing deplorable or dangerous could happen to me!

Suddenly, I realized this car and I had a perpendicular collision: it directly hit the side of my bike and I flew into the air. I flung my arms out wide as they smashed against the ground with my legs hitting right after. How simultaneously ephemeral and timeless was that moment when I was suspended in the air with my fate uncertain and my mind bewildered.

It all happened so fast. As soon as I was on the ground, I was already up off the pavement — there was no reason to pity myself or wait to see if I was injured. Immediately, a woman got out of the car and asked if I was alright. I looked at my body, felt my limbs, assessed for pain, and replied: “Yes, I’m okay. That was my fault — my responsibility. That was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done in my life and I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t call the police.”

She asked if the bike was okay, and I assured her there were no damages apart from the chain falling off. Almost as if a divine entity possessed this strange woman, she placed both of her arms on my shoulders and said “may the blood of Christ protect this young man on his journey and may he be offered a safe passage through the world.” I said thank you, and I meant it.

She got back in the car and slowly pulled off. I fixed my chain and kept going, shaken up yet grateful beyond belief that I survived a major collision unscathed — that was the closest thing to a miracle I’ve ever experienced. The only injuries I sustained from it were a sore left hand and a wholly unremarkable scratch on the underside of my left leg.

I arrived at Loyola three minutes late for my class. I locked my bike, walked up to my class, arrived at the door — the room was empty. My heart sunk as a feeling of pitiable ecstasy flushed through my being. I arrived a full hour early for my class.

Ridiculed by the universe, I started laughing hysterically. What a great comedic game that the universe orchestrates — these forces above me, the gods of old, who had been betrayed by the ignorance of modern man, were revived and active forces in my psyche! I then realized my priorities had been gravely mistaken. Why had I felt that the approval of my teachers and classmates trumped my own safety? Upon arrival at the empty classroom, my actions were put in perspective.

As I walked through the hallways, I overheard classes taking place. I briefly listened to a man speaking with passion and conviction to a receptive audience. Glancing into the classroom windows, I was humbled and grateful by the fact that we live in a free society with the opportunity to learn with ease and privilege.

I went outside and sat on a bench, looking at people walking to and from their classes, all with a place to go, a path to follow. For everything, small and large, I felt appreciative and accepting, grateful for all things as they are. People’s responses to what happened were often that I was stupid to arrive an hour early, but in life, you aren’t often given chances of death and rebirth without pain. I learned a valuable lesson without dying! They say that cats have nine lives. Maybe humans have three — and I have one remaining. How I lost the first one? That’s for another story.

 

Archive graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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Student Life

How to manage your stress 101

Are you already drowning in your readings? Have you already started panicking about all the deadlines you have to meet this semester? How about wondering how you’re going to balance your job, school, and homework, with the rest of your life? Already planning on quitting because you’re overwhelmed? Are you stressed out about the stress you’re going to be stressed about?

I know we’re only into the second week of school, but it’s normal to already be feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. Whether it’s your first year in university or your fifth, I’m not sure it gets any less stressful. But there can definitely be ways for you to manage your stress.

Keeping track

One of the most important things to do to try to keep your stress at a manageable level is to keep an agenda. This is important for a few reasons: first, it’s an easy way to keep track of all your classes, appointments, meetings, work shifts, and even to jot down when you’re going to have a night out with friends or family. By keeping an agenda — either in a planner or by using a digital option like Google Calendar — you’re able to keep track of everything you have going on in the upcoming week and for the rest of the month.

Another use for your agenda is to keep track of due dates. At the beginning of each semester, I like to comb through each class’s course outline and make a note of any deadlines for assignments, readings due, exams, papers, or presentations. I note them all down in two places: on the day each assignment is due as well as in the monthly view so I know what I need to work on throughout the month. By doing this, I can always keep track of what assignments have an approaching deadline and so you also don’t lose out on grades because you forgot about a five per cent quiz one day.

Stop procrastinating 

This brings me to my next point, which is to stop procrastinating. I might not be the best person to say this because the number of assignments I’ve handed in to professors that were hot off the printer is shameful. But at the same time, because I’ve done this so many times, I can definitely say it’s stressful constantly trying to beat the clock.

Always keep a lookout for approaching deadlines and try to get a head start on assignments. It seems like a simple enough thing to do but, trust me, time gets away from you quickly and soon you’re stuck writing three 12-page papers in a span of three days (true story).

Your shows are still going to be on Netflix after you’re done your assignment; there are going to be other nights out with your friends. You’ll still be able to do everything you want to do, but it’s best to get your work done first to avoid stressing out later.

To Do:

Once you’ve written everything in one place and you’ve finally decided to sit down and work on your assignments, it’s likely that you’ll be sitting at your desk, or at a coffee shop and start feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do. The best thing for the next step is to write a To Do list. Simple yet effective, To Do lists allow you to prioritize the work you need to get done. Personally, nothing can beat the satisfying feeling of physically crossing something off a To Do list; it makes me feel more accomplished and in control of everything I have to complete.

Depending on what you have to get done, your To Do list can start off in one of two ways: if you don’t have any impending deadlines but a lot is due around the same time in a few weeks, start off with the one that requires the most work and go down from there. If you’re like me and you have a lot of smaller assignments more frequently throughout the semester, write them down in order of closest deadline to not miss anything.

Put your well-being first

The most important way to manage your stress is to take care of yourself, first and foremost. While, yes, school is important and so is doing well, nothing is more important than your mental health. If you still feel overwhelmed and anxious under a lot of stress after implementing the outlined steps, just take some time for yourself.

Any little thing can help in reducing your stress when it gets past the point of feeling manageable. Take a couple of hours to yourself without technology and focus on your breathing, as I did during my spa day a few weeks ago.

If you’re feeling more on the edge of mental exhaustion, binge-watch your favourite show for a night. Spend some time with your family or your friends. Treat yourself to a little at-home spa treatment before bed. Work out to flush out the toxins and boost your mood. Take a walk, play with a puppy, sleep.

Whatever you do, try to manage your stress before your stress becomes unmanageable.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
News

Stress levels rise with screen-addiction

While one hand is holding a phone, the other is distractedly tapping on the computer keyboard – and perhaps the television is on in the background. This scene is one that we have now become obliviously acclimated to. Screens are everywhere. How often do we truly stop to recognize the impact they have on our mental health?

A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, led by neuroscientist Najmeh Khalili-Mahani, is taking a different approach in trying to understand the relationship between screen time and stress. Most studies previously conducted look at the effects of screen time with a focus on online gaming and gambling, TV, or internet addiction. The relationship to specific types of mental disorders, such as that between depression and social networking, has become a common conversation. Khalili-Mahani’s study uses a holistic approach to analyze the interrelation between different technologies used by the same person.

“It’s a post-modern study, the relation between everything, as opposed to cause and effect between one and the other,” said Khalili-Mahani, who is also an affiliate assistant professor in the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia. “We wanted to understand how the same person is using television and a smartphone. We are showing these interrelations between these technologies and this is allowing us to somehow zoom in on devices or on usages that are most likely to be associated with mental health or physical difficulties.”

The results reveal that all the different aspects of stress, such as financial or relationship difficulties, seem to be higher in individuals also suffering from screen addiction.

Moreover, the study shows that age and gender are key factors. Unsurprisingly, the effect on adults using social networks is not as significant as the younger generations or even women, said Khalili-Mahani.

“Everybody uses technology for finding information or working,” said Khalili-Mahani. “About 30 per cent of the population seems to be addicted to screens, in the sense that they are spending more than 8 hours of their daily time on the internet. Twenty per cent are also stressed and it’s those individuals who are both screen-addicted and stressed that have a significantly higher level of emotional stress.”

The study looks into individuals who already struggled with anxiety – whether emotionally or physically – and their relationship with these screens for various activities, such as relaxing, entertaining, and social networking. Computers, televisions, smartphones, all screens may serve as a coping mechanism for people who already suffer or are actively developing mental health disorders; and this is what needs to be unpacked, according to Khalili-Mahani.

As mental health is still a considerably social taboo topic, people do not necessarily associate the simple use of screens for consuming news, or work-related activities, with screen addiction. Khalili-Mahani pointed out the fact that there is a sense of social guilt when it comes to using technology, which arguably impedes the conversation surrounding screen addiction and stress. Yet, everyone is using technology, one way or another. According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of the population [using technology] is above 90 per cent in most provinces, no matter what category of addiction or stress groups they fit into.

Paradoxically, the goal of the research is not to find a solution to withdraw screen-addicted individuals from technology, but rather to develop information and communication technology, using screens for health care prevention. This could be quite a controversial approach, as some social movements are calling for technology’s total disengagement, such as quitting Facebook. Indeed, the abrupt rise of technology confronts us with a lack of comprehension, which can lead to demonization and even disdain. The more stressed or anxious someone is feeling, the greater the opportunity for escaping reality via the internet.

But finding a solution within the problem makes sense. Individuals suffering from both screen-addiction and intense levels of stress could find a familiar comfort as they are undeniably more drawn to these technologies, argued Khalili-Mahani. Using screen technologies to reach out to highly-stressed individuals and help with mental health diseases, such as depression or suicidal tendencies, are still under development. Nonetheless, it is a great step towards positively adapting rather than passively losing our inner personal battles with technology.

 

Photos by Laurence B.D.

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Opinions

A Concordia student’s wake up call

One student’s experience as a first-year journalism student and what he has learned

As due dates for finals rear their ugly heads in the nearing weeks, it’s a good time to reflect on my first year at Concordia. When I was accepted into the journalism program, I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t expect it to be hard, because I was in a journalism program in CEGEP. I had this stupid thought that journalism was simple and that I had basically learned all I needed to in CEGEP. Two weeks into my first semester, reality hit me like a freight train. This year, I’ve learned some valuable lessons that came from trial and a whole lot of error.

The first lesson I learned was when we were asked to interview people for a streeter article. I don’t have a problem talking to people one-on-one, but not when I have to engage the conversation, so it was already a rocky start.  When one of the first people I tried to talk to told me to “go away” using more colourful language, morale was pretty low. However, determined to do well on my very first serious assignment of the semester, I kept at it, and sure enough, some people were willing to talk to me. I learned that while not everyone will want to talk to me, people are generally nicer than I think they are, and it’s all about how you approach the conversation.

Another important lesson was to always have a contingency plan. No matter how bulletproof you think your plan A is for an assignment, you always have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. I recently learned that the hard way, when a topic for a feature story I was going to write fell through just over a week before the due date. Being the ever-so-foolish optimist that I was, I never considered a plan B, because I never considered the possibility that my story might fall apart. I was anxious and stressed out, but my teacher and classmates helped me find a new topic for my article. Everything worked out in the end—but it was a real eye-opener.

The most important lesson wasn’t something I learned from the journalism program, but from applying to another program, creative writing, and failing twice. When I first failed to get into the program, I was shocked; I was sure my writing was good enough to get me admitted. I thought it was simply because I didn’t read the guidelines clearly (I didn’t) and that my rejection had nothing to do with the quality of my portfolio.

When I failed the second time, I reviewed the stories I submitted, and noticed all the amateur mistakes I had made; mistakes that I’d never made before. It was a real wake up call for me. I was so focused on shaping my story the way I wanted that I didn’t consider writing it properly. So confident that I was above making stupid grammatical mistakes, I never bothered to reread them before submitting. Those failures made me realize that no matter how good you think you are at something, that shouldn’t stop you from improving and working hard.

After only one year at Concordia, I have learned a lot about myself, especially what I need to improve. My time studying journalism has taught me to be more diligent, better prepared, but most of all, to never take the easy way out—to always work hard. I hope the following years spent studying here help mould me into a better student and a better person.

Archive Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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Opinions

My Concordia, my community

One student’s experience finishing her studies at Concordia, and what she’s learned

Dear Concordians, when asked to reflect on my time at Concordia, I must admit it took me a while to collect my thoughts. I didn’t know where to begin explaining what Concordia means to me. After spending the past six years as both a Concordia undergraduate and graduate student, and an employee in multiple student services, I could probably sit here and write a novel about what this school has given me, in terms of academic, professional and most of all personal growth. But instead, I will give you the cliff notes version.

If I had to sum it all up in one sentence, I would say Concordia gave me a community. As my time at Concordia comes to an end (for now), I find it difficult to accept leaving such an incredible environment. I have been a Concordia student since 2014, completing my Bachelor of Arts in both Human Environment and Communication and Cultural Studies, and am now nearing the end of my Master’s in Environmental Assessment. Suffice to say, I have experienced my fair share of course registration, midterms and exams. Although I am a nerd, and will probably continue my studies further, the most rewarding part of my Concordia experience happened outside the classroom.

It all started during my undergrad, when I got involved with the Hellenic Student Association, which introduced me to a world of extra-curricular involvement on campus. I quickly realized that I enjoyed interacting with other students from various disciplines, all coming together with a common goal. These interactions exposed me to a whole roster of clubs and associations to join, ranging from program-specific student associations under ASFA, to the Inter-Fraternity Council and the Zeta Tau Omega Sorority.

Through these experiences, not only did I learn transferable skills like time-management, but I also learned more about myself. I became a productive version of myself and realized that I like keeping myself busy, being involved, interacting with and learning from others, and representing the university through my Concordia pride. This sense of familiarity, belonging and community cultivated during my undergrad was just the beginning.

Being active within the university led me to appreciate the outstanding services, the diverse people and the incredible opportunities available to us all. As soon as I started my graduate degree in 2017, I began working with various academic service departments, such as with the Student Success Centre, the Examinations Office, the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities, GradProSkills, and more. One of my most rewarding roles was as a Welcome Crew Mentor, during which I learned how most services on campus function, which introduced me to the many opportunities Concordia provides.

For this reason, when asked about Concordia by friends who are looking to attend, or when asked for help from people in my personal circle, I cannot stop gushing about what the university offers (it is often times embarrassing… for them, not for me). A major part of the reason I love working at the university is because I believe I had a truly fulfilling undergraduate and graduate experiencelearning, growing and evolving as the best version of myselfand I take it as an opportunity to help do the same for current students.

I am grateful for everything the university has taught me. Thank you Concordia! My advice for students who have read all my embarrassing gushing up to this point: take advantage of your time as an undergrad or grad. Dare to step out of your comfort zone and take on opportunities, both the ones that come your way and the ones you must search for, but that are yours for the taking. Make the most of your time at Concordia, get out there and discover what you love doing in the Concordia community and make it yours!

Sincerely,

A Proud Concordian

Archive Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

 

Categories
Opinions

Trade school shouldn’t be frowned upon

One student’s thoughts on trade school versus a university degree, and why we should have a choice

Since elementary school, my parents have always told me that in order to be successful, I would need a university degree, and that I would amount to nothing without it. Whenever I failed a math test, I was threatened with the possibility of working at Walmart for the rest of my life––because somehow failing grade 7 math means that the furthest I’ll get in this world is being a cashier in a blue vest.

A university degree is considered the best thing you can have. While it can be, university isn’t for everybody—and that’s okay. We aren’t all built for university life. Some of us prefer to work manual jobs as mechanics or plumbers. Some of us want to use our creativity to become makeup artists and hairdressers. But some of us will be happier spending four years and thousands of dollars in school for our dream job.

There is nothing wrong with pursuing a trade. If we want to spend our lives working a manual job where we’ll inevitably have a bad back then that’s okay—we’ll be happy with our career choice and broken back.

In April 2018, the pressure to attend a four-year college remained so strong in American society that many high-paying jobs in the trade were currently sitting empty, according to NPR. In an article by VICE, Queens Tech principal Melissa Burg said, “I think those [trade] jobs go unfilled because skilled labor is looked down upon, even though those skilled labor people make more money than I do.”

Yes, a university degree is regarded highly in today’s society. Yet, while a degree is important in the eyes of employers, not everyone is built for academic life and no one should be forced into it.

Going to trade school should be encouraged instead of looked down upon. We need electricians, plumbers, hairdressers and makeup artists. It is ridiculous to expect everyone to be happy in academics––and it’s time to realize that and promote pursuing a trade as a valid career path.

While having a university degree may make it easier to get a job, it doesn’t mean that job will be in your field of study. You can have a degree in neuroscience and still be working at McDonald’s because there are no jobs in your field.

VICE’s article also touched upon how people often associate going to college with earning more money—an idea that isn’t necessarily true, since sometimes people waste more money going to college than they get out of it.

That being said, both university and trade school can bring someone amazing opportunities. If you’re studying what you love and what you see yourself doing for the next 40 years of your life, then the essays, tests and hard work put into your degree is worth it. Yet, only one type of schooling is stigmatized, seen as less than the other, and that’s not right.

Society should not be putting so much pressure on young adults to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of paper if they want to pursue a trade. A bachelor’s degree does not equal happiness; you can be successful and happy while pursuing a trade.

Spend money on something you actually like instead of something that will make you miserable. Comedian John Mulaney said in his Netflix comedy show, John Mulaney: Kid Wonder, “I paid $120,000 for someone to tell me to go read Jane Austen and then I didn’t.”

Archive Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

Categories
Student Life

Broken Pencil: A rant about our recycled school curriculum

Why has the education system not evolved with the rest of the world?

As the world continues to change at such high speeds, why does it seem like the education system still relies on its age-old foundation? As important as education is with regards to shaping the society that surrounds it, I question how so many fundamental skills are missing from North American school curriculums.

I could explain, using supply-demand theory, how price suffers when demand decreases. I can recite Plato’s theory of Forms by explaining the Allegory of the Cave. I know Van Gogh cut off his left ear due to psychotic episodes. I can tell you about the Seven Years’ War, the War of 1812, and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

I know these things because I’ve learnt them 100 times. And while these may be fun facts to show off your knowledge somewhere down the line, I still can’t help but notice that school never taught me how to do my taxes or cook a proper meal.

Although high schools are developed at a provincial, if not municipal level, many of them remain the same at the core. Most classes are taught to cover the basics of certain topics that everyone should know. Yet, some of the additional material taught in these classes remains irrelevant for the large majority of students learning them. Learning intensive algebra and the periodic table of elements may improve mathematical problem solving skills and expand our knowledge of chemistry, but these types of subjects should be left for those who want to pursue those fields in higher education.

Instead, we should omit these types of topics in order to make room for teaching life necessities. Taxes are unavoidable in life and we’ll all likely have to deal with them at some point, so why not teach us about this at a younger age? Why is it not required that high schools teach their students about money management and budgeting income? Why have we not been taught the basics of the stock market?

In some high schools, cooking classes are offered to students in varying years, but these aren’t required for everyone the same way as math and science classes. Arguably, every person should know how to whip up a healthy meal off the top of their heads.

Should technological literacy not be of greater importance than being taught the history of Quebec, again and again, for five years straight? Should formal logic not go beyond the logic grids from elementary school math classes and become pillars for basic coding skills in a society where the Internet is everything?

As technology advances and our priorities continue to change, I believe there are more important life skills that today’s students should be learning instead of the same curriculum my parents were taught many years ago.

Feature graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

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