5 Apps To Help You Survive This Semester

by Hannah Lank

A new semester is upon us and with it comes many changes and many returns. Whether you’re returning to university to hammer out another year, or about to experience your first-ever semester, we can all use a little extra help managing life for the next eight months. Cue your smartphone and my top five favorite apps. Get downloading and find solace in their abilities.

Cropped image of student sitting on the ground and working on laptop

Boost Mobile Ordering

Okay, yes, this is our own app, but we’re not shy about sharing how awesome it is. Time equals money, and most students are short on both. So if you’re going to spend your money, why not also save time? Got an 8 am class and want a coffee beforehand? Order on Boost as you’re leaving your residence, and it’ll be waiting for you when you arrive on campus. 

Mint

Although we hate to admit it, it’s important to stay on top of our finances including when our credit card bills are due, where our money is going and what our overall financial health looks like. Thankfully, Mint, a secure financial app, covers all three bases and more. As students, we have a LOT of expenses: tuition, books, coffee, ramen… And they add up quickly! Mint tracks your credit card spending and organizes it into different categories (i.e. restaurants, entertainment, laundry, etc), even notifying you when you’ve exceeded your budget in one. It tracks your cash flow (income vs. expenses) and investments, suggesting how to improve your overall spending habits.

Blackboard

Most institutions use Blackboard to share assignments, syllabi and announcements from classes with students. (If your institution doesn’t use Blackboard, they likely use a similar platform that also has its own mobile app.) When on your phone, you can check your prof’s office hours on the go, remind yourself of upcoming assignments, or post questions to discussion boards the second they pop into your head. You’ll also get notifications when your prof posts an announcement, upcoming assignment, or new grade.

NYTimes

Hear me out on this one—no, it may not seem to be directly school-related, but it’s too easy to become absorbed in the bubble of student life. Although I’ve specified the New York Times’ app, download the equivalent of any news source. You don’t have to ever open it even—although reading articles about what’s up in the world is definitely not a bad thing. Instead allow it to notify you about major world events, so you won’t be completely in the dark. Eventually you may find yourself scrolling through it versus your Facebook or Twitter feeds. Don’t forget there’s a whole world outside of school, and it matters too.

Flashcards+

When your life is practically studying, it helps to include a variety of different methods to trigger your memory reflexes. Although you could take the time to hand write keywords and definitions out on cue cards, Flashcards+ saves you time and paper. And you’ll never have to worry about leaving them behind on the bus. The app even offers a shuffling option so you don’t memorize the order of the flashcards instead of what’s actually written on them. Convenient? I think so!

How To Build Your Resume This Semester

Yeah, yeah, you’re barely on top of your academics let alone your social life, so why toss professional development into the mix? Aside from the additional lines on your resume, it provides mental breaks from those pesky academic burdens. As always, balance is key. It shouldn’t necessarily turn into a justifiable form of procrastination. And nor should school hinder your ability to commit to a job or volunteer opportunity. When in balance though and given the right circumstances, resume building expands your social circle, introducing you to communities you perhaps wouldn’t encounter otherwise, and offers perspective. Here’s how to effectively search out these opportunities, fleshing out your resume and likely scooping up a few references along the way.

Student work process concept. Young woman working university project with generic design laptop

Work, work, work, work, work, work

They’re the meat and potatoes of any resume: current and previous jobs. However, don’t overthink ‘em. Illustrious internships sound delightful, but aren’t always possible. And there’s no reason to turn your nose up at retail, hospitality, administrative or more labour-intensive positions either on- or off-campus. Whatever the environment, there are skill sets to develop, which you can then list on your resume or share in a job interview. Keep your eyes open for help wanted signs, check out the classified section of your local paper or classified sites and pay a visit to your campus careers centre.

Give a hand

Too often the victim of either overthinking or undervaluing, volunteer experience is as worthwhile as previous employment. Yes, campus clubs, societies and other branches of student life departments occasionally organize one-off or limited volunteer opportunities, but, unlike jobs, I recommend searching exclusively off-campus. (Although you don’t necessarily have to stray outside your neighbourhood.) In this case, you can tailor your search to your interests or areas you wish to learn more about (not what some university administrator chooses for you). Select an organization that respects its volunteers, offers long-term opportunities and shares similar values. Most not-for-profits have volunteer programs. And even if not advertised, e-mail them. No one likes to turn down free help.

Certify this

Aside from the skills you gain through employment and volunteering, consider certifications or skills-based courses outside your academics. (It doesn’t mean more essays. I promise.) First aid and CPR and other health-related certifications are often requirements for volunteer positions and jobs. Depending on your level of tech-savvy, there’s no harm in (finally) learning how to navigate Microsoft Excel or Photoshop. And you don’t need to major in French to boost your fluency. Track down conversation groups, one-on-one tutors or community classes. In the case of any certification or course, Google is your best friend.  

And the award goes to…

Beyond the glamour of a paper certificate or awkward employee of the month mug shot, awards are the perfect buttons to a resume. Whether they’ve heard or it or not, awards show potential employers you’ve demonstrated a level of commitment and excellence worthy of recognition. Now, of course, they should never serve as a form of motivation. Keep your eyes open for applications with requirements that match your experience and skill set and visit your student awards or scholarship department for further assistance.

5 Condiments Staples For Your Student Fridge

by Danielle Del Vicario

Ah, the mini-fridge, the quintessential icon of university life. About to move into your dorm, you have visions of your compact cooling unit fully stocked with breakfast snacks, booze and (let’s face it) more booze. You picture yourself cracking open a cold one without doing more than swivelling your desk chair. Soon though, things start to slip and the inevitable happens: your mini-fridge becomes little more than a glorified container for unused condiments. As this eventuality can’t be resisted, we’ve pieced together a list of what you would find in our fridge, and why it’s there. Because not all condiments are created equal.

student looking in fridge

Dijon Mustard

There are two types or people in the world: mustard people and ketchup people. Or as I like to look at it: people who like mustard and people who just haven’t tried good mustard yet. My number one condiment is Dijon mustard. Perfect for sausages you make on your tiny hot plate, it’s also a great on sandwiches and in quick salad dressings. (Yes, I was the freshman who made their own salad dressings in their dorm.) Grab one in a glass jar so you can help the planet a little by skipping out on plastic.

Mayonnaise

I’m not a mayo eater per se, but I appreciate its versatility. If nothing else, it’s key to a classic egg salad sandwich, easily made with a hot plate, microwave or even just a kettle.

Malt Vinegar

By now you’ve probably noticed the absence of ketchup, Sriracha, barbecue and sweet Thai chili sauce on this list. These condiments (and many others like them) are loaded with sugar. Cutting some of the less obvious sources of refined sugars from your diet is an easy way to improve your focus and mood, stabilize your blood sugar and just make you feel generally better. When you make that late night fast food run, malt vinegar and a generous sprinkle of salt is a great alternative to ketchup on your fries.

Soy Sauce

Self-explanatory if you like sushi and have ever had to deal with the ketchup packet-sized packs of soy sauce that come with your takeout. (Seriously not adequate.)

Natural Peanut Butter

I’m not sure peanut butter is classified as a condiment, but it deserves mention regardless. Whether slathered on toast, used as a dip for banana or apple slices, or just eaten straight from the jar, peanut butter is a student’s best friend. Given the addition of palm oil and sugar in most commercial peanut butters, choose an all-natural variety (which should be kept in the fridge to keep fresh). Shop around and choose your favourite.

3 Basic Recipes Every Student Needs To Know

by Madeleine Brown

“Students cannot live on dried noodles alone.” Or something like that, right?

However, unless you’re enrolled in a culinary arts program, you needn’t move into your kitchen. Stick to basic recipes, building in complexity only as time and motivation allow. Often when stressed, I’ll gravitate towards a dripping fried egg sandwich any day over some finicky sous-vide chicken nonsense. When lacking sleep and overwhelmed with deadlines, don’t make rash decisions and don’t prepare a three-course meal. Even if cooking serves as a form of relaxation, basic recipes still require enough cooking to calm you, but not so much as to set you over the edge. Nestle my favourite basic recipes in your brain next to the secret campus shortcuts and life-saving pre-order apps. You’ll have all three to thank come convocation.

Fried Egg Sandwich

Breakfast - sandwich with fried egg

1 whole wheat roll, if desired, toasted

dollop of peanut or other nut- or seed-based spread

squirt of Sriracha

2 eggs

salt and pepper, to taste

fresh coriander, if desired, chopped and to taste

  1. Slice roll in half and spread nut-based spread—say “spread” one more time, why don’t you?—and Sriracha on bottom half.
  2. Preheat a frying pan (if necessary with a splash of vegetable oil) over medium heat.
  3. Crack eggs into pan and allow to cook until whites turn opaque.
  4. Flip eggs and cook thirty seconds more or longer depending on how runny you prefer your yolks.
  5. Gently slide eggs into roll and season with salt, pepper and, if you’re a fan, coriander.

Anyway Dip and Pita Chips

homemade pita chips with dipping sauce

2 cloves of garlic, grated

1 can beans or legumes (i.e. kidney, white, red, chickpeas, lentils, etc.)

1 tbsp tahini or other nut- or seed-based spread

1 tsp lemon juice

salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp cumin, paprika, both or other spice of choice

olive oil

2 whole wheat pitas, quartered

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Combine first six ingredients in a food processor or high-rimmed bowl. Blitz, using a handheld blender in the latter case, pouring in olive oil until smooth and desired texture is reached.
  3. Toss pitas onto a baking sheet and bake until crispy and browned, approximately six minutes.
  4. Serve pitas alongside dip.

Baked Potato with Greek Yogurt, Chives and Bacon

Baked Potato

1 potato, sweet or russet

olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

2 strips bacon, variety or substitute of choice

dollop of Greek yogurt

fresh chives, chopped and to taste

fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. (Yes, you can cook potatoes in the microwave. I do not.)
  2. Prick potato with fork and rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven on a baking sheet or on rack and bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until fork easily pierces skin.
  3. Meanwhile preheat a frying pan over medium heat. Fry bacon on each side until cooked through and desired level of crispness is reached. Let cool on a plate covered in paper towels and dice into small pieces.
  4. Slit potato halfway down the middle. Fill with Greek yogurt and garnish with bacon, chives and pepper.

 

How To Survive A New Roommate

by Madeleine Brown

It can end friendships, start floods, or worse, deplete liquor stocks: a new roommate. They take sibling squabbles to a new level. And mom is no longer around to play referee. Yet the induction of a roommate is as much a required young adult growing pain as failed papers, burnt casseroles and awkward dates. (Hopefully you never experience all three in a single evening.) Whether your roommate turns into your best friend, worse enemy, or—often best of all—the one that’s never home, you needn’t allow them to decimate your daily routine. Here are my tips to survive not only their arrival, but moreover the duration of their stay.

Moving boxes in new apartment

Communicate

As the experts say, it’s the key to any successful relationship. Establish lines of communication early. Create a Facebook page for your household to post bills, share holiday plans and “book” the living room for your Wednesday night group study sessions. Likewise ensure you have your new roommate’s e-mail address and phone number. You never know when an issue may require the formality of an e-mail or urgency of a phone call. However, don’t omit the best (yet most dreaded) form of communication: in-person conversation. In an ideal world, every set of roommates could dissect household matters in weekly meetings. You needn’t run your house like some government council though, just make the effort to bring up conflicts or needs in person as often as possible. Although it’s easy to throw down dirt via Facebook, remember your roommates know where you live.

Socialize

Hopefully you’ve spent some time with your new roommate in advance of their move-in date. Whether you have or haven’t, socialize with them on a regular basis. Now your definition of “regular” can vary immensely. I’ve lived with roommates with whom our socializing amounted to shared a meal (and maybe a movie) at the end of each term. Conversely I’ve socialized with roommates on an almost daily basis in the form of bedroom floor lamentations. (I highly recommend during period of high stress.) However regular, let the “fun” aspect of your relationship develop naturally. Don’t draw up an over-packed social calendar or gift them endless friendship bracelets. Like most relationships, it’ll deepen on its own terms. So never force it. And who really wants to end up living with their best friend? …that’s an entire blog post in itself.

Reassess

Routines established in September can change come December. Don’t lock yourself into duties or policies. If you’d prefer to take on all the household cleaning rather than divide-up the load, do it. (What?! I like to clean.) If your roommate’s new boyfriend’s elongated stays challenge your initially flexible visitation policy, adjust it. And should such changes present further problems, change them again. Consider your own family. Your role likely shifted in nature over the course of your childhood and adolescence. And it’s likely only to shift more as you progress further into adulthood. The most successful communities acknowledge change as an opportunity for growth and development. And maybe you just don’t want to share milk anymore. So don’t!

What Are Pre & Probiotics And Why Should I Care?

On the days when you wish to send your landlord or residence adviser a very firmly worded e-mail, or—even more daring—publicly confront them remember you too are host to your own residences. Okay, the connection is somewhat forced—but metaphors are helpful, right?

You see right now there are beneficial bacteria who live, work—but probably not play—in your body. Their ultimate purpose is to assist in such bodily functions as nutrient production and digestion. On the other hand, like your lousy upstairs neighbour who listens to Lorde’s latest album at top volume, there are also potentially harmful bacteria who call your body home. In both cases, the beneficial and the harmful bacteria, the good and the bad residences, you are (metaphorically-speaking) their landlord. As much as we tire of that nasty neighbour’s love of Lorde, it’s essential we maintain a balance between both groups for the health of our building, our body. (I promise I’ll quit with the metaphors soon.) However, rather than issue a complaint or file a report on either residence’s behaviour in order to maintain order in our homes, our bodies have pre- and probiotics.

what are pre and probiotics and why should I care

The good bacteria in our digestive system (to use another metaphor) “eat” prebiotics to fuel their development and work. Meanwhile, probiotics are themselves live microorganisms, which enter our bodies through the food we eat, adding to the population of good bacteria already present in our bodies. Prebiotics are found in garlic, onions, asparagus, greens, berries as well as whole grains and oats. Likely if the marketing campaigns behind major yogurt brands have made any impact on you, you’re already aware that probiotics are found in cultured dairy including, yes, yogurt and kefir. However, they’re also contained in fermented foods (and flavor-boosters) like kimchi, sauerkraut and miso.

Science has yet to uncover the full extent of the benefits incurred by regular consumption of pre- and probiotics. However, aside from maintaining our overall health, prebiotics help control our insulin and blood sugar levels after eating and allow us to feel full faster. A balanced microbiome, the environment in your gut where the bacteria live, reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease as well as inflammation and improves nutrient absorption.

While I am always one to encourage smart confrontations à la disagreements between landlords and residences, consider how you manage your own body’s and its bacteria’s health.

Do both a favour by incorporating foods rich in pre- and probiotics into your diet:

  • Insert a popsicle stick into individually-portioned yogurt cups and freeze for homemade frozen yogurt pops.
  • Blend cultured dairy into smoothies alongside prebiotic-rich veggies.
  • Try oatmeal for breakfast on occasion.
  • Prepare lunches and dinners such as stir-frys or soups at home and you’ll likely regularly eat more onions and garlic (the flavor base of both dishes).

By making thoughtful choices about your diet, you’ll save disputes to the life outside your body—not in it.

Advice For Incoming Freshmen

by Madeleine Brown

Not to add to the pressure on incoming first-years, but I have yet to do anything as important in my life as starting university. Truly. However, I am not saying that either college or university are important. They’re not. It’s the circumstances that surround this moment in your life that hold importance. Whether you move onto residence or commute to campus from home, you’re about to embark on the first stage in your life where you have the opportunity to claim full ownership. 

To add to the abundance of advice you’re likely drowning in, here are three pieces of my own. Consider them, but understand I didn’t develop them (or at least become aware of my development of them) until the end of my university career. Who knows what advice you may doll out to someone in your position in three or four year’s time?

advice for incoming freshman

Expect nothing

Expectations are the bane of my existence. They overshadow experiences. It’s not until some time after the fact—usually when I’m organizing receipts during tax season—when I realize the importance of an experience and how it turned out nothing like my expectations. And thankfully so. (Sadly receipts are my form of adult scrapbooking.) Don’t expect a high grade on your first test, but likewise don’t expect a low one. Don’t expect to meet your best friend or soulmate, but don’t expect not to. You likely have a delightful imagination, but when it comes to real life let’s leave its course up to the world’s greatest creative genius, fate.

Establish routine

Unless you had an nontraditional upbringing, chances are your routine has remained unchanged for eighteen odd years. It’s about to explode into one thousand-some pieces. Some weekdays you won’t have classes, some you may only have one starting at 2 pm and others you may have an overwhelming amount. You may adopt an unbearable two-hour commute to and from school or you may have to schedule dinner yourself at your cafeteria. Whether you thrive on a routine or not, at least reflect on the basic parameters of your new one. Perhaps write it out in diagram form, color-coding based on the nature of the obligation, or speak it out with friends or family. And returning to controlling expectations: don’t expect to master your schedule during your first month.

Enjoy independence

Or if you prefer more banal forms of advice: have fun(!!!). And, no, I don’t mean out-drink your roommate or hook-up with your neighbor across the hall. Enjoy the freedom (in whatever degree) you’ve been gifted. College and universities are worlds onto themselves, aiming to make their resources as accessible as possible. So attend office hours—even just to attest to their existence to your peers—lose your breath at a spin class at the campus gym or sign-up for a questionable, poorly organized club. Like the independence you honed in order to make those decisions, you can just as easily choose to never make the same ones again.

What To Consider When Picking A Wine

Have you ever had and evening when you make dinner for friends or a date and you’re stuck picking a wine—and cheap plonk won’t do? You’re left perplexed, anxious and inferior. (From choosing a wine that is—not because of the company.) Nothing in your education, up to this point, has taught you how to select a bottle. But isn’t wine knowledge the perfect indicator of a renaissance thinker? Well, no. However, if you follow these simple rules you’ll be well on your way to choosing wine with confidence and, better yet, actually enjoying it.

how to pick a wine

Rule #1: Wine is food

Remember that wine is meant to go with food. Think about the flavours of a wine as a part of your meal. Tasting notes, colour, grape and region will tell you something about where a wine might fit in with food. Of course there’s the simple white with fish/red with meat rule, but within that there are a lot of variations. The best way to learn is to follow your instincts and let a wine’s taste inspire your meal.

Because wine is food, you should take care to avoid additives in wine as you would with other food products. Keep an eye out for organic, biodynamic and “natural” wines. These producers tend to use less cultured yeasts, artificial colouring and flavour additions that can warp and ruin a wine—not to mention make your hangover that much worse.

Rule #2: Follow your heart and your palate—not points scores

It’s easy to buy a wine just because it was awarded 93 points by some critic. Points can be helpful, guiding your purchase to something declared higher quality. Remember though: wine is incredibly subjective. Most of the critics who calculate such scores favour high-alcohol, ripe fruit and oak flavour in their wines. If you like bigger wines, you’re in luck. But if lots of tannin and alcohol aren’t your thing, you might walk away from a bottle thinking wine isn’t for you.

Instead consider what wines you’ve enjoyed in the past. If a bottle strikes you, take a picture of the label, read up on the region or producer and see if you can find similar wines, either of the same grape or region, to broaden your experience. Wine should be an emotional experience. If one makes an impression on you, keep drinking that style regardless of how many points it has.

Rule #3: Dare to taste and explore

If you’ve followed the above rules you should have developed preferences. Once you do, buy something completely different. It might surprise you. It might let you down. Nonetheless in either case you’ve broadened your sense for wine. Don’t get disheartened and keep tasting. For the world’s best sommeliers and critics the only real way to learn wine is to taste it. Carry a notebook for whenever an interesting bottle is opened. There is no penultimate good or even great wine, there’s only what you enjoy.

How To Build A Better: Sandwich

Quality of ingredients is key to a successful sandwich. I have had outstanding ham sandwiches—consisting of no more than ham, bread and butter—and dismal ones—yet also consisting of the same three ingredients. Whether you prep each ingredient from scratch or source it from a trustworthy food purveyor, opt for the best and aim for simplicity. As in the case of the salad, the sandwich is composed of three distinct elements: bread, filling and spread. (Spread encapsulates items other than peanut butter or Nutella, but we’ll address it shortly.) A sandwich is the ultimate comfort food whether slapped together for a meal en route to class or as a snack at midnight after a fifteen-hour day. Don’t complicate that comfort with stress and endless ingredients. Stick to the sandwich fundamentals and Lord Sandwich (or whoever’s credited with its invention) and Subway Sandwich Artists everywhere will nod their heads in respect.

how to build a better sandwich
Bread

If I had a soapbox to rant on, I’d dish out my frustration with bread. Why is it near impossible to source a solid loaf? Give me bread with a wicked, crisp exterior and a soft, yet still structural sound interior. Let it whiff of pungent yeast and crunch when torn or sliced. Honestly, any quality bread will do from focaccia to sourdough, ciabatta to classic bun. Once you find your dream loaf, stick to it and support its producer.

Filling

The options for fillings are endless. Essentially any dish can be converted to a sandwich filling. As noted in my introduction, keep it simple. If you can’t taste each ingredient in every bite, it’s too many. Although a self-diagnosed glutton, even I know when too much is too much. Balance loose or soft fillings with crisp ones. For example, match pulled pork with lightly dressed chopped cabbage or pre-cut coleslaw mix. Your filling is your only opportunity to shake up the textures in your sandwich, so take advantage. Load up on veggies and stick to lean proteins.

Spread

Like its salad counterpart—the dressing—the spread component of any sandwich is too often overthought or underutilized. It provides the dash of flavour every sandwich needs—a reoccurring motif so to speak. The basics are best such as mayonnaise, butter, pesto and nut or seed butters. (Yes, despite my upbringing, I am not a margarine fan.) I am also not a fan of multiple spreads unless like say the classic PB&J they contrast enough to stand up against the other. Whatever the spread, use lightly. With the exception of perhaps regular, nut or seed butters, spreads are just as easily made at home as any filling or, yes, even bread. Like skinny-dipping and prairie fires (i.e. vodka and hot sauce), everyone should attempt homemade mayonnaise at least once in their life.

 

How To Build A Better: Salad

If you have a shred of fashion sense, you have the ability to build a respectable salad. If not…there’s always Freshii.

Like fashion an understanding and respect of the basics—the rules so to speak—is required before variations on them can occur. At its most basic a salad is composed of four elements: foundation, additions, dressing and garnishes. (Note: I have just self-coined each element for the purpose of this post.) Don’t let my technical read on the salad scare you though. Let it empower you to build a better one. Understand the function of each element and you’ll never be bored by greens again.

 how to build a better salad

1) Foundation

 

To most a salad’s identity lies in its foundation. At this very moment in some substandard restaurant a dissatisfied server just dropped a mess of iceberg lettuce drizzled with pre-made dressing and called it salad. It’s essentially just some iceberg on a plate yet it can be defined otherwise. Because of its foundation. And depending on the foundation’s characteristics it’ll drive the nature of the remaining elements. My advice? Choose your foundation based on what looks freshest at the grocery store. For something delicate and lighter, go for red leaf, Butter, Bibb or Boston lettuce, spinach, arugula or your classic spring mix. If you intend to pair it with heavy additions and an even heavier dressing, try kale, Swiss chard or romaine lettuce. Should the produce section look barren or blah, then stick to grains be it rice or macaroni, root vegetables like carrot or potato or legumes from beans to lentils.

2) Additions

They’re the supporting stars to your salad, providing variation in colour, texture and flavour. Take inspiration not only from the foundation’s structural integrity as noted above, but also its own flavour and traditional pairings. For example, fill out a pile of black beans with finely diced jalapeno, tomato, avocado and corn kernels for a Tex-Mex take. As your own palate develops (i.e. as you eat more) your pairings will grow in complexity. No addition is wrong as long as it adds colour, texture or flavour.

3) Dressing

Ultimately the dressing is where you can impress. While almost unidentifiable in appearance, it permeates each bite. Let’s put an end to the mythology that salad dressings are hard to make. I proudly have never succumbed to pre-made dressing—even in my weakest grocery store moments. Start simple with a classic 2:1 oil to vinegar vinaigrette, using good quality options for each. Season with salt and pepper and my favourite secret dressing ingredient: citrus zest. Once you master the vinaigrette, delve in the wild (and typically wacky) world of most “advanced” dressings from 1000 Islands to Caesar.

4) Garnishes

Arguably the most beloved element of the salad, there’s a reason garnishes have the top spot. Croutons, am I right? In my books, a garnish must pack a punch in one of two arenas: flavour or texture. Don’t overindulge and keep the portion just right. And it’s not just croutons. How about seeds or nuts? Toasted corn tortillas chips or bagel slices? Heck, you could even pull off pretzels or potato chips.