Take Your First International Trip This Spring Break

It’s time to cast your cheap, tired self aside. This spring break, take the week (or even two) to escape campus. Don’t paint the illusion from the confines of your parents’ basement or your best friend’s couch. Head abroad. Hesitation never got anyone—whoever anyone may be—anywhere. Heed the following advice and take an international trip this spring break.

Take your first international trip this spring break

Obtain, renew or find your passport

It’s every traveller’s nightmare: you’ve planned the trip of a lifetime only to arrive at the airport with an expired passport (or worse none at all). Instead of Ibiza or Barcelona, you spend your vacation time at the passport office crying on the shoulder of someone who was smart enough to renew their passport before their trip. If you don’t already have a passport, an overseas excursion is the perfect excuse to complete the process. However, do it as soon as possible.

Like now.

Stop reading this post.


While it may take a day to submit your paperwork to the passport office, it can take weeks for the actual passport to arrive in your hands.  Now say you already have your passport? If so, ask yourself, “Where is it?” You may be surprised to discover it’s in the least logical place possible.  

Choose a destination (or let it choose you)

You have two choices: dream up a bucket list worthy destination or select whatever cheap flight is available online at the time of purchase. Consider too, would you prefer a week of booze, buffets and beaches? Then aim for the classic all-inclusive resort, researching accordingly. Otherwise, would you rather play the tourist for your trip, sightseeing every day? In this case, your location is key. If it’s your first time abroad, choose a city big and accessible enough to ease you into the tourist role. Book your ticket with care, perhaps with a buddy to proofread your choice. Give yourself enough time upon your return to unpack and adjust to reality (i.e., don’t intend to return the day of your first class).

Plan as little or as much as suits your personality

Even if your approach to your passport and destination selection didn’t clarify your personality type, creating a day-to-day schedule for your trip certainly should. As my family’s resident trip planner, I live for a thoughtful travel agenda, selecting attractions or areas to explore in the morning, afternoon and evening of each day of our trip and, if possible, appropriate restaurants too. However, there’s nothing wrong with turning up on your trip without anything more than a departure time.

Pack at least the night before

Again, if you’re the free-spirited type, you may consider packing your bags the day of your departure. I strongly advise at least the night before especially if you’ve never travelled before. You may realize last summer’s sunscreen is completely dried up or your windbreaker is two sizes too small. Let me tell you, such last-minute discoveries don’t make travel fun or hilarious. It may take years before you can recount your lack of preparation to friends and family in the form of an entertaining anecdote. Furthermore, you must decide whether or not to check your luggage and if your chosen bags fit the correct size and weight restrictions. Visit your airline’s website for their guidelines.

Enjoy your trip!

How To Build A Better: Burger

by David Kitai

There is little in the world as innately satisfying as a good hamburger. When the bun, meat and toppings are perfectly balanced, a burger can deliver a pure shot of pleasure. However, while it might be the quickest way to instant stomach satisfaction, when made wrong it has the potential to yield truly disappointing results. Follow my tips and find yourself eating the perfect burgers all-year round (on your cheat days of course).

how to build a better burger

A burger is nothing without the right bun

The right bun could mean a two slices of fluffy white Wonder Bread, but as charming as they are, I think we can do better. (The bun should actually taste like something.) If you like a rich burger, consider brioche. My personal preference is a variety made with a mixture of white and whole-wheat flour and sourdough starter. Sourdough-driven bakeries often carry several great bun options. When the bun is fresh with a lightly crispy crust and soft, flavourful crumb, you know you’re in for a good burger.

Don’t oversauce

Too many burgers—otherwise perfect—suffer from an anxious cook laying down four or five different sauces. I don’t care how much you love your dill aioli, it’s doesn’t pair with banana ketchup and peach chutney. Pick one or two sauces for your burger, matching flavours you know work well together. Sauce should be applied conservatively with wetter sauces, like ketchup and mustard, applied to the bottom bun where they will touch the patty. Mayonnaise-based sauces can be spread on the base of the top bun since they won’t soak veggie toppings like their wetter counterparts.

Keep your veggies seasonal

A sandy, watery, out-of-season tomato wrecks a burger. Come wintertime, why not replace them with a few slices of pickled beetroot? You’ll be surprised by how beautifully they fit in your burger. Wintergreens like kale, chard and collards can serve as cold-weather substitutes for lettuce (especially if you give them a quick wilt in a pan). Onions and mushrooms are best when cooked and, if desirable, with a bit of bacon.

Meat isn’t all about fat

But it’s a little bit about fat. The best way to guarantee a better burger is to make your own patty from ground beef. I aim for approximately 15 to 20 percent fat seasoned only with salt and pepper. If you like the fast food-style burger, make a few small ¼ lb-patties pounded thin. If you want something medium-rare, shape a thick ⅓ lb-patty per serving. Most importantly—and perhaps controversially—don’t cook your burger on a grill. Use a cast-iron pan or flattop. The juicy fat will refract back up to the burger, multiplying the flavour and tenderness, rather than dripping off to burn away between the grill slats.

Toast your buns and assemble with care

You might do everything right only to have your burger fall apart en route to your mouth. It’s likely attributed to over stacking and a cold, untoasted bun. Consider too your plate as a whole. Classic as fries may be on a hot summer’s day a juicy burger needs a refreshing side. Opt for grilled asparagus and zucchini topped with a little lemon juice and zest and melted butter, or a green salad with roast corn.

3 Meals To Celebrate Your Post-Exam Freedom

by David Kitai

That final exam, often slated a stupidly long time after all your other work is done, becomes a spectre. It hangs over your year, preventing you from celebrating and cajoling you into the library day in and day out. When that exam ends, when you gleefully hand the booklet to a tired looking TA, it’s a sense of real freedom.

But how do you mark the occasion?

An epic feast, requiring hours of preparation? A lavish night out, racking up a bill to dwarf your student debt? No, for this writer, there is no more perfect, more unsullied, way to celebrate the end of exams than the choice of Parks and Rec’s own Ron Swanson and Lesley Knope: breakfast food.

3 Post-Exam Celebration Meals

Whether you stride out of the exam hall at the middle or the end of the day, breakfast food is the perfect mixture of speed and innate satisfaction. Nothing is more freeing, more indicative of your new wealth of leisure time than luxuriating over breakfast. Furthermore, you want a meal that won’t take more than half an hour to prepare. But each of us are different, we study different things and have different plans for our post-exam reality. Therefore, dear reader, I have for you three breakfast meals that will speak to any post-exam soul in search of celebratory sustenance.

5 Kitchen Gadgets To Gift Yourself After Graduation

by Danielle Del Vicario

Last week, I made hummus. I know, I know. Right now you’re probably rolling your eyes and saying, “Danielle, you make hummus all the time.  And write about hummus all the time. We get it.”

But bear with me.

I made it from scratch, with nothing but a knife, a pot and a potato masher in my student apartment. As I mashed away, my thoughts laced with nostalgia, I remembered my well-stocked kitchen in Durham, England, complete with two food processors, pasta maker, spiralizer and raclette set. What I would give for the days of easy smoothies, perfect zucchini pasta and bubbling French cheese. Much mashing, stirring and (attempted) mincing of garlic with a dull knife later, I had an acceptable—but still pretty lumpy—hummus, packed into the fridge with a disconsolate sigh.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a little elbow grease in the kitchen. I’ve been known to beat egg whites to stiff peaks using just a whisk all in the name of almond riciarrelli. (The perfectly balanced almond cookie, native to Sienna, is worth a quick Google). And while an avocado slicer is not going to make a significant impact on your life, there are kitchen gadgets that will. So as you near the end of exams and possibly even graduation, treat yourself. Please. It will be a life investment with countless hummus-y returns. My five can’t-go-without gadgets are below, but I also salute you on whatever kitchen-related spurges you make.

5 kitchen gadgets to buy yourself after graduation

The 5 Stages Of Finals Season According To Food

When you can’t bring yourself to study anymore—or to even start—procrastinate over food. No one ever encouraged studying on an empty stomach. So while your parents and friends can call you out on extended periods of time on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Netflix—you get my drift—they can’t call you out on preparing a dozen chocolate chip cookies. (Especially if you share your results.) Here are my five stages to eating your way through exams. Consider them five extended courses to keep you afloat during a time of isolation, frustration and despair.

what to eat to get you through exams

Let’s do this

The end of term is a week away. You’ve got this. One? Two? Three more papers? No worries. You’ve already set aside a chunk of tomorrow evening to prepare a study schedule. And, you know what? You’re on such a roll, you’ve even committed to adopting healthy eating habits to suit your healthy study habits. It’s oatmeal and an apple for breakfast, quinoa and roasted vegetable salad for lunch and pan-seared fish for dinner. And no coffee, booze or energy drinks. Heck, you may even snack on an avocado and Greek yogurt.


Let’s keep doing this

The term is over. Now you’re in full study mode. Minus your first exam tomorrow morning—you had to forfeit studying for it in order to finish those one, two, three final papers. It’s cool. You’re cool. Everything’s cool. Even your diet’s still cool. Okay, fine, you had a bottle of diet pop with your last portion of quinoa salad. And then a second when you realized your avocado had turned from under- to overripe. It’s not like you’re drinking regular pop, right? It’s all cool.

Let’s keep doing this…sort of

You’re two exams in with three more to go. The oatmeal is already lost behind boxes of microwave popcorn and canned soup. You haven’t bought—let alone seen—a piece of fruit since the end of the term. It was only two weeks ago, but it feels like years. However, you did manage to order a Caesar salad instead of pepperoni pizza—even when your study buddies caved. However, you did purchase your first energy drink the day before. Nobody needs to know though.

I’m done

There’s one more exam left. Too bad you don’t have any more patience left. Time to pre-order every meal. Although you certainly don’t dine at conventional meal times anymore. Breakfast date at three o’clock, anyone? You eat whatever whenever. You snack as much as your confidence waivers. (Which is a lot.) That said, you do hydrate…with coffee, energy drinks and, yes, the occasional glass of wine. Who cares? You’ll make up for it come May.

Exams are done

Freedom! Bring on the end-of-year socials, dinners out and house parties. You deserve it. Order two desserts. Eat leftovers for breakfast. And double fist seasonal summer drinks. When the celebrations conclude, you’ll be more than ready for oatmeal, salad and tea again.

3 Quiet Study Spots That Aren’t The Library

by Madeleine Brown

In September and January tumbleweeds practically blow through the desolate stacks of college and university libraries. Skip forward a few months and library study space is as competitive as the rental market. Even if you manage to scoop up a spare seat as its former occupant runs screaming into the bathroom, chances are the dejected atmosphere will kill what little confidence remains. So I say keep your sanity in check and study elsewhere. Every campus has its own unique nooks and crannies—you can picture them now, huh? Here are three alternative on-campus study spots to get you through exam season.

places to study that aren't the library

5 Steps To Surviving Exam Season

by Danielle Del Vicario

Every student has special exam season rituals. And I don’t want to mess with yours by making absurd recommendations or criticisms—who am I to tell you to get eight hours of sleep a night, colour code your flashcards and avoid spiking your blood sugar? If you have a routine and it works, stick to it. But if you don’t, or think that it could do with a little bit of tweaking, here are my five of my own in chronological order: from the pre-exam season preparation to the final dark sleepless days when all that matters is chocolate, AutoCorrect and a pen that still has ink.

five steps to surviving exam season

Step 1: Clean the kitchen

When I’m stressed, mess makes me…well, more stressed. About a week before the real cramming begins, I take out the garbage and recycling, clear out the forgotten (and probably mouldy) leftovers from my fridge and tidy my dry-goods cupboard. While I’m at it, I usually make sure my peanut butter supply isn’t going to run out the night before my biggest exam and that my emergency bar of dark chocolate is intact.

Step 2: Put a Frisbee or ball in your study bag

When I hit breaking point in the library, I grab a friend—there’s always at least one just as desperate as me—and drag them outside for a fifteen-minute game of Frisbee or kickabout. It’s my best escape and has also, over the years, gained me a lot of great study buddies.

Step 3: Pack adequate study snacks

I never go to the library without snacks. Ever. My personal favourites are raw veggies, cheese and crackers, and—of course—apples and peanut butter. If I’m feeling particularly committed (read: if I’m really procrastinating), I make some hummus too. Check out my recipe or save yourself the time and pre-order your study snacks for pickup on the way to the library.

Step 4: Stay hydrated and avoid (excessive) caffeine

As the nights got later and later, and I got increasingly desperate, I used to find myself drinking cup after cup of tea just for something to do. To avoid the compulsive twitching this inevitably causes, I now opt for citrus water. (I would love to tell you I make delicious juice blends with ginger and wheatgrass but that’s just not the case.) I fill my two-litre glass jug with cold water, lemon, lime and orange slices. It sits on the corner of my desk and halts repeated (often intentionally self-induced) trips to the kettle.

Step 5: Keep favourite tea bags or coffee with you at all times

In direct counterpart to the previous step, throughout exam season I always carry my favourite tea bags with me. During a library study session I top off my cup with hot water refills from the closest café. The same principle can apply to instant coffee. Because come 10 pm, citrus water just isn’t strong enough.

How To Maximize Your Time During Finals

There is never enough time. For anything. Ever.

And then another time-consuming, yet important engagement squeezes its way into your already jam-packed diary: finals. Now the finals themselves typically range from only one to three hours for each course.

how to maximize your time during finals

Not horrendous.

But they’re not the ultimate problem. It’s the study sessions, office hours and all-nighters that soak up whatever free time remained between jobs, actual class time, (on occasion) sleep and (on the even rarer occasion) a social life.

Until you walk out of that final exam and release a sigh of relief for summer—unless you enrolled in summer school—it’s essential you maximize every minute of your day. Here are my top three methods to control time—or at least let you feel like are.

A Guide To Studying For The Easily Distracted

“When it comes to—”

Let me just check Facebook, I think someone sent me a message…

Nevermind. No message.

“As I was saying, when it comes to—”

I’m going to change this playlist—too fast-paced.

“So when it comes to—”

Now this playlist’s too slow. One second.

“SO, when it comes to—”

Oh! I nearly forgot to e-mail Tam. Give me a sec.


how to study for the easily distracted


Every time, I sit down to write—anything—this is my standard thought process. It varies very little from my standard study process. Task me with studying and stick me behind a computer screen or between the sides of a library cubicle and my attention becomes manic. I never once managed an all-nighter over the course of my undergraduate degree. Aside from my preferred early bedtime, I simply don’t have the focus to remain in one spot with my attention on one task for more than forty-five minutes to an hour—let alone six.Rather than force myself to adhere to traditional study strategies, I shaped a set of my own that matches the limits of my attention span.

Be warned: preparation, organization and (shocker) studying are still required.

If you’d prefer to leave it all to the last minute and not study, you can. And you’ll have the added enjoyable worry of whether or not you’ll understand the questions on the exam let alone any solutions.

Now in order to begin studying, ensure that you have all the necessary material.

Do you own all the books or course texts? Do you have the notes from each lecture, tutorial or seminar? And perhaps the corresponding PowerPoint?

Once you’ve collected all these resources, approximately, three weeks prior to your exam or test, build a study schedule.

Within each course, your instructor likely broke the course material down into units, which then each culminated in a test. And if that’s not the case, the material could similarly be broken down by lecture. Depending on how many units you count, assign one more to each day of your schedule. End each period in which you make it through all the units with a review of say the first three. Eventually, you’ll cover several units’ worth of material in a single day rather than just one. You may also choose on such days to schedule a review of the test that culminated a series of units. Here’s an example of such a schedule from my third-year French course:

how to study for the easily distracted

While, it sounds daunting, here’s why it isn’t: you’re simply reading the material on its assigned date.

And, to clarify, depending on the nature of the material, it’s a thorough read of the material—not skimming, but by no means drilling either. Who has the attention span for that?! Know your limits and make your units—the amount of material you cover on each day—as small as necessary in order for you to properly review them. Perhaps your schedule needs to start a week earlier? You’re regularly immersing yourself in the material in small spurts, so that come exam day it’s no longer foreign to you, but part of you.

Now that you’ve broken down the course into bits—bits that your easily distracted mind can more easily digest—break down your study approach in the same manner.

Read one day. Complete exercises another. Study in a group or recruit a roommate to test you on the third. Maybe create a set of cue cards you can either stick on your bedroom mirror or glance over on the commute home. Finally, if time permits, supplement your study materials with more “practical” alternatives. For example, for my second-year dinosaurs and the history of life course, I spent an afternoon at the museum using my notes to identify the skeletons of actual dinosaurs. While I’ve since lost all that knowledge, I never felt so empowered. Allow your distraction to feed your creativity. There is no correct way to study, there’s only the way you can study.