Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fall rituals and routines

Many people have rituals and routines that they associate with the (not necessarily unique) North American event called returning to school. The following blog offers a perspective from Kris. We invite you to share your rituals and routines. Are there things that fall + school make you think of? Things that you do every year?


Every time that big tree in my front yard starts to turn yellow, I know school is about to start. Involuntarily, I start to assess my wardrobe and note how many faded and pilly clothes I’ve got, wonder the last time I wore that very trendy shirt, and decide I will need more clean underwear in case I get into an accident and have to go to the hospital.

Yes, you read correctly, I am channeling my mother. She’s still very much alive, but I can hear her disembodied voice telling me to try on every stitch of clothing I own to see what I need to buy for the coming year. My cheeks flush at the embarrassing memory of having to parade in front of my mom outside the change room and have her tug at the waistband of my jeans to see how much room I’ve got left. *shiver*

So despite the fact that I haven’t lived with my parents for nigh-on a decade, just before tuition is due, I go shopping. I am not a shopper. I hate malls and I hate trying on clothes. My strategy is therefore comprised of finding an eager store attendant who can stock me up without me having to look for anything myself. It’s a flawed strategy, and invariably leaves me with things I only wear sporadically, but it’s a survival mechanism and, ultimately, tradition. If my mother has taught me nothing else, it is the importance of tradition.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Remember those really awesome high school teachers you had? They would always let you re-write a test or give you extra time to do your homework if you were sick. They would also put together a packet of work for you to do if you missed a few days of school. Those people don’t work at the university level.

  • Your attendance is not foremost in a professor or lecturer’s mind, especially considering some classes may have over 200 students.
  • The marks of most classes will follow a standard bell curve. Your placement on that curve is your responsibility.
  • Most professors and lecturers will not give you extra work to “make up” a bad mid-term grade. Mid-terms can be worth a lot, often 25-40% of your final grade. Don’t underestimate their importance.

The one major difference between high school and university is who is responsible for the learning. In high school, the teachers are responsible to make sure that you learn how to solve equations, play the trombone and spike a volleyball. At university, you are solely responsible for how much you learn.

Fortunately, most professors and lecturers will respond very positively to someone who takes ownership of their own learning. You will recognize these people, partly because they are always lurking around campus at all hours of the day and night. They are students who keep up on the readings without having to be told. They are students who study when there isn’t an exam looming. They are students who ask intelligent questions in class and make a point of visiting the professor’s office hours to ask even more intelligent questions. But most importantly, they are the students who ask for help when they need it and end up succeeding the most. These are not always the smartest people in the class, they are just the ones who know it’s their job to learn and treat school that way.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Top 6-ish things to do in your first week at University

  1. Read up on the UMSU Health and Dental plan. Opting out can put some extra coin in your pocket, but knowing how the coverage works might save you even more. Careful research will help you tell the difference.
  2. Write your professor’s office hours into your agenda as soon as you get them. Having them in your daytimer will simplify your life once you’ve mis-organized the syllabus.
  3. Put money on your photocopy card/student card. You may not need to photocopy something now, but later on when you have 15 minutes to print out 20 copies of a presentation before class you’ll be thankful the money is there.
  4. If necessary, walk through your timetable. Know where each classroom is and the most efficient way to get from one building to another (especially in winter). In this context, efficient can mean: warm, uncrowded and/or going past a coffee shop.
  5. Avoid line-ups by getting there early. The registrar’s office, the University 1 office, the financial aid and awards office and the Bookstore are all hotbeds of activity in September. Showing up before they open can help you avoid wasting too much time standing in line.
  6. Spend time on the University of Manitoba website randomly following links. There are hundreds of people at the university employed to do nothing but help students. Knowing where these people work and what they do is vital to helping you succeed in the long term. You can find a job, find a new course, find academic supports and many other resources. Accessing departmental websites can also give you a sense of different directions your education can go.
  7. Attend Orientation events. They are a great way to have fun and connect with others.