Words of wisdom & warning to a past self

Hello Marilyn,

This is you, in 2014. This letter is from me, to you, filled with things you wished you had known back when you first started at Concordia. Here we go.

Stop overthinking. Life is too short to be worrying and questioning yourself all the time. You’re allowed to make mistakes. Everyone does!  If you don’t make mistakes in life, you never learn true and meaningful lessons.

That terrible grade you are going to get in that random philosophy class in your fourth year? Get over it! What you can do afterwards is put a little more effort into your work.

Don’t stress about being a straight-A student. In fact, try to stress as little as possible. It is hard to be productive when you put so much pressure on yourself. There are much more important things going on in the world that should be worrying you. You had the courage and guts to pursue an education. Pat yourself on the back.

The only thing you can control in life is you. Expect nothing from anyone but yourself. You can be your biggest enemy, or your biggest supporter. If I were you, I would choose to take care of your mind, and body. Be your number one fan. It’s you against the world.

You’re going to end up switching programs, and it will be the greatest decision you make. You had to apply three times but you finally got that letter of acceptance from the journalism department. Even though you had to spend two years in English Literature, the process of being rejected time and time again and never giving up really shaped you as a person. It was a blessing in disguise.

Don’t ever take an 8:45 a.m. class. It could possibly be your biggest mistake. It’s also ok if you arrive to class a few minutes early to ensure you sit in the spot next to that hot guy who caught your attention on the first day. It’s also ok to wear lipstick that day too.

Lean on your friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one will judge you. If they do, well then they clearly aren’t your friends. Surround yourself with positive people. People who make your life better and more fulfilling. Erase the negative energy in your life because all it will do is make you miserable. You have no time for that!

You are going to fall in love and get your heart broken. I promise you that everything will be ok. Like all the other low moments in your life, you will come out of it a stronger, wiser woman.

Enjoy your time in university. There are so many great people waiting to meet you. Go out, grab a drink and relax every once in a while. No one will think you’re being an irresponsible student or adult for doing so. I bet the majority of students are drinking as I am writing this! Even I may be.

As demanding as school can be, this is honestly going to be the most amazing, eye-opening experience of your life, so don’t be in a rush. Yes, we all want to “graduate” as soon as possible so we can really start “living.” What you may not know is that this is the most exciting time to be you. Before you know it, you will be that 35-year-old wife and mother (at least I hope so!) who at times wishes she was 23 again, studying to become a journalist. One grey hair after another, you will realize how fast times flies and wish you would have enjoyed the moment of being young and carefree.

So take a deep breath in, and relax. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Student Life

What’s love got to do with it?

We’ve all heard it before, Valentine’s Day is a ploy on the part of Hallmark and the candy companies to get us to spend vast amounts of money on their products under the guise that we’re doing it because we’re in love.
Yet we shake our heads and say that we know better, or say that Valentine’s Day is a transparent consumerist holiday and we won’t be suckered in. However, for some reason, the majority of us find ourselves bent over smelling roses, trying to pick the ones we think our partner will like, or desperately wracking our brains for something romantic to do. What is this power Feb. 14 holds over us? Why do we as a society continue to observe a holiday named for a saint of dubious origins and significance?
Doctoral candidate and Montreal therapist Stine Linden-Andersen, believes that Valentine’s Day can play an important role in the relationship of a couple. “It can be important for courting, to show a partner how romantically inclined they are, to solidify the relationship. As a relationship matures, it gets used a bit differently, some couples will choose to do small things and some will choose not to do anything at all because it has become too commercialized and doesn’t set them apart as a couple.”
But does that make it an obligation? One Concordia student, who wished to remain anonymous, says that he only participates in Valentine’s Day because it’s what his girlfriend wants and expects of him. However, Dylan Stansfield, a creative writing and psychology student at Concordia, said that he relishes the opportunity to do something special for the person he cares about. “It’s something that’s fun if you’re in a relationship. It’s fun to celebrate that you’re with someone,” he said.
It would seem that the onus is on the men to plan something or come up with a present that’s significant. Creative writing student Lexie Comeau celebrates Valentine’s Day for the love of celebrating in general. “I think any reason to celebrate is a good one,” she explained, and feels that the onus is on the person who wants the celebration to occur to plan an event or buy a gift. “I think it should be whoever wants to take the initiative.”
According to a survey of 2,003 adults by American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, men are willing to spend more than women on Valentine’s Day. Men are willing to spend up to $151, whereas women are only willing to spend up to $114. Close to 48 per cent of women said they were not going to buy anything for their significant other at all.
Why is this? Aren’t we supposed to be in an age of equality between men and women? Are men spending as a result of societal obligation or does it stem from a personal desire?
Linden-Andersen said that often times in young relationships, men feel obligated to demonstrate just how much they care for their partner and Valentine’s Day is a crucial opportunity for doing so. In the LGBT community, Michael Filion, a political science student in Concordia, feels that things are mostly equal, unless previously discussed. “Especially in the gay world, it’s very common to feel almost like this equality has to be maintained. If not, there’s a male-female balance to it. If these gender roles have been established within the relationship, the one who has taken the male dominated role must be the one who pays. Otherwise, the majority of what I’ve noticed is there’s always an equality that’s trying to be matched,” he said.
In any relationship, whether it is brand new or several years old, Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to open the lines of communication and establish the expectations each person has about this day. Linden-Andersen suggests talking about it lightly and with humour in order to get a better idea of how to celebrate in a way that is convenient for both partners.
She suggests asking leading questions such as “Have you ever been surprised?” and “What have you done before that you liked?” Most importantly though, she says to remember “the way couples celebrate Valentine’s Day is not an indicator of their relationship.” Which means that just because you don’t make a big deal about Feb. 14 does not mean that your relationship is without romance. “You don’t really tell someone you love them only once a year, but it’s an occasion to publicly acknowledge it in a way,” said Donald Boisvert, a professor of religion at Concordia. “It’s like Christmas, there’s always a bit of an obligation. There’s a commercial element that we don’t really want to acknowledge we’re buying into. It doesn’t mean that because it’s commercially focused, people’s feelings aren’t genuine.”
Whether you choose to celebrate Feb. 14  as a special day, or whether you choose to dismiss it as capitalist hogwash, if there’s someone special in your life, we can all agree that you shouldn’t be expressing how you feel about them only once a year.


‘Fight club for startups’ starts to take off

Computer-savvy Montreal students looking for a leg up in starting a high-tech business will be pleased to hear that Startupifier, a fledgling student-run group, is starting to take off.

The group played host to around 40 interested parties last Wednesday at Notman House for a workshop on Software as a service, or SaaS, metrics.

Notman, which gives the community access to free Wi-Fi in their downstairs “cafe” area while also doubling as office space for startups and event venue, is the type of place where you take off your shoes at the door. Once inside the building, situated on the corner of Sherbrooke Street and Clarke Street, you are greeted by a long hallway leading to winding stairs at the other end. Besides the rows of shoes at the entrance, the only other object in the hall is a Red Bull vending machine, plugged in but with empty shelves.

The clattering of fingers on computer keys emanating from the two rooms on either side of the hallway temporarily ceased for the course of the workshop, taught by serial entrepreneur turned investor Mark MacLeod, who has been a partner at seed fund Real Ventures for the past year.

Founded two years ago, the organization has only in the past year or so started hosting events geared towards providing young entrepreneurs with the connections and the know-how to start their own company.

Startupifier offers four services to students: an academy, an internship program, hackathons, and a garage (also described as an “incubator without money”). The group mostly reaches out to students through its online mailing list, Facebook group, and Twitter account.

Jordan Choo, a Concordia economics student with a penchant for technology, is part of the second generation of Startupifier members; he’s in charge of organizing the workshops.

Nine people are listed as the group’s founders on its website, while five more, including Choo, constitute its “2011 crew.” Choo specified the number of people involved is closer to 20 at the moment.

Both Choo and co-founder Karel Ledru-Mathé expressed a firm belief that what they were doing isn’t taught in post-secondary institutions.

“Universities and companies are two disconnected words in Montreal,” Ledru-Mathé said.

Ledru-Mathé was a business student at HEC when he met co-founder Riku Seppälä at a startup networking event two years ago.

“I was at school [at the time,] working on some ideas to connect students with companies, so I just loved the idea of organizing events for startups among students,” Ledru-Mathé, now a web developer, explained.

“The main thing we’ve been doing is organizing events that show students that it is pretty easy to start something, to do something, and to do it out of school, so don’t only spend your time studying but you can also have a project of your own on the side,” he added.

Startupifier fills a gap in the knowledge necessary for students to become successful entrepreneurs, Choo said.

“We are taught how big companies are run [at school],” Choo explained. “A high-tech startup is run totally differently compared to big organizations, from a cultural level to programming, to just running the business in general, so we are trying to fill that gap so that if a student does decide to start their own company, they are not in the middle of nowhere not knowing what to do.”

In an interview, MacLeod agreed. “We [Real Ventures] invest in tech startups and therefore they are started by people who come from a software background. And I find that the curriculum is totally unrelated to what’s needed practically, right, so you are still learning C++ and really old languages at school whereas most web apps are built on Rails, and Javascript and other interpreted languages so you end up having to learn those on your own,” he said.

He pointed to Stanford University, in the United States, as a model example for how universities should be structuring their classes.

“Computer science students have a course where they build an iPhone app and they are graded on how well it does,” he said. “That, to me, is amazing, and we’re not doing anything like that here. It’s all textbook, it’s all theoretical, so all of the best entrepreneurs that we back are soft top and it would be great if the schools could do more.”

Nonetheless, MacLeod said a university degree does provide “a baseline and set of skills and also gives you a set of relationships.”

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Three tips for student entrepreneurs, courtesy of investor Mark MacLeod:

– Learn on somebody else’s dime first. “I didn’t start with founding my own startup, I joined others before doing that,” MacLeod explained.
– Find a mentor and advisor. “I find that actually the most successful entrepreneurs, not just young ones, any age, even folks who have done this three times, have their own personal mentors and advisers.”
– Don’t go at it alone. “It is actually a rule [at Real Ventures that we] don’t fund companies with single founders,” MacLeod said, “so get a co-founder, and if that co-founder has some experience that you lack, that’s gonna help.”


Is Concordia’s dormitory policy dated?

The adjustment to university residence life can be tough. Gone are the days of home-cooked meals and Mom taking care of your laundry.

Rutgers University is hoping a change in their housing policy will put all students at ease as they settle into their new environment. Beginning in the fall semester, some students will be able to select either a male or female roommate.

The decision was reached following the suicide of freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly streamed a video of Clementi in a sexual encounter with another man.

Rutgers now joins a growing list of universities offering gender neutral housing options. But could this policy also work for Concordia residences?

According to Rich SwamiNathan, the manager of Res Life at Loyola, the idea has never been discussed at Concordia because there have not been any requests for it.

“It could happen — we’ll just have to wait and see,” said SwamiNathan.

Currently at Concordia, students can choose between living alone or with a roommate. However, rent is higher for a single room than it is for a double so students may be limited in their choice because of financial reasons.

“If someone has an issue [with a roommate] during the year — we would solve it,” said SwamiNathan.

The residence application includes a brief questionnaire of one’s personal habits but it does not ask about sexual orientation — doing so is against Concordia’s policy. The actual pairing of roommates is done through a computer program. Due to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, residence life is not permitted to share any personal information about one’s assigned roommate prior to move-in day.

In the United States, where this act does not exist, many students choose their own roommate(s) after meeting them at orientation or talking over Facebook. Putting this important choice into the hands of students, rather than computers, seems to be a smarter alternative.

Concordia residences are relatively small: last fall, 600 people applied to fill 424 available spaces. But it’s this close-knit, community atmosphere that makes students feel right at home.

“One of the benefits of having a small residence life program is that our residents receive individual attention as opposed to sweeping policies,” said resident assistant Cameron Monagle.

Choosing your own roommate might not currently be an option at Concordia, but with a little persistence, students seeking equality have the potential to change these dated rules.

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