43 Days to go….!
Today, I want to talk about your life beyond being an engineering student, and no I don’t mean your life after you’ve graduated, I’m talking about while you’re still a student!
Engineering is awesome and Skule is awesome, but there’s always room for a little more awesome elsewhere. Before we were engineering students, most of us were secondary school students at one point, with our own unique hobbies, interests, and pastime activities. Who’s to say we have to forgo that once we’re here? Even as you work towards completing your studies these next few years, you might be interested in engaging in activities outside of the Engineering Faculty and that’s not only very okay, but encouraged!
All the way across campus lies a building few engineering students venture to, and that building is called Hart House. It was established in 1919 and has the title of being one of the oldest student centres in all of Canada. While back in those days only men were able to use the facilities, today Hart House welcomes all students, staff, and even the public community to its spaces.
Today, Hart House hosts cafes, temporary art exhibits, study spaces, conferences, a full fitness centre completely separate from the Athletic Centre, and even a hair salon. Now that the campus is closed, Hart House has moved all their programming online. If you subscribe to Hart House by email, you’ll receive a weekly newsletter outlining the various virtual activities they have going on and how you can take part at no extra cost. This week they have a cooking class with a local Toronto celebrity chef, a Caribbean Culture talk, a writing workshop, and a drop-in circle for creative directors. Talk about a wide variety of ways to never get bored!
Students of other faculties outside of Engineering will spend lots of time at Hart House 1) because it’s physically located near the Arts and Science colleges and their classrooms, and 2) because it’s a very large space filled with secret nooks and crannies for studying and relaxing. I’ve found that statement to be quite beneficial for myself as I’d often meet someone new during my visits to Hart House and getting to know non-Engineering students is always a plus!
Quick Engineering tangent: Hart House theatre is also the site where Engineering students host their annual Skule Nite sketch comedy performance that I wrote about in my last post. Since the Engineering Faculty doesn’t have a theatre space of its own, it’s the perfect place to congregate with friends and family for a very special night of entertainment. Hart House also has a dining space known as the Great Hall that programs like EngSci will rent out for their annual Alumni Dinner and invite the Lady Godiva Memorial Band to crash the festivities with a song or two.
One of the best things that’s allowed me to find balance during the week, between assignments, tests, and extra-curriculars, is staying active and moving. I really didn’t start working out much until the summer before first year because my friends and I wanted to set some healthy habits before we started university. One of the first things I did when I got to school that September was look into the Athletic Centre (or “AC” as many call it) on campus and how I could join. Turns out, it was easier than I thought.
As a U of T student, by paying tuition, you automatically get full access to the AC’s facilities all-day just by swiping your T-Card in the lobby. There were never any lines or high traffic of people, so I could practically come in whenever I wanted in the morning or during an hour off between classes (which became very handy during those first year lunch hours everyone has in their timetables). If you’re like me and benefit from time spent running around a track or lifting weights to tell yourself you’re strong, then you might enjoy incorporating some fitness time into your first year schedule.
You might also be wondering how any of this has worked since the campus has been closed, but fear not for the AC has moved online as well!
This summer U of T introduced the #UTRAIN program where they were able to move as many of their fitness and wellness classes as possible online onto Zoom. Every week, registered students who are taking at least one course during the semester are sent a full schedule of online classes practically identical to those that would otherwise be held on-campus, along with a link to the class calls on Zoom. Some of the classes are synchronous, meaning you can join in real-time with the instructor and other participants, while others are posted ahead of time asynchronously for you to enjoy at your own convenience later.
Since I’ve been taking online summer courses recently, I’ve had access to the #UTRAIN content for a few months now and have been attending classes here and there when I find the time. I can honestly say it’s been a blast, and it really allowed me to snap out of some of the lethargy I was feeling stuck at home all day. My favourite classes thus far have been Yoga and Cardio Dance Party. Until quarantine, I had been going to the Hart House fitness centre for their morning yoga sessions, so being able to keep that up this summer has been fantastic for both my physical and mental wellness. The program will continue into the Fall semester so all of you will soon have the opportunity to join these classes (and definitely feel free to reach out to me if you plan to take classes and are looking for a virtual gym buddy!) .
If you’re thinking about living with one of U of T’s Arts and Science colleges during your time in undergrad, you’ll find yourself with plenty of activities to choose from outside of Engineering. Trinity, Victoria, St. Michael’s, Innis, Woodsworth (just to name a few)…are all U of T colleges where engineering students can and have lived in either directly in their on-site dormitories, or indirectly through their off-campus housing. The colleges behave often like miniature faculties of their own. They provide their students the opportunity to enroll in seminar courses often given by guest speakers who are alumni of the colleges. They run their own orientation events on top of Engineering’s F!rosh Week, host dinner dances, and even have their own student governments. If you’re planning to live in a college in the Fall, or starting your college experience remotely for the time being, you can expect to have lots of fun and meet tons of non-Engineering students (and remember that’s a good thing!).
One of my close friends has lived at Victoria College throughout her time in engineering thus far and has often referred to her roommates and floormates as “a second family”. If she wasn’t in our Engineering buildings studying or hanging out with friends, she was back at Victoria spending time with her non-Engineering friends. Sometimes I’d even come over and we’d have a big movie night all together. Even though our campus closed in the Spring and everyone moved back home, she still keeps in-touch with her friends from her college.
A Good-old Fashioned Hobby
Sometimes life outside of Engineering doesn’t necessarily need to be an organized group. It can look as simple as reading a novel, practicing an instrument, or playing a virtual board game online with old friends. Maybe it’s a pastime unique to your hometown, or an activity you do with your family. However you choose to spend your free time these next few years is up to you and what makes you feel happy and refreshed and ready to tackle your engineering courses.
That’s it for today, have a great weekend and I’ll see you next week!