Tag Archives: School

Parlez-vous francais?

So, I’ve started my bilingual education at a bilingual school.

This is now stuck in my head forever. This and Gangnam Style.  Oh, frosh week.

Why A Single Mac Program Will Save Me

We all do it. How many countless hours have you spent studying, only to be prolonged by interludes of mindlessly refreshing Facebook or Twitter?

It’s like a comfort blanket that we can’t let go of. Those physiology terms are messing with your brain? Stop the osteocyte talk for a minute and see what your friends are up to online. That’s much better, isn’t it?

But, for many of us, it has almost ruined us. It’s like a drug. You can’t get away. It takes an enormous amount of willpower to just…stop. The biggest mistake I made in first year was taking my laptop to class. The notes I did take on powerpoint slides got lost forever in a sea of poorly-organized and over-saturated files on my desktop. I should have just brought a notebook. Good ol’ pen and paper. Nothing beats that. (Vague Simpsons reference alert!)

Last week I discovered this program for Macs, called Self Control. I only bold it because it’s just so funny and sad that a computer program has to be in charge of something we should all be able to do by now. Oh well, that’s 2011 for you.

You don't mess with it.

It’s very simple. You add some websites to your “blacklist” and the program will not allow you to access them for whatever amount of time you choose. You cannot get around it. Closing the program doesn’t work, neither does restarting you computer. It’s like a built-in preschool teacher, yelling at you to stop screwing around.

I turned it on today while working on an admissions letter, and got an entire rough draft done. The amount of times you have an urge to check Facebook will astound and probably sadden you, so get used to asking yourself “what is wrong with me?”

Too bad I’ve still got my smartphone. I guess I’ll have to take some responsibility for myself, right?

You can download it here

Midterms? Oh, I Remember Those.

I have spent the majority of my life in school. The last 4 years have gotten me used to constantly being under stress to finish some assignment or another, especially around this time in the year.

Of course, there’s the momentary “haha, sucks to be you” feeling you get when your friends complain about tests and labs. Hey, I’m going out to the bar this Friday whether you have an exam or not, kids! I may not have anyone to go with, but that doesn’t matter. Shush.

I have no labs, no lectures, no classes. No group projects. No group projects? No group projects! Oh god, do I ever hate group projects. It makes it worse when you attend a commuter school and every single person seems to be live in a different corner of the city and they each have no transportation, sense of direction, or free time.

Instead of spending all night with a cup of overly-sugared homemade coffee and a 40 pound textbook, preparing for a sure-fail exam the next day, I sit and do nothing. I’ve just picked up some library books, but they don’t count. I’m reading Tina Fey‘s biography, for Christ’s sake, not Moby Dick.

Occasionally, I do some online shopping and then never actually order the 4 cardigans. Or, I’ll write a punch of bad blog post drafts. More often than not, I do nothing. Nothing.

I work. I stand there, put on a big fake smile, and try not to rip open the next spray bottle of End-All that comes through so I can chug it all and get the hell out of there. Sometimes I sweep. Actually, I sweep a lot. I find myself just walking around with a dustpan and broom even though everything has been swept, just to look busy. There isn’t much to do except sweep and try to look like I’m not wasting time by memorizing codes for straw bales and pie pumpkins. I’ve taken up pacing, actually. A lot of pacing. If I am wearing pants with decent pockets*, I’ll print out some receipt paper and scribble down ideas for posts, drawings, random funny thoughts, etc.

*decent pockets=no secret notes falling into the hands of the wrong people. I remember the day I found a hand-written poem about god knows what sitting under the keyboard. I laughed for days (although I never found out who it was who wrote it.)

Each day, there is no coming home with new knowledge. Except for the occasional fact about Japanese Anenomes I happen to pick up while relaying an answer to a guest, I don’t learn much. There aren’t any challenging tasks presented, I don’t accomplish anything new. I am just there to keep the equilibrium going, not to improve anything.

So, here we go. I’ll say it. I miss school. I miss learning. I miss writing essays and lectures and all that fun stuff. At least I knew I was doing something to improve my life every time I stepped into a class room. I was chipping away at a degree, every word I wrote on an essay.

Instead, my next assignment will be creating a detailed budget for the UK. I’m looking at hostels and train fares and visas transportation and whatnot. I’m trying to get it all together, and it seems like a lot! So look at that, kiddies, I do have a project to work on. And I guarantee the outcome of mine will be much more exciting then whatever project you’re working on. Hah.

I also have to work out which programs I’m applying to. I have a grip on this, finally! And York University’s Glendon College is beautiful…

I’m sure you’re thinking the same thing. “Damn, I wish I only had to go to work and I was actually making money.” At least your education will hopefully mean your job doesn’t suck as much as mine!

Perspective is a funny thing.

Je veux appendre le français! Pourquoi?

I don’t even know if that is grammatically correct. I can translate things word-for-word, but when it comes to the settle oddities or French sentence structure, I must sound horrible. If they had a French equivalent of Engrish Funny, I’d probably be their top contributor.

“Wait, you mean “tête carrée” isn’t a compliment? Whoops.”

As many of you probably know, Canada is a bilingual country. This doesn’t mean that everyone in every city speaks French, or that we even like French. It just means that there are two sides to every cereal box, a French one and an English one. Québec is our French province. In most places outside Montreal, everyone you encounter will speak French and perhaps a little English. There are also the Acadian areas of the east coast, and various small towns in northern Ontario and Alberta that are francophone.

Toronto, however, is the opposite. People here speak every language on earth. Russian, Hindi, Italian, Punjabi, Cantonese, Mandarin. Not so much with French. I think I’ve encountered maybe…I don’t know…10 people speaking French in Toronto? (Yes, more probably know the language but were just conversing in English.)

This is why I’m having such a problem with it. I want to become fluent. I took French throughout high school and I can conjugate verbs like no body’s business, but when it comes to conversing, I don’t know what the hell people are talking about. Every spoken word in high school French was slow and straightforward. I can’t even understand French kids’ shows, they speak too fast for me.

The amount of times I’ve driven through Québec and lost my nerve to order a sandwich in French in frustrating. I’ll stand in line and think to myself, “Bonjour! Est-ce que je peux avoir une six inch vegetable sub, s’il vous plait?” only to walk up and order in English? What if they don’t understand my accent? What if I have to switch to English when they stare at me with confusion? Ahhh!

I mean, if I’m going to get a degree in something a little abstract with no surefire job, as I had in nursing, I might as well have something going for me that most people don’t.

Hopefully next year I’ll have the guts to join a French club at university. What could be more fun than going out to a pub and getting drunk with a bunch of French-learners?

Until then, I’ll suffer through watching Dino Train on the French channels with the captioning on.

Don’t even get me started on learning Quebec French vs. France French.

Anyone who has struggled to learn a new language without the option of immersion, please share any tips you have avec moi.

The Perils of Being 19

Oh, 19. It’s the age where half the older people you meet say, “I wish I was 19 again,” and the other half scoff and walk away, brushing off any attempt you’ve made at making a mature comment or suggestion.

First things first, I can drink in all of Canada. (Well, I could drink in Quebec, Manitoba, and Alberta since I was 18.) This isn’t really that awesome considering most European countries are more relaxed about their ages, but at least I’m not living in America!

Sucks for you guys.

I mean, just look at our classy booze stores.

But, then again, you guys can buy whiskey at your local Wal-Mart. I do envy that. Occasionally, fancy grocery stores will have those little wine booths on your way out, completely separate from the store, but that’s it. Apparently the government thinks people don’t drink and drive on wine. (That is the main reason we can’t sell it in gas stations and big box stores, right?)

Enough about the alcohol. (I’m 19, cut me some slack!)

It’s just such an awkward age. You can’t call yourself a “20-something,” yet referring to yourself as a “teenager” just seems weird. Teenagers, in my books, usually don’t have massive debt, to start. (Student loans are crazy, although not as crazy as the states. Sorry, guys. We win this one, too.) Teenagers usually don’t live by themselves with roommates…
It just seems like being in college as a “teenager” is the wrong choice of words.

People just assume you’re a student, too. Customers always make that awkward small talk:

“So, you go to school, right?”
“Uh…yeah…I just have the day off class….”

I lie to save face. These are people who are obviously asking that first question because, to them, working retail is the absolute worst fate any young adult could ever succumb to. They must be trying to work their way out of it, right?
I also lie because “Well, I did a year at this university but it wasn’t really at this university and I really did not like the school or the program so now I’m taking a year off to save up money I lost on that first year and figure out where I want to go next” is a lot to spit out.

In the second decade of your life, ages 10-19, it’s pretty straightforward. If you live in a Western country (probably similar to most countries, but I’d rather not assume what I don’t know), it can be expected you’ll finish elementary school, then high school, and then go to some sort of college or university. Aside from dropping out of high school, or choosing the wrong major the first year and screwing everything up *cough*, it’s hard to veer off course. That’s really all you have to do to be successful at that age.

Between the ages of 20 and 29, however, you can really fuck it all up or make it work. You can drop out of school and work at Pizza Pizza forever. You can get married and have kids. You can get hired at a giant company and start climbing the corporate ladder. You can move out and buy a house or you can still live with your parents.
There’s just so much uncertainty, and what seems like so many ways to fail, in the next decade.

I’m sure I’ll come to terms with it.

Every year, when I turn a new age, I think “Holy shit on my next birthday I’ll be 17/18/19/20. Shit, that’s old. My god.”
But, by the time my next birthday rolls around, I’m ready to move on. It’s weird how that works.

Hiding From Reality: University Edition

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to go to U of T.

I mean, just look at it, and this is in the heart of downtown Toronto!
It’s gigantic. Huge. With every club for every interest you could possibly ever dream up on your wildest nights.

Then, a week before applying for post-secondary school, I got this brilliant idea in my head that I should go be a nurse. I can’t even remember what it was, I had never even considered the career option before the middle of grade 12. Actually, I think it was all the stories I kept hearing of graduates with degrees in humanities winding up working at Pizza Pizza. Or, even worse, Rogers.

Nursing, infinitely harder to get into than humanities, had me wind up at a school I absolutely hated in a place I hated. (East Scarborough? Ew, it’s like almost Pickering.)

Now I have a choice. Technically, I am still a student of another university that’s pretty cool…I think. A school that doesn’t carry the name of U of T, but also has no snootiness or competitiveness like U of T.
Most of the buildings were built mid-century and not beautiful and ivy-covered (I’m not even kidding when I listed that to my guidance counsellor as a main reason to pick a school.) But…it’s got this thing!

Now I somehow have to force myself to call to see if I can transfer into another program. What if they say no? U of T is, on average, harder to get into than this school. Shit.

…and then there’s uOttawa…5 and a half hours away…

…where I will have an infinitely better chance of being successful at my dream to become fluent in French.

I’ll give it until October 15 before I start phoning universities to get info.
October 15th. Just 24 more days of hiding from reality.

Oh god…and then I will have to start applying…again.

(Please refer to the cartoon girl at the head of this page to illustrate the feelings that follow.)