20 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting University

I’m sure many of you are gearing up to hit your first year of University, and are scared out of your minds.

I don’t blame you: I sure was, about this time last year. As the eldest child, I was the first in my family to go away to school, and I didn’t get much pertinent info from my older university-grad cousins. So I was pretty stressed. It’s not as if high school really prepares you all that well for the real deal, what with your teachers waxing poetic about what school was like ‘back in their day’ and emphasizing their own personal note-taking methods (not realizing, of course, that your style of note-taking comes with lots and lots of trial and error). So you suddenly end up in the summer before the rest of your life, your head full of mumbo jumbo and feeling pretty freggin’ nervous.

Of course, you could be one of those ‘fearless’ types. Or you could be, like friends of mine, absolutely dying to get away from high school and their families. Either way, I hope that these lessons I learned in my first year are helpful to you.

What I Wish I’d Known

School pride!

1. It’s impossible to not make friends. Honestly. It is. As soon as you get there, you’ll be bombarded with people and events, all set up for you to meet new people. You’ll be running around introducing yourself, asking where people are from and what they’re studying. And that’s just the first couple days! Then comes frosh (aka nonstop socializing), then classes, then labs/conferences. You’ll start to bond with your floor, start to go out with certain people and have different experiences.  You’ll start to make great friendships. You’ll gravitate towards certain people, spend more time with others, and sooner or later you’ll end up with people you refer to as friends! Easy peasy. So don’t worry, you’ll definitely make friends. But you won’t immediately find close friendships. That’s hard to accept, especially for people like me who had a great support system in high school. But close friendships take time! Take it slow, trust your instincts, and eventually lots of great friendships will start to blossom.

You'll make awesome friends..:)

2. You’re already interesting. Don’t worry so much about whether or not you’ll be perceived as ‘cool’. Don’t try to change yourself before university! What makes us different makes us interesting. Be yourself, as hard as that can sometimes be, and people will love you for who you are. Honest.

3. You’ll probably cry a lot. Sorry. It’s kinda true. The reasons are different for everyone: maybe (like me) you’ll burst into tears over your calculus textbook practically every time you try to study, or maybe you’ll suffer a bad long-distance relationship breakup, or maybe you’ll be sad you’re not making close friends faster, or maybe you’ll be homesick, or maybe any number of things. Don’t think that you’re the only one crying. YOU AREN’T. When I became close to a few girls on my floor after a few months, they told me that they’d thought I’d had it all figured out during those first few months (when actually I was falling apart) and that they’d been crying a lot too (even though I thought they’d been fine!). Point is: you’re not alone. Everyone feels sad, everyone wants to be reached out to. So if you knock on a door every once and a while, you might find some great friends way faster! :)

4. The school part is just another step up. You know how Grade 12 was harder than Grade 11 (hello! calculus?) and Grade 11 was harder than Grade 10? Well guess what. Grade First Year University is harder than Grade 12. It’s another step up. But no, it’s not impossible. The trickiest part about first year is learning how to learn at a university level (your note-taking method, time-management) while balancing a social life, it’s not the material itself. Of course, I’m not saying that it’s easy! Learning how to learn is very tricky, the workload can seem overwhelming, sometimes the teaching methods make you want to cry (see #3!) but, it’s manageable. As long as you figure out how to balance school and fun, and put your mind to it, you’ll succeed. The ones who fail are the ones who can’t balance, and tip the scales towards fun. The scales have to be even!

My study space..

5. You should indulge your personality type. Try to think about whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert – look at the definitions here to figure it out for yourself. In my opinion, it’s important to be conscious of the distinction, because when you hit university, you’re in an extrovert’s world. Constant socializing, all day and all night, during meals, classes, partying, etc. Especially in a dorm! For introverts (or people who are half and half!) it’s important to find ways to take time for yourself before you become drained. You see, extroverts get lots of energy from social interactions, whereas introverts harvest energy in alone time. So if you’re an introvert (as I partially am), it’s okay to get away from it all and spend time by yourself. Find a quiet place if you don’t have a single room, go for a walk, go explore on your own, write in a journal. Make sure you replenish that energy so that you still have the motivation to socialize some of the time.

I love walking up the mountain to get away

6. Going home is not the answer. I know that sometimes you might be hurting. You want your mama. Not a big deal, we’re all there sometimes. But in your first year, it’s crucial that you don’t go home every weekend. You might be terrified to put yourself out there and socialize, but people want to be friends with you. They’ll embrace you with open arms! I promise. But if you don’t make any effort and go home at every occasion, you’ll be missing out on an important chance to find friends, and find yourself. You can’t be your own person if you never let go of home and the security it provides. University is the time to forge out forward and discover yourself and others. *However, if what you’re feeling is more than social fear, and you feel extremely depressed (lack of appetite, insomnia, or thoughts of suicide {a better analysis here} then it may be a great idea to reach out to your family, and take a short break from school or seek therapy.* Just this year, a boy on one of my friend’s dorm floors committed suicide while at school. It was a tragedy. The pressures of university are great, try not to be afraid to reach out to a floor fellow, family member or friend for help or someone to talk to.

7. You may dislike a few people. Or more than a few. You’ll run into several types of people at university, from all walks of life and backgrounds. It’s safe to assume you won’t get along with many of them. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just gravitate towards people who make you feel happy and everything will work out. Sometimes, jerks will ingratiate themselves into your life, as my friend (whose roommate was dating an asshole) found out. In those instances, the most you can do is try to ignore them, set boundaries with the roommate, and grit your teeth until they go away. Don’t indulge them. Try not to spend time with them.

8. A single bed fits two. Trust me and my friends.

9. You’ll probably want a quiet place. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you’ll need some time alone every once in a while. Whether to make private phone calls, cry, reflect, or study, you should have somewhere to yourself. This is not easy to find. I was lucky to have a single room, but the walls are thin, so I found solace outside, in libraries, and in my closet. Ha! Try and find somewhere to yourself, it’s hard to be around people when you want to be alone.

10. If alcohol is God, then drinking is the bible, but you can choose how religious you want to be. Make no mistake, a ton of drinking occurs at university. Any university. Mostly, it is good times, it’s fun! But everyone’s different. Not everyone reads the bible every single day: most read from it once or twice a week. Likewise, some people go out/drink more than others. At university, if you wanted to, you could find people going out to a bar any night of the week (Mondays are definitely not off limits, the weekend starts on Thursday). The question is, do you want to? It’s up to you to decide. Remember that without balance, you will fail in all aspects of your life.

My friend Morgan

11. “Routine is despair’s sly assassin.” What a fantastic quote, right? And it’s true. Whether it be a sleep schedule, a weekly timeslot for the gym, specific times of days for meals: routines are so important. Your health when at school is of the utmost importance: how will you study, party and socialize if you’re exhausted or sick? You won’t. Trust me, you don’t wanna be sick at school. Routines are also good for stress relief. For example, if you have a plan or schedule for exam studying, the whole ordeal will be less overwhelming. Routine kills despair. Remember this, young grasshoppers!

12. Expanding your comfort zone is hard, but necessary. Nobody said it would be easy! Or maybe they did, but they lied. Going away to school is probably one of the worst, hardest, and best experiences you will ever have. Sure, it’s the best years of your life, but it’s some of the hardest too. You’re busy trying to get good grades, learn how to live on your own, make great friends, figure out who you are, etc, etc, and all the while, your comfort zone that you lived happily inside all through high school is rapidly spreading, maybe faster than you want it to. But it’s important to push yourself, be scared, do new things. It’ll be terrifying and hard, but you won’t regret it – or you will, but it will be a life lesson.

At the Rocky Horror Picture Show!

13. Not everyone has lost their virginity! So for goodness sake don’t go rush out this summer and lose it just so that you won’t be the only one left. Trust me, you won’t be the only one left. I’ve met tons of people this year, some were virgins, some weren’t. The point is, the question only ever comes up when you’re already becoming very close friends, and at that point they won’t suddenly drop you if you’re a virgin. Yeesh, look what television and movies will do to people these days!

14. University students are constantly comparing themselves to each other. You do it, I do it. Everyone does it. You always want to know where you stand, whether it be in classes, how much you exercise, how much you party, etc. It’s important to remember that this is a natural thing, this is how people figure out where they fit in to things. Sometimes it can be annoying, especially if people are aggressive about it (in some of my classes, people would constantly ask about grades because they were desperate to be on top) but I always love to remember this quote from The Sunscreen Song: “Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

15. Don’t try and find a roommate for next year within your first month. Honestly, you have time, I swear. Besides, your friend group may change drastically between October and March. Your living situation is a complicated affair, and it will probably have many changes, additions or substitutions before being finalized. So for goodness sake don’t get yourself caught up in a plan for next year in late September: chances are you’ll meet someone else you want to room with! In your first few months, try not to get all stressed about living sitches, focus on school and friends. The rest will fall into place. I promise!

16. Calling your Mom is quite acceptable. People will not mock you for it. Everyone’s doing it. Some people less than others, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. But you probably already knew that. Here I was, thinking that when I got to school, I’d be tormented for calling my mom so much. What can I say? We’re friends.

17. People will respect your choices. People will accept you whether or not you drink, whether or not you smoke, whether or not you do drugs, whether or not you party. They probably won’t accept you (or not too many of them at least) if you never socialize, but any other lifestyle choice will be fine. Honestly! I had friends who didn’t drink, I had friends who were borderline alcoholics (kidding), people who had various study habits, various partying habits.. In the end, the people you’ll end up being friends with will accept your lifestyle choices. Basically, your attitude is everything. If you’re having a great time and being friendly, people won’t care what you’re doing! Here’s a great article from College Fashion about not drinking at school, if you want more information.

18. There is so much exploring to do! You’re living/studying in a brand new city, full of people, events, restaurants, sights, shopping, etc. Don’t miss out on it! Don’t be afraid to escape the University Bubble a couple times during your first year. It makes it so much more fun! Visit a friend at their school, go out for dinner off campus, visit a museum or local attraction, play outside. There is tons to do, tons to explore. Try to get away from the studying, stress, and clubs every once in a while and get to know your city!

Save a horse, ride a bull

19. Get to know your school. Try and get the most out of your fine establishment! Learn as much as you can about the school itself. My campus, for example, has a sex store, a bar, several tunnels (very handy for Montreal winters), an all night hotline (call for any information you could ever want, from jokes to pickup lines to how late the pizza place is open), tons of awesome libraries (yep, I’m a giant nerd), and lots of amazing theatre throughout the year. My friends have similar perks at their schools, or different ones. Explore, ask around, find out all the goodies your school has to offer.

I love my triceratops

20. Don’t worry so much. Everything will work out just fine. It really will. You’ll survive first year, whether or not you worry, so try not to! It’ll be a topsy turvy, crazy ride, with lots of surprises and new experiences. Try and make the most of each of them, and don’t stress so much. I know personally that this is easier said than done, but I’m trying to worry less and live more!

My birthday party!

Conclusion

Going away to university can be the scariest and most fun experience in your whole life. I know that. You know that. I hope that you can get something out of these lessons I learned during my first year, but if you don’t – you’ll learn them yourself your first year! Good luck my loves.

Oh hey: you first year survivers, anything to add? What did you learn this year? Let me know and I’ll add it into this post.

xoxo, S.

Glamourosity

There is nothing I love more than infusing a sprinkling of glamour and luxury into daily life. Whether you consider it luxurious to buy a new lipstick, linger with a cup of tea, sleep in, curl up with a stack of books or surround yourself with beautiful trinkets, there is quite literally something for everyone in the field of glamour. See my post on how to live a cozier life for more inspiration!

One of my favourite websites for additional inspiration is {this is glamourous}. It posts almost every day, simply with beautiful pictures of fashion, home decor and things that are simply so..well, glamourous. Definitely check it out, it will sweep you away with its champagne pink ruffles and gold trim.

Today I thought I’d share some photos I’ve taken of glamourosity in my own life/friends. There’s so much beauty everywhere, you just have to stop and look!

Decadent puff pastry pizza with Boursin soft cheese, caramelized onions and basil.

Treating myself to a delicious dark chocolate bar and cozy movie..
Freshly picked flowers from the garden
A favourite photo
A collection of Harrod's products
Isabelle's high fashion bag collection..plus a little sunflower friend!
Isabelle's beautifully french-looking framed poster
Seeing a rainbow on a beautiful afternoon
Buying fruity martinis..

Dressing up in my favourite old-fashioned polka dots for a fancy birthday dinner!

So? What are your favourite luxuries? Where do you find the most beauty around you on a day-to-day basis? I’d love to know!

xoxo, S.

Purge Your Closet!

I am posting today on a serious issue. It is a problem that is sweeping the nation: closet obesity.

My closet before purging

Both hard-hitting and close to home, this issue has infiltrated even the savviest of shoppers’ closets, wreaking havoc on their closet goals and dreams. Does this sound familiar?

Wardrobe Bulimic – You consistently have buying binges at thrift stores and discount clothing joints. You have perhaps 10 things in your closet you’ve owned for more than 5 years. Your style changes as often as your underpants. Your most inspired outfit is the one you just bought.

-From Painfully Hip

Interesting. I think that so often, we impulsively buy crap clothing in heaps, things we don’t necessarily like or need, can’t afford and get sick of very quickly. Then it just piles up in our closets, and although we have tons of clothes we don’t feel like wearing any of it! This is unhealthy for our personal style, our closets’ waistbands (they’re fat!) and, of course, our wallets. So how to prevent, avoid and cease this vicious cycle? Careful thought.

What do you want your wardrobe to do for you?

As my style has evolved, I’ve realized that I have a preference for classic style: pieces that can be worn over and over, reinvented and go with everything. I still adore my accessories: scarves, jewelery, hats, etc, which give my outfits personality and pizazz, but I keep finding myself returning to my easy, classic pieces that never get old. My wardrobe wishes are to have pieces that make sense, make me look great, can be mixed and matched easily and are stylish and fun to wear.

My Wardrobe Wishes

  1. Non-dressy blazer which goes with jeans, skirts, dresses
  2. Simple silk shift
  3. Perfect-fit red & white striped shirt
  4. Boyfriend jeans
  5. Pretty flats and perfect brogues
  6. Trenchcoat/nice outerwear
  7. Basic white t-shirts
  8. Men’s-style dress shirts
  9. Pouffy skirt
  10. Simple sundress

So I ask you: what are your closet goals? This is the first question you must ask yourself before the big purge.  What do you want out of your wardrobe? Is it trendiness, perfect fit and good quality? Or is it comfort, longevity and affordability? Once you have decided what you want out of your clothes, it becomes much easier to get rid of the clothes that don’t fit into your ‘ideal style’. That’s where the purging comes in.

How to Successfully Purge Your Closet!

After the purge!

The trick is to target pieces that don’t really work. Chances are, you probably know which ones those are: the ones you never reach for while getting dressed, because you know they fit you badly, don’t go with anything, or are outdated. Why do you want these clothes clogging up your dream closet anyways? You don’t! So here’s what I think you should do: get rid of them. I know, it’s big and scary. It’s hard work. It’s mentally frustrating. But guess what? It’s doable! I just did it! Here are three tips I have for losing your bad clothes without losing your mind.

#1. Reflect.

Remember how earlier we decided what our closet goals were? Well, while performing this great feat of closet destruction, keep reflecting. It is easy to lose focus, lose motivation and end up right back where you started. Every time you pick up a piece of your clothing, really think about it. Ask yourself: When was the last time I wore it? Does it look good on me? Does it fit? Is it cheaply made and falling apart? or Is it a keeper? Is it good quality? Is it interchangeable with my wardrobe?  If you keep asking yourself questions and giving honest answers, you’ll be purging in no time!

#2. Be ruthless!

Don’t get all mushy-gushy on your closet. If you’re like me, you have plenty of clothes from another stage of your life: clothes you wore when you were with a boyfriend, in a certain key year of your life, etc. Don’t get sentimental! You have photos and memories of yourself during those times. Keeping the clothes in the back of your closet collecting dust will not help you! If one piece was especially important in your life, then hold onto it, by all means, but keep it separate from your wardrobe, maybe in a box of memories? And remember to give yourself a couple days before getting rid of it all, just in case you change your mind about anything. But overall the mission is: purge, purge, purge. Always remember your closet goals!

#3. Recover.

So you’ve lipo-suctioned off a large chunk of clunky, useless clothes from your poor closet’s body. Great! This is good. It will thank you later. Right now, it’s a bit sore and scraggly looking, so fix it on up. Grab some fancy Ikea hangers/boxes, arrange your dresses in a pretty way, display your shoes, etc. This will get you excited about your clothes again, and forget the pain of the slight emptiness your closet may now display. While you’re soothing your burns, look at these closets to further inspire you: Sea of Shoes, Le Fashion Image, various others..

#4. Share.

I know, you’re still licking your wounds. But now is the time to rejoice! Be strong! And see if you can pull it together enough to share. You now have stacks of unwanted (by you) clothes in your hallway, but who says that just because they don’t match your style, they won’t match someone else’s? Offer them up to your friends and siblings! Have a clothes-swap party with friends! See if anyone can re-love any of the things you no longer need. If not, donate them to the Goodwill or sell them to a consignment shop.

Then, dust off your hands, breathe a sigh of relief and relish in the fact that you’re now free to slowly re-build your closet with good quality clothes that fit you perfectly, look amazing and that you love wearing.

What do you think?

Could you bear to get rid of your clothes? Do you have closet goals you’re not reaching? Have you considered a closet purge? Let me know!

xoxo, S.


15 Productive Ways to Spend 15 Minutes

Photo Thanks to orangeacid

So, picture the scene. You’re fifteen minutes away from

a) A lunch date

b) A big meeting

c) Class starting

d) The library/store/whatever opening

It’s too short a time to start a big project. It’s too long a time to sit idly, what with the busy life you lead. You want to do something quick and ultimately productive. Something that’ll make the rest of your day a little easier, or your to-do list a little shorter. You’re always complaining about how there are too few hours in a day, so packing productivity into your stray minutes may give you more cozy time! Here are fifteen ways to be productive with little, inconvenient spurts of time.

Ways to Be Productive

  1. Write that email. You know the one. That response you were meant to have sent to your father/best friend/colleague that you just keep putting off. Just write it! Get it off your plate for good.
  2. Read a chapter of your book. Always keep a book in your purse or briefcase for this purpose. Look forward to these tiny pockets of time in which you can whip out your book and get lost for fifteen minutes (or more!)
  3. Stretch.
  4. Pay bills. A perfectly easy way to be productive. If, like me, your bills aren’t automatically paid, you can use your fifteen minutes to make sure everything is covered and paid for. That way, when you get home, you can use your time for you, not for silly little chores like that.
  5. Skim yesterday’s notes. A great way to stay on top of your work is to read over yesterday’s notes from lecture or a meeting. You’ll pick up on things you weren’t paying attention to, and save yourself from cramming later.
  6. Read the news. If you never have time over breakfast, use your quick stretch of time to consume as much news as possible from The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, The National Post, or any other paper of your choosing. Keeping on your toes about current events is a great asset in conversation and forging connections.
  7. Build your brain. Do a sudoku! Do a crossword, write an article, click on anything that sounds interesting on the Wikipedia homepage, or play Set online (one of my all-time faves), philosophize, etc. Do anything that will keep you alert and awake for the rest of the day.
  8. Tidy your workspace. Such an easy way to boost productivity! If you’re anything like me, you find it distracting to work at a desk/room that is messy, disorganized, and confusing. You can’t be productive if your desk is littered with papers and you can never find anything. Well, unless you’re Einstein. :)
  9. Write a to-do list. If you’re stressed out and panicky, chances are it’s because you have at least three upcoming items on your mind that need doing. The best way that I’ve found to diminish this panic is to get it all down onto paper. Write down every niggling thing that needs doing at work/school/home, and you’ll be better equipped to take steps to finish them.
  10. Brainstorm. Have you been feeling like starting a new project? Creating something new? Or maybe you want to plan a vacation or party. Whatever ideas you’ve got marinating up there in your wee brain, expand and explore them. Mind map online or on paper, adding details as you let the ideas develop. After you’re done, you’ll have lots of new tasks and ideas to build upon.
  11. Power nap. This may not seem productive in the traditional sense, but read between the lines! Taking a quick nap or rest will re-energize you for the rest of the day and put more productivity into your time.
  12. Re-organize. Is your agenda a complete and utter mess? Your file folders, your computer’s files, your email account, your bookshelves or your drawers? Well, take these fifteen minutes to tackle on of those problems. Clean, purge, tidy, re-organize and breathe better knowing you are hereby much more in control.
  13. Get outside! Weather permitting, get yourself outdoors! Go for a little walk to get the blood flowing, or just sit and enjoy the sunlight. Exercise will wake you up and keep you present for the rest of the day.
  14. Plan meals. Assuming you don’t do this on the weekend, take the time to write down little menus for each day of the week and grocery lists for each of them. This will keep you more sane at the grocery store, diminish impulse purchases, and give you time to ensure you’re eating healthy!
  15. Relax! You don’t always have to be doing something. Sometimes the best form of productivity is to relinquish stress by doing nothing! Take a few minutes to yourself. Listen to some music, close your eyes and breathe.

In conclusion..

Productivity is the key to having more time for yourself. If you don’t waste away the precious minutes you may currently consider too short for anything useful, you might find yourself with more free time to do the things you really want to!

So, what are some things you do with spare minutes? How do you manage your time?

xoxo, S.