Comment, Student Life

College Diaries#2: The knowledge that Courses through your veins

As June approaches, many new graduates will descend on the job market across the world which begs the question “What is a bachelor’s degree worth?”.

The answer seems to be that different college majors have different values, in terms of their monetary payoff. Salary website reports that the majors with the highest earning potential are all related to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. For example, a degree in petroleum engineering would give a graduate a starting salary of 94,600$ followed by a degree in actuarial mathematics and in actuarial science providing an immediate return of 56,400$ and 61,200$ respectively.

So where does this leave non-STEM, liberal arts majors?

Employment website reports that completing any form of university education is still the best way to succeed financially in Canada although it concedes that certain majors are in higher demand in the job market than others.  A bachelor’s degree holder earns 30% more than an individual without any degree while a master’s degree or PhD holder can increase their earnings by an additional 15%.  Individuals with degrees professional degrees like commerce, nursing an engineering have a higher earning premium than those in the social sciences, life sciences and humanities. Therefore, some kind of degree is better than no degree at all.

A liberal arts degree, however, provides a different set of benefits, some of which may helpful in a competitive job market. Writing for the Globe & Mail, Scott Stirret observes that the benefit of studying a popularly reviled humanities subject can give one considerable intercultural and communication skills which can be very useful in a rapidly evolving, global work environment. He also suggests that it is the interest of all types of companies to hire individuals from different academic backgrounds, challenging the myth that organizations only hire one type of candidate.  In his book In Defense of a Liberal Education, which I had the pleasure of reading, Fareed Zakaria notes that a liberal arts education gives an individual the ability to keep learning which is a valuable skill to have in a dynamic work environment where the type of skills one needs to remain competitive keeps changing.

Conventionally high earning majors such as computer science can provide graduates with immediate financial certainty and professional clarity which is decidedly harder for liberal arts graduates to achieve. That does not mean, however, that all the non-STEM graduates are about to go extinct. Their degree teaches them how to adapt to different circumstances, giving them a freedom of a different kind.


Comment, Satire, Student Life

College Diaries #1: Essay writing

Mission: To write an essay on (insert elaborate topic of desperation/ choice here) by (deadline inflicted on innocent students by sadistic professor(s)).

What the ideal student does:

1)Spends some time analyzing the essay prompt after which (s)he creates a draft outlining the initial ideas buzzing around the organ where the little gray cells reside.

2) Makes a plan of action which illustrates how much work needs to be done each day, in order to finish the essay two days before the deadline. Proof reading is important after all.

3) Visits professors’ office hours and inundates the TA’s  inbox with inquisitive emails.

4)Does research- lots of it- and is friends with The Library and its formidable guardian, The Librarian.

5) Avoids using Google Scholar because (s)he knows how to utilize the help of The Library’s cousin, The Online Library.

6) Uses correct grammar and concise language.

7)Monopolizes office hours and TA mailboxes some more.

8) Temporarily feels guilty for this.

9)Delights the folks at the Writing Center with his/her company. Everyone deserves happiness and joy.

10) Proof reads. Multiple times. Three days before The Deadline.

What the rest of us do:

1)Glance at the essay prompt. Then spend twenty minutes of Facebook.

2)Check out the latest from the Trolls on Twitter and a (presumably sensible) few others.

3) Complain about how much university sucks and how the professor is out to “get us”.

4) Worry about what everyone else is doing. Panic calmly.

5) Scare ourselves silly based on what other people say they are doing on social media.

6) Try an ask a somewhat intelligent question in course groups on aforementioned social media.

7) Get coffee at (insert name of cheap caffeine supplier). When feeling Rich (or Foolish), visit Starbucks.

8)  Panic frantically (two days before the deadline) when we realize we have no content to write an little time to think.

9) Start writing. Share tips on Facebook for “struggling students” while having absolutely no idea about how to proceed ourselves. Who said groping in the dark was worthless?

10) Start considering the merits of the Late Penalty. Pull one (of many) All Night-er.

Food & Culture

A Sign of Hope

Societies across the world have pursued the ideal of beauty and of perfection over the centuries. In the Age of the Internet this exercise has become a sinister routine, largely due to the fact that our thirst for perfection is fueled by the media and by society. Individually and collectively, we become averse to confronting the more uncomfortable realities of life such as social inequality, hunger and poverty and most unfortunately, human disability. But at the SIGNS Bar & Restaurant on 558 Yonge Street in Toronto, an optimistic approach to the challenges of disability can be found.

A range of food is served- chips and guacamole, Vietnamese Banh-Mi (sandwiches), Pad Thai and the omnipresent Indian butter chicken. The last dish appears to have conquered eateries in the city rather like the British conquered its land of origin, but that rant merits a separate article. The ambience of the place is young and cheerful, enhanced by the smiling staff and by the black and white photographs adorning the walls. The drinks cost from 5-10 $ and each dish is priced between 15- 20$, therefore the description of “upscale” on Google is justified. However, this is an eatery one would want to experience more for the servers working there than the food- because they are deaf and mute.

On entering the premises, one is greeted by the silent but smiling staff and seated by a member of the team who can speak. The speaker introduces the server who will be waiting on the table for the evening, providing instructions on how to communicate with him or her. Taking photographs of the menu, which has been designed to include images instructing the reader on how to convey their order in sign language, is forbidden. But one is permitted to take a photograph in, or of, any other part of the restaurant. Alongside the menu a flipbook, containing information about using phrases like ‘Good job’ and ‘More water please’ in sign language, is provided — presumably intended to encourage the server.

Despite the slightly steep prices and fairly conventional menu, visiting this restaurant is worthwhile. It highlights how lucky most of us are — which is often easy to forget in a consumption driven society — simply because all our faculties of communication are working. Communicating with somebody who is handicapped is very challenging, and one would often not want to do so. When one does, one is likely to feel deep pity towards the other person. In fact, in 2011 CBC News reported that “less than half of Canadian adults with disabilities have jobs”. Diane Bergeron — the national director of government relations and advocacy for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind — suggests that the reason visually impaired individuals, and by extension anyone with a physical or mental disability, have scarce employment opportunities is because of “a perception and an assumption that they can’t do the job.” The beauty of SIGNS is that it takes a factor out of the equation — by thematically structuring an economic opportunity around it. In doing so, it provides the people working there with daily experiences of dignity and respect.


Ruminations on….well, read on and figure it out :D

Freshmen are often told that they will “discover themselves” at university. The discovery happens both inside and outside the classroom. There are multiple possibilities; the changes that others have told one to expect don’t necessarily happen.
We are often told that we will completely change the course of our degrees. Often, students start with a particular subject and end with its opposite.
Disclaimer: All the instances cited here are based on empirical evidence i.e. what I observe around me, which may be flawed, biased, exaggerated and likely, hysterically funny. DO NOT consider it the Gospel Truth.
The Oh-my-god, need to change majors/ faculties/ perspective on life epiphany
While the first semester of university does deliver many academic epiphanies to a student’s doorstep, they aren’t necessarily as dramatic as widely believed. For example, it doesn’t work like this:
Student: What a wonderful class! Based on this one class alone, I’m going to declare a major in this subject because, hey, all of the courses required to complete this major/ specialist/ minor are as fantastic. Guaranteed. And I don’t need to do any further research, talk to the College Registrar or to any upper year students. When you know, you just know.

It is likely that something similar to the next few scenarios will transpire.

Scenario 1:
A student, looking suitably disheveled from sleep deprivation/ whatever he or she was doing last night, walks into a lecture hall.
Student: This place is massive, I won’t be able to ask a question (because it’s bloody scary). 2000 people in one room- I’m outta here.
Scenario 2:
Another equally morbid, heavily/ under populated lecture hall. Same, long-suffering student.
Student: Hmm… that sounds interesting. The professor doesn’t put me to sleep. Tutorials are interesting. Maybe I won’t drop this course. Considering pursuing a major in this subject, or not. Oh wait, that’s not up to me- GPA’s the boss.
Note: The repeated use of the word “interesting” shows the student’s lethargy.
Scenario 3:
The student is alert completely engaged in the lecture. In love with the professor or, whatever he/she is saying.
(Breaks into some form of excited dance)
Scenario 4:
Student aimlessly wandering, looks tired from too much sleep.
Student: Lecture? What is that? Where is it? Am I enrolled in that course? (Walks away in a daze)
The in-touch with nature moment:
Looking at that first snowflake/ ray of sunlight through the curtains. Violins playing in the mesmerized student’s head.
Student: Nature is beautiful. Life is beautiful. I should take up yoga.
Disclaimer: Weather conditions are subject to change, depending on one’s geographical location.

The realization that “cool” is a subjective word.
Student A: I spent the whole night at the library. There are so many readings, but I really need to work harder. G-panting- P-panting- A
Student B: That’s cool. I had a “sick” week! Was out every night, AND I still made it to class.
Student A: That’s cool.
Student C: Can’t talk now- busy with so many extracurriculars. That resume won’t build itself. (Runs out of room)
Students A & B: That’s cool.
From this we also deduce that word “sick” is also subjective.
You can’t possibly do everything- and it’s okay:
Before beginning university, every student has a “bucket list’- although the contents of each vary. I did too- my list is endless and still incomplete. With great difficulty, I’ve managed to one or two of the things I had originally intended.
Once the onslaught of assignments, readings and tutorial attendance begins there is very little time left. In addition to that, one has to learn to live independently (this involves eating healthy, without parental nagging), cope with homesickness and make friends. The last one is a crucial as maintaining a healthy GPA because, as sociology tells us, “man is a social being”.
Note: This may not be applicable to you if you enjoy being a hermit crab and living (i.e. hiding) under your bed.
You also need to sleep enough…..well…try to sleep enough.

Don’t kill yourself, worrying about everything you didn’t do this semester. There’s still a WHOLE OTHER SEMESTER and lots of snow to trudge through.


To be or not to be….choices of an average University of Toronto student

To be or not to be- Daily dilemmas of the regular UofT student

2014-09-03 15.33.52
Shakespeare’s oscillating, moody protagonist left us a few wise words before dying. Let us explore how they our daily lives as (clichéd as hell) “leaders of the future”- a title bequeathed to young people across the world by multiple people, that I don’t know who deserves the credit for it (read: citations). Read on , and be amused (hopefully):

1. To drop or not to drop ( a course)
2. To exercise or not to exercise (everyday)
3. To sue or not to sue ( the campus catering)
4. To cry or not to cry (for that dying GPA)
5. To sleep or not to sleep (that extra hour)
6. To live or not to live (in Robarts/ “Insert any other preferred library”)
7. To pursue or not to pursue ( those “meaningful” distractions called extra-curricular activities)
8. To attend or not to attend ( class/that particular party, the weekend before major submissions/tests)
9. To fight or not to fight (with one’s roommate/ the cold weather outside)
10. To run or not to run (away from campus)
11. To be or not to be ( happy, despite the challenging, often heart-breaking UofT universe)


Canada calling…destination Toronto

The beautiful city of Toronto. #torontobynight
The beautiful city of Toronto. #torontobynight

The reason I haven’t written and no, this isn’t good old procrastination is because I’ve moved to a new city. As a student at the University of Toronto, I now live in as the name of the university suggests Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If you looked into the archives though, you would find that the last post was published in August its November now and I apologize to those kind enough to read this blog.

Being a university student has taught me a few things, but I’ll talk about that later. Mostly I hoped that God and my marginally improved time management skills ensure that I keep updating this blog regularly, since this is the only piece of writing I do now that’s not for class. Across the world many suffering souls i.e. other university students will empathize.

Now, for the big cliché reveal- A few things university has taught me:

  1. Living with a room mate is not as easy and fun as the wise-ones-before-us-say. Even if one has a room mate one actually talks to, one misses the privacy of one’s own space. And the embarrassing walk-ins on the aforementioned room mate and a (possibly) significant other become a fact of life. Rather like the sun rising in the east.
  2. Being a nerd doesn’t lead to expulsion from the rest of the (un)civilized society. In fact it helps maintain those three massively important letters G P A.
  3. Talking about politics (global or local) isn’t considered alien; it can bore others if done all the time. But I suppose that is applicable to anything in life.
  4. A Bathroom Battle Strategy is necessary when one shares a bathroom with forty-seven other people. Beware of the basins and commodes on a Saturday/ Sunday morning or even a very late Friday night.
  5. The library may well become one’s new home, in which case one wonders why one is paying those expensive residence fees. The libraries at the University of Toronto are mostly gorgeous, peaceful environments so no complaints there.
  6. The threat of that mountain of work that they warned us about yes, that’s very real and can be quite demoralizing. Best to work on those time management skills or pay the price.
  7. They also mentioned that the cafeteria food will be terrible, repetitive and make one want to vomit. The last one may be an exaggeration, but point taken. In fact these days my happy expressions closely resemble my I-just-escaped-the-caf face.
  8. Sex is everywhere. People are talking about it or, quite literally “doing it”. Refreshingly though, nobody’s hiding it.
  9. People get drunk routinely (read: frat parties, house parties, college parties), which makes one want to avoid the bathrooms on the weekends. Sadly one can’t. Kudos to those party-hard people who actually make it to class, and through term assignments successfully.
  10. There are lots of activities to pursue from simply the gym to the countless clubs. Don’t worry about getting healthy that automatically happens from all that power walking one does to reach class on time and courtesy of all that sacrificed caf food. Fair warning though; although many things seem appealing one won’t be able to it all.

I won’t be mentioned the crashing averages, because everyone out there ( genius, stupid, average) has already suffered those. No point increasing grief in an already grieving world.