Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day in the Life of a University Student

I got a ton of hits for the last university post, so I thought I might do a few more posts about my experience this year, for any interested. Enjoy!

An Average Day in the Life 


Monday, February 13 2012

7:30 Alarm clock goes off
7:40 Get out of bed

Walk around in half conscious daze trying to find exercise pants, second rate shirt, clean socks, and running shoes. Brush teeth, put on deodorant, put hair in ponytail. Put keys, student ID, iPhone, headphones, water bottle and gloves in jacket pocket. Regretfully head out into the cold outdoors for the gym.

8:00-9:30 Nearly kill self from over exertion (or "work out" as others may call it), on bike (always) elliptical (most days), or treadmill (almost never).

My gym membership is paid for as part of school fees. The gym is literally one minute from my room, and has really nice equipment. They also have tvs, which is nice, but I wish they would stop playing sports all the time.

9:30-10:00 Eat breakfast at dining hall

Usually sucks. Hard bacon or disgusting sausages. If I'm lucky, there'll be a carrot muffin or maybe some cooked ham. I am rarely lucky. So, most days, I have peanut butter on brown bread.

10:00-10:30 Go back to room.

Shower, get dressed in clean, not gross clothes, put laundry in, quickly check internet, pack bag for library.

10:30-12:30 Study with friend at library (well, talk, study, talk, study...)

This monday, I had literary theory work, where I had to read a story and analyze it from a Freudian perspective. Woohoo.

12:30-1:00 Walk back to room, exchange some stuff, switch laundry to dryer, read Sarah Tregay's Love and Leftovers for a few minutes, headed back out.

1:00-1:30 Have lunch with my friend, discussing our plans to learn ASL, our classes that day, and her exchange in Japan.

1:30-3:00 Literary Theory class

This is actually a good class. I like learning about all the different ways to analyze texts. The class is 50% lecture, 50% analysis/application/discussion, which I like. It's a very straightforward, interesting class.

3:00-4:30 Uh...random break. Read more Love and Leftovers...I think. Check laundry. Not dry, which is ridiculous, since I used two dryers. Ahhh. Put laundry back on for another cycle. In the end, one load of laundry costs me $4. Ridiculous.

4:30-6:00 Philosophy of Education class

I like this class too. This week we watched The Lottery, about charter schools, which was really interesting. And sad.

6:00-7:00 Eat dinner with my friend

7:00-9:30 Finish Love and Leftovers, call home, mess around online. Fold laundry from earlier.

9:30-11:00 Dance class

Oh man. I am terrible at dance. But I believe it is important to struggle. I just wish it weren't so humiliating.

11:00-12:30ish Mess around on internet some more probably.

12:30ish Sleep

Rinse and repeat tuesday, wednesday, and thursday. I don't have class on friday and I usually spend the day at the library finishing essays/having lunch/going to the gym/going to stupid seminars. On the weekends, I go to the mall, volunteer at various things around campus, do homework (usually essays/studying. I leave the small stuff for the weekdays), and generally hang out with my friends.

In terms of weekdays (excluding friday, since that's essentially a third weekend day because of my lack of class), mondays and wednesdays are usually the best, since I have the best classes then. Thursdays are the worst, because I have British Lit (the worst thing ever), plus two other classes, totalling six hours of class in ten hours. To any high school kids, this probably seems like not that bad. But, at my university, it's a lot. And my day doesn't end until 10:00 at night. So, you know, it's long.

Besides dance, I also tutor on tuesday mornings (at the local high school) and wednesday nights (ESL on campus). I also write for the school paper and help out in the drama department. I'm also looking to join more clubs.

I typically talk to each of my parents once or twice week on the phone. I talk to my best friend over Skype once a week for 2-3 hours. I email/text/facebook message my other friends intermittently.

That's my routine. I like it. The routine gives me something of a structure, but there's always a certain freedom. I have three hours of class most days, and I get to decide how I spend the rest of my time. I really like that. I get to hang out with my friends when I want. My time isn't accountable to anyone. I don't have to ask permission to have people over or tell someone if I'm going to miss dinner. Ah, the freedom.

Part of me fears this has been a terribly boring post. Sorry if that's true. I just thought it might help, if you were thinking and wondering and worrying about university. If anyone has any particular topics they want me to post about relating to university (or, you know, anything else in the world), please comment.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What is University Like?

It's that time of year. Applications have been sent out, and admissions committees are making their decisions. Acceptances and rejections are being written, anticipated and dreaded when the mail is retrieved each day. I remember it, and not fondly. It's a scary time. There's so much uncertainty. So many big decisions to make. So much that you're losing. So much fear you're going to have to overcome. Trust me, I remember. 

I also remember that, this time last year, I was desperately searching the internet for any and all information about the real university experience. I had read about the classes, and I had gone on the tours. But I wanted to know what it was like, day to day. I wanted the real story. 

Well, here's my university story. 

Let's start with friends


I feel better about friends than I ever have before. That's not to say that I've found better friends, or friends I have more in common with or anything. It's simply that I feel more secure in my friendships. I see these people everyday, often three or more times, since we eat meals together and sometimes have the same classes and sometimes go to the gym or hang out in our rooms together. I've gotten to know them well. I'm comfortable with them now. 

But I wasn't always. At first it was hard. So hard. The first night here, I thought I wasn't going to make it. I laid in bed, crying, thinking I was going to fail at university, thinking every bad thought I had every thought about myself. Leaving my room the next day was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It was awful. Eventually, I meet some people at various orientation activities. But still, it didn't suddenly get easy or anything. 

It takes so long to really get to know someone. It takes weeks to feel comfortable with them. It takes months to develop a routine with them, a rapport, a real friendship. And that made the first few months of university really, really lonely. Because no matter how awesome my new friends were, they still didn't know that I hated when people texted in front of me or that it made me really anxious to make small talk. They had never heard of my high school and they barely knew anything about my hometown. The people that really knew me all lived back in Toronto, or, worse, in dorm rooms across the country. That was very hard to deal with that. I missed my best friend like crazy. I missed my group of friends, and all the history we had. Some of it was good, some it was bad. But it was history, nonetheless. It was comfort and fitting in and it was something I hadn't felt in so freaking long. 

It slowly got better. I spent more and more time with my new friends, and we developed our own rhythms and inside jokes and routines. But still, there were lonely nights. There are still lonely mornings sometimes. It's not a constant party, and it's not fun all the time. 

I'm really happy where I am right with my friends. But it took a long time to get here. 

Then there's classes.


University classes are very different than high school classes. In high school, I had five hours of class a day. Now I have fifteen hours of class a week. I have so much more freedom with my time, and I really love that. My life is so much more flexible now. 

I also love that I'm taking subjects I like. I don't love all my classes--I do not think I could hate British Literature more if I tried--but at least they are all related to english, a subject I see value in and have a genuine interest in. I also like the great variety and specificity in the classes. In high school, you took grade twelve english or whatever. In that course, you studied poetry, novels, plays, and/or short stories. In university, the courses are more focused. Right now, I'm taking Canadian Short Story, British Literature After 1800, and New Journalism, all focusing on specific time periods and specific places. As a result, my courses go so much more in-depth than in high school. It's really cool. 

But there are also things I miss about high school classes. I go to a tiny school, known for its minuscule class size, and, still, my smallest class has forty students. My biggest class has seventy-five. In high school, my class had seventeen. It was so much more intimate. I knew my teachers so much better. I wish I could go back to that. 

Speaking of going back, there's also the issue of homesickness


Right now, I don't feel homesick. I mean, it would be nice to be home tonight. I'd like to sleep in my double bed with my cat, in my room. I'd love to see my friends and my parents and my city. That would be great. But I don't need any of that. I don't feel like anything is missing from my life right now. I don't need to go home. It would be fun, but I'm happy being here. 

It's not always like that. Some nights I just want to see my dad or my best friend or my bedroom. I just want to escape from it all, and I can never really do that here. This isn't my home. This isn't my safe haven.  

Of course, I felt homesick more in the first couple weeks. But it got better. It's a hard transition, though. There are a lot of transitions in university, and it's very tiring. 

First, there's your relationship with your parents. Before, I lived with them. I was fed by them, clothed by them, and I talked them for hours each day. Now, I talk to them for a few hours a week. Inevitably, I've lost some of that closeness. I don't know what's going on in their lives everyday. But I don't feel like we've lost anything really. You're never really uncomfortable with your parents. They're your parents

Your friends are a different story. I've lost touch with a few of my high school friends, but less than I had anticipated. Of course, we'll see where we are this time next year. In my experience, you still stay somewhat close to people from your old school for at least part of the first year. That's before you've changed too much to forget why you cared about each other. 

I'm still scared I'm going to lose those people. They were such a big part of my life for so long. Right now, my best friend and I are in a really good place. I'd dare say the separation is actually good for our friendship, at least for now. But a year from now? Who knows. I really don't know what's going to happen with the future of my friendships with the people from my past. 

So, what is is university like? So much fun. So different. So scary. So challenging. So hard. 

I'm glad I'm here. But I'll also be glad to go home in couple weeks. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Sex Thing

In my last post, I explained my relationship with the First Boy (as he will be known as from now on), talking mostly about my emotional experience, and only briefly alluding to the reasons we broke up, referring to it as "the sex thing". I've thought about it, and I really wanted to explain that "thing" more.

The reason we broke up was that he wanted to have sex and I didn't. 

It was the first time in my life that my beliefs were truly tested. It was the first time I really had to give something up to preserve my self respect. And it was very, very hard.

When I say "my beliefs", I'm not talking about my religious beliefs. I am an atheist; I have absolutely no problem with premarital sex. And I'm not exactly talking about my morals either--it's not like I think sex is morally wrong or something. What I mean is that sex was wrong for me at that moment, with that guy. 

It was wrong because I wasn't emotionally ready

I was so painfully inexperienced at the most basic things like holding hands or kissing. Sex was ten steps ahead of where I was; it wasn't in the realm of possibility for me at that moment.

It was wrong because I didn't feel comfortable. In some ways, I knew that guy better than anyone else. But in a lot of other ways, I didn't know him at all. Because even as deep as you can bond with someone like that in a month, that deep knowledge does not make up for the benefit of knowing long. It takes so many months, so many questions and answers and conversations and hurt feelings and fights and reconciliations and trials and errors before you can know anyone. So I didn't really know him and he didn't really know me; I didn't feel comfortable with him yet.

It was wrong because I hadn't had enough time to think about it. Whenever I have sex, I don't want it to be a rash decision. I want to be able to take the time and consider the consequences. Because even if I am ready within the relationship, I have to consider all the versions of myself that exist outside of the relationship. Katherine, the daughter. Katherine, the best friend. Katherine, the student. Katherine, the teacher. Katherine, from the past. Katherine, from the present. Katherine, in the future. Because I have to be all those versions, and so I have to make sure all those versions can live with a decision that big.

It's not that I believe sex is such a BIG DEAL. I don't think it's life changing. I just think there's a good chance it might change how I look at myself. And maybe that's a good thing. But it's not a good thing for me yet.

Moreover, it was wrong because I wasn't physically ready.

He had had sex before; I had read Judy Blume and Meg Cabot. I knew that, before anything happened, there needed to be STD tests and condoms and birth control and about ten thousand and one other things I wasn't ready to face. I've heard a good rule about this type of thing:

If you're not mature enough to go through the steps to prepare for sex, you're probably not mature enough for sex. 

This experience showed me that's probably a good rule of thumb. I have a few other "tests" to consider before I actually do have sex. Most of them are silly; in the end, I'll probably ignore most, if not all of them. But they things make sense to me, so I thought they might help you too:

1) Don't sleep with him unless you know his mother's maiden name (that one's stolen from Catch and Release, in case anyone recognizes it)

2) Don't sleep with him unless you've told him about your writing (that one's mine. But it doesn't have to be writing of course--that's just something that's important to me that I don't talk to anyone about. An important secret of mine; it's something I'm very insecure about, and if I'm going to let myself be that physically vulnerable with a guy, I want to be sure he can handle my emotional vulnerability too)

3) Don't sleep with him unless you would be okay having a kid with him. Not that you'd want to marry him or procreate with him, but that, if it were to happen, you would be okay with this guy being your kid's father (that's from Stephanie Perkins, via Anna and the French Kiss. I think it's quite smart).

In the end, I considered all these wrongs, and I said no. And he broke up with me because of it. And I don't hate him for it. He's twenty and he expects sex from a relationship. He was honest and up front about it. I can't really fault him for that.

But I was also honest and up front. I told him I had no experience. I told him I was uncomfortable, and I warned him it would be a good, long while before I would be comfortable. I don't completely understand how he could think I would go from a first kiss to a first time in less than a month. But maybe that's a girl thing; maybe it just takes longer for us to adjust. Or maybe it just takes me longer.

And that was it. And it was hard. Because I lost the excitement and the possibility and the expectation and everything else I had dreamed about for so long. Because I was lost the title of "girlfriend" which I treasured so much and held so briefly. Because I suddenly had a tonne of spare time and no way to fill it. Because, so many months later, I'm still alone.

So that was "the sex thing".

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The First Boy

The other day, someone asked about the boy. Well, here's the answer:


I never really liked him. That’s the thing. From the very beginning, it was about the idea of him. The actual him was not nearly as attractive to me.

I never thought he was cute. In fact, most of the time, I thought he was aggressively uncute. While we were dating, I spent hours trying to convince myself that he was attractive. Physically appealing in some way, any way. I looked through his pictures on Facebook, stared at his face from every angle. But I could never see it, no matter how hard I tried.

It’s a cliché for middle-aged women to say that a guy is perfect on paper. Well, I hope it’s slightly less of a cliché to say that when you’re eighteen. Because that’s what he was. He had the blond hair. He was improbably from the same hometown. He wanted kids and a serious relationship and he was serious about school. All checkmarks.

All those checkmarks, and yet, from the very first conversation we had, I knew I didn’t like him. If we hadn’t been dating, we wouldn’t have been friends. It was as if dating was what we had in common. It was the subject we talked about the most. It gave us an excuse to talk about intimate things that we would have never talked about otherwise. It was as if we were just filling the societal convention of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”. It wasn’t like we had anything in common.

I’ve always been obsessed with romance. I read all the books, follow all the tv shows, and watch all the romantic comedies. I’ve always had an idea of romance. That’s why the idea of him was so appealing. I wanted to be like my favourite heroines; I wanted to make him into my favourite love interests. But our story wasn’t like any of those stories. It was more painfully real: his awkward attempts to kiss me, my reflex to run away. It was so much less perfect: his expectations, my inexperience. In the books, the well-written relationships weren’t easy, but the romance, the attraction was always automatic. We weren’t that way. We didn’t fit; there were no fireworks. I didn’t know what to think.



Of course, it ended. Sooner than I hoped, but longer than I expected. All throughout, I felt a lack of control. A lack of understanding of why he would pick me. Like he could realize he was wrong at any moment. As much time as I spent trying to like him, I spent ten times more trying to not to get attached to him. I knew it would end. I couldn’t trust it, and I suppose I was right. It did end after all.

When it was over, I expected to be hurt. But, instead, at least at first, I felt relieved. I had spent so long pretending. Trying to like him, trying to fit into the definition of why he liked me. I felt so out of my league, and I was in so far over my head. Every moment we were talking, I was rushing ahead to make sure we kept the conversation going. Every moment I was thinking: am I doing this right? What is wrong with me? What is wrong with him?

So, initially, it was a relief. But then, it was just awful. Because I had built my life around him. My nights. My thoughts. My idea of myself. And I lost all of that. And it’s taken so long to get it back. And I still have so many questions.

I want to ask him if I was the best he could get. I mean, he wasn’t that cute, and he wasn’t that nice. So maybe he didn’t really like me—maybe I was all that was available, so desperate for something, so inexperienced at everything, that I’d fall for anyone. I want to know if it was only the sex thing that made us end. Because so much of me believes it was more than that. I start thinking that that was just an excuse. That really, he realized he didn’t actually like me. That I did something else to screw it up.


I wanted to ask him all this; I would have been friends with him. But, instead, he just left. We live fifty metres from each other, and I have literally never seen him since. That’s beyond improbable, so close to the edge of impossible. I want to know where he’s been hiding.

But I don’t know. So I still have questions. And I’m still left with a hole. Because even if I never really liked him, I allowed him to know me in a way no one else ever has. He saw me in a way never else ever did, and now he owns a piece of me I can never give to anyone else. He will always be my first kiss, my first boyfriend, my first break up. I will carry his name around for the rest of my life, telling our story to future friends and boyfriends. Even though he’s such an unimportant, unattractive person to me now, the idea of his was so important and so appealing for so long that he’ll always be a part of my history.

Because even though we only dated for a month, I was waiting for him so long before that. And now that I know what it’s like to find him, the waiting is so much harder.    



Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Description: Hadley is four minutes late, and she's stranded in Connecticut, waiting for the next flight to London to attend her father's wedding. Hadley is four minutes late, and she meets Oliver. Hadley is four minutes late, and it changes everything.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is the story of what happens during the twenty-four hours after those four minutes, as Hadley and Oliver fly across the Atlantic, getting closer to each other and closer to the things they fear.


I am romantic, through and through. But I don't believe in love at first sight. I wrote a post about it once. To quote myself:

I have a problem with the idea of love at first sight. It's terribly unrealistic, of course, but beyond that I find it terribly unromantic. One of my favourite constructs is friends who fall in love, because they really know each other. They already know everything about each other, and they still love this person. They love everything. But, at first sight, they don't know the person at all. Their love is based on assumptions and appearances. Neither of those things are romantic at all. 

Hence, when I came across this title, I immediately dismissed it. "Who would write a whole book about such a silly concept?"I thought. But then, the blogosphere just loved it and I figured I should give it a try.

I'm glad I did. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a good book. There were a whole ton of things I liked about it, and only one or two things I got stuck on.

I loved how small it was. The entire plot takes place over a twenty-four hour period; nearly the first half takes place on a plane. Most novels wouldn't dare take on such a challenge, for how would the characters grow in such a short time, in such a static setting? But this novel's greatest moments occur because it dares to live up to that challenge. Jennifer E. Smith is so patient with her story; she's willing to take things slow, to revel in the small moments, and that's what makes the novel so real.

Most everyone has been in a plane; most people, multiple times. Smith takes the time to describe a flight in a genuine way, be it the trips to the bathroom, or the time during the overnight flights when all the lights are off, and it feels like everyone's asleep but you. She manages to take this small moments and make them magical, commenting on the reality of cumulus clouds or the relief of the ground. She shows you the extraordinary in the mundane, and it's just beautiful.

I really loved the first half of the book; I was sure it was on its way to becoming a classic. The second half, however, was more uneven for me. I accepted the coincidence of them meeting, the chance of the four minutes. But there are more coincidences are they get off the plane that I didn't quite buy. There's a sort of twist that Hadley realizes; I did think that was quite good. I also rather enjoyed Hadley's relationship with her mother and many of the characters she met in England. I also loved Hadley's relationship with her father.

My parents are currently going through a divorce, and I can attest to the fact that Smith got the emotions of the situation spot on. Like Hadley, I wonder how I will fit into my parents new lives. I genuinely believe that my parents will be happier apart, but I also mourn the loss of our family and our joint memories. Hadley's worries were so close to my own that she often brought me to tears.

The blogosphere told me I'd enjoy this book, and on that point they were right. But they also told me I'd love the romance; I can't say I truly did. I loved Oliver in the first half. But the coincidences and contrivances of their relationship really annoyed me later on. Moreover, I didn't feel like they got a proper ending. I expected their relationship to go deeper. I wanted them to explore each other more, to love each other more. I was disappointed that the ending only gave them a few pages to reconcile. I thought they could have used fifty more. In the first hundred-plus pages, Smith gave Hadley and Oliver such a good base; but in the last fifty pages, she stole their happy ending. The blogosphere told me that this book would change my opinion on the concept of love at first sight. Sadly, it did not.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a lovely book. I think everyone deserves to enjoy it; I just hope they fall for Oliver and Hadley more than I did.
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