July 28, 2020
Over the course of my time at UofT, I have taken my fair share of summer courses, with classes ranging from topics covering genetics to statistics. In this blog, I will be going over some pros, cons and factors to keep in mind about summer school that will hopefully allow you to determine whether online learning or summer school is a good fit for you.
As expected, classes are generally accelerated at twice the pace of your normal school year classes. With an increasing number of asynchronous online courses becoming available over the summer, accountability for the work assigned each week will be important because it will accumulate very quickly. If you are comfortable with face-paced learning, this should not be a problem, though I do think that since the material is being taught at such a fast pace, it is hard to have adequate time to digest and fully understand and connect content together in fact/application heavy courses such as biology and immunology. With that said, I recommend taking courses in subjects that you are confident in so you can tackle them efficiently and effectively. This is not to discourage you from taking courses in unfamiliar subjects, but do note that it may be difficult to keep up if you are unfamiliar with the teaching style.
On the other hand, taking a harder course in the summer will allow you to dedicate a lot more time to the subject, unlike during the year, where you have 4 or 5 other classes along with your harder course. In the event that you are only planning to take one course, it is a great time to invest a lot of time into one particular subject of interest. You will also be eligible for a work-study for the summer term, and can apply through the CLN website. Note that summer courses are a great way to free up space during the academic year for ROPs and research positions, and even help you achieve an earlier graduation, if that is something you are interested in. There are a lot of moving parts that must be taken into consideration when planning for the tasks mentioned previously, but this can give you an idea as to how you can use your summers to your advantage academically.
Last but not least, do err on the side of caution when taking specific courses if you are looking to apply for graduate or professional school. They may count summer courses differently in the event you are taking the class to boost your GPA or taking it for an application prerequisite, so do thorough research before enrolling.
What isn’t stressed often enough is that you should not feel required to take summer school! There are a bunch of different ways to keep busy and enrich your CV as well, whether it be picking up a new job, going on an exchange program, starting a new sport, the summer is yours to enjoy. Give yourself some time off from school – you deserve it.
July 28, 2020
I never intended on doing summer courses, however with the cancellation of work opportunities due to COVID-19 and the University’s decision to offer courses online in the Summer 2020 term, made it possible for me, an international student, to take some courses that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to take.
Because I had never taken summer courses before and the change in delivery method (all courses were offered online), I was unsure of what to expect in terms of the pace and assignments. Also, while it is not a program requirement, as an economics student intending to pursue graduate economics programs, the Department recommends that students take multivariable calculus and linear algebra since many graduate schools prioritize students with additional mathematical competencies.
For both of these reasons, I decided to take multivariable calculus and linear algebra over the summer since they are not directly required for my program, and thus the pressure is a bit lower. In the same vein, I ended up also taking an introductory programming class as I thought it might be interesting to try something new. The point here is that the Summer session is an excellent opportunity to either take some courses that are either not required for your program, but still a good idea to take during undergrad, or broaden your horizons and take a class you might not usually take.
The other benefit of taking summer courses is that you become eligible for unique opportunities that you otherwise would not have. First, since many classes are much smaller in size, you can connect more frequently and personally with the instructor — it is always a good idea to have some academic contacts for future reference letters or course recommendations. Second, you become eligible for work-study programs, which can include research and program administration positions. In fact, I am a Trinity One Program Assistant this summer and have had some excellent opportunities to complement my studies by doing real-world data analysis as well as exercise my ability to work well in a team environment — all of which are assets to employers or for future research assistant positions.
In terms of balance, there are a few important considerations, however. You should keep in mind most courses (H1H and Y1Y) are at double speed so you may need to devote up to sixteen hours a week to each course (H1Y classes are at a regular pace), so do not overextend yourself — especially in the summer. For me, I do sometimes wish I would have had a break from the hustle of the academic term, however, given the circumstances with COVID-19, it was the logical choice for me. That said, generally, it is also always a great idea to get some experience outside of the classroom, whether that be via an internship or exchange program.
Overall, my experience with summer courses has been positive as it has allowed me to take some courses I would not have otherwise had the room in my schedule to take, fulfill some graduate school requirements, explore new interests, and obtain access to excellent work opportunities.
July 28, 2020
Like many students, my plans for the summer were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. I had initially planned to take a summer course at a university closer to home over May and June, and to work as an Education Coordinator at a STEM camp in my hometown.
Around the time that STEM Camp was cancelled due to COVID-19, U of T announced it would be shifting its summer semester course offerings online. So, I unenrolled from my summer course at Western and the accompanying hassle of transferring the credit in favour of doing a half-credit course at U of T during each summer subsession.
I opted to take one environmental science course (ENV200 – Assessing Global Change: Science and the Environment)) to fulfill my last remaining breadth requirement, and one third year comparative politics course (POL377 – Topics in Comparative Politics: Sustainable Development) to challenge myself and get ahead on my International Relations (IR) major. Through taking summer courses, I was eligible to apply for work-study positions, and fortunately I was able to secure one with Trinity One. Living in a city without a university, I would never have had the ability to work in an academic environment without the shift to e-learning; for me, the opportunity to build new skills and refine those I already possess through my work-study placement has been a real silver lining of the challenges posed by the pandemic.
I found that Trinity One provided a solid foundation for POL377; the assignments and course readings were similar in length and style to those in my IR-stream seminars, particularly TRN151. I found that after completing similar assignments in the second term of Trinity One, the lengthy end-of-term research paper in POL377 felt challenging, but manageable. While the course was primarily lecture-based, there were discussion periods in every class; after completing Trinity One, I felt confident sharing my thoughts over video chat.
While my second summer course, ENV200, was completely outside of my regular field of study, it has been a fantastic complement to my IR courses. My lack of scientific knowledge related to environmental issues has limited the depth of my understanding in the past, and ENV200 has helped to remedy this. It has been fascinating to examine the global governance problems examined in my IR courses such as food security and the climate emergency from a different disciplinary perspective. While the course is online, there have been several opportunities to connect with my professor and classmates including fun “wine and cheese nights” on video-chat.
The most important piece of advice that I have for online summer courses is to build a routine with completing work and watching asynchronous lectures. When courses are running at double speed, it can be easy to fall behind if your studies are not structured. I would also advise you to take advantage of the flexibility provided by online learning; these courses are a great way to build confidence in class participation. If you are fortunate enough to have a quiet outdoor space, do your class outside! Finally, remember that even though you are in school, it is still the summertime; try not to overload yourself with too much work, and take time to rest and catch up with friends and family.
July 28, 2020
Moving away from home for the first time, along with getting acquainted to new faces, friends and school is extremely daunting for many. In this blog, I hope to shed some light on residence life from a student and don perspective.
Though I am from the GTA, I was fortunate enough to move into Trinity College for my first-year at UofT. What helped a lot during the transition was being on the meal plan – all I had to do was show up to Strachan and pick what to eat rather than prepare the food myself. McDonalds, Chatime and Galleria were also a short 8 minute walk away for the times I was hungry after hours (which was… often). It was extremely beneficial to be so close to resources such as the Registrar and the on-site academic services. Any time I had a problem, whether it be academics, mental health, or general concerns, living so close to these resources really helps with accessibility, and encouraged me to reach out often because I didn’t have to travel anywhere far from home in order to book a meeting. The one thing about the buildings though is that… you can’t control the thermostat, and there is no AC! One of my funniest memory of Trin would be coming home from frosh, sweating to death, and having to sit in front of my tiny fan with my roommate to cool off. Thankfully, Toronto weather tends to cool down a bit after the first 2 weeks of September and it was a lot better onwards. Overall, I am extremely grateful to have lived on res, and made many fond memories there.
After first-year, I decided to move to CampusOne because I got an offer for the Resident Assistant position, and was able to rent a suite with a kitchen, meaning I had full control over what I wanted to prepare and eat. I felt a lot more comfortable with being away from home, and wanted to gain a bit more independence by cooking for myself. As a don, I am now able to welcome new students from around the world and share my first year experiences and beyond with them. Though I still get imposter’s syndrome (please take a look at Quinn’s blog about it!) while giving advice, I always try to remind myself how helpful and valuable the words of upper years were during my transition into university. Not to mention, Toronto housing and university tuition are both quite expensive, and the reality for many students is that they need to get a part-time job in order to help pay for their schooling. If you are interested in student leadership but don’t know where to start, don/Heads positions are great ways to incorporate mentorship and work experience while subsidizing for your living costs.
Without making this post too long-winded, I hope I was able to shed some light on residence life for you, and I wish you all the best on your journey here at UofT.
July 28, 2020
Coming to UofT from outside Ontario can be a daunting transition for many students — not only do they need to adjust to the change of pace and climate of the University atmosphere, but also must acclimate to being away from home in an unfamiliar city knowing very few (if any!) people. This is not to mention the thorny logistics of simply getting to Toronto, setting up student visas and phone plans, ensuring access to healthcare, and verifying that all finances and banking are in order. After accepting my UofT offer of admission, these concerns began to weigh heavily on me. In this post, I will address each of these in turn (as a student coming from the USA) and can hopefully ease the nerves of some uneasy incoming students.
University expectations are very different from that of high school and I can verify that there certainly is a learning curve involved, but students should not worry too much. Yes, it will be challenging and you might find yourself struggling at times, but know that you will adapt naturally over time and that there are a plethora of people available to assist you and help you grow as an academic. For me, my Trinity One professors really helped “bridge the gap,” per se, between high school and university. First, they acknowledged the value of growth; they knew that my peers and I all came to the program from different places and backgrounds and did their best to level the playing field and design assignments in a way that cultivated growth with regard to writing and reading. Second, they provided personalized support; their feedback on my assignments and during office hours was always incredibly detailed and personalized — at my level. One of the Program’s greatest assets is its professors who know your name and academic strengths and weaknesses. Leveraging this, my professors directed me towards ways in which I could improve for future assignments. Taking that feedback to heart and making a concerted effort to implement the changes and suggestions, I found the transition from high school to UofT came rather organically. Additionally, there is an abundance of learning support resources on campus, including the college Writing Centres, Learning Strategists, and peer mentors, all of which exist to help students adapt to the culture and expectations of university.
Second, finding a “home away from home” in an unfamiliar city can seem intimidating, but you must keep in mind that everyone feels the same way. I found my community within my college, specifically through residence and Trinity One. Attending college events that you find interesting and making an effort to try new things will both expose you to new experiences as well as foster relationships you will carry through the rest of your time at UofT. Trinity One was one of those experiences — in fact, I met two of my best friends through the Program. Small class sizes serve to make developing relationships with your peers feasible and almost unintentional! Being in seminar with the same group of students for several hours each week allows you to truly get to know your peers and their interests. Further, Trinity One’s co-curricular events provided a great social atmosphere in which to meet students from other streams. My best advice to incoming students is to take advantage of small academic and social groups, whether it be a Ones program, a FLC, or a club on campus since you will likely have similar interests with the other students involved. Having a group of peers who are there to support you through university’s ups and downs truly is one of the best ways to make attending UofT a positive experience.
Finally, I wanted to touch briefly on the logistical side of being an out-of-province student. While there is a lot to consider from permits to health insurance, writing down everything you need to address and addressing each of these items one step at a time makes dealing with them much more manageable. I would also note that Student Life has tons of great resources with advice and step-by-step guides to help with the transition — also do not be afraid to reach out to your second-year mentors for help!
July 20, 2020
Arriving at university, I felt strongly that I had earned my place here just like everyone else. I had been warned in high school that adjusting to university can be difficult for “high-achieving” students, but I was looking forward to no longer feeling the pressure to always have the right answer or get the highest grade; on a campus so full of talented students I knew that it isn’t a realistic goal. So, warnings from professors and upper-year students during the first few weeks of university that I may experience “imposter syndrome” elicited little more than an internal eye-roll.
However, when classes started, this confidence began to wane. I soon realized I was woefully underprepared for seminar-style discussion. I felt inarticulate and uninformed compared to my peers; every discussion point shared was accompanied by a racing heartbeat and an afternoon of self-doubt. My education at a small town public school began to feel inadequate compared to my new classmates.
My first few months at university humbled me intellectually, and gave me a heightened awareness of my positionality. At times I felt defeated, and that I did not deserve to be sitting at the same seminar table as my peers. I was embarrassed that I lacked the eloquence and privilege of some of my classmates. After a few months, I recalled the warnings from September and realized that they weren’t so far off after all.
How did I move past this? I must admit that it is a work in progress. However, I have learned to approach academia with honesty, humility, and most importantly a sense of humour. I learned to embrace my failures, and to be able to share and laugh about them with my peers, especially those who I look up to academically. I believe in the importance of never being too proud to admit a rejected application or low grade, and of building connections with people with whom you can share your successes and failures. I have learned to own who I am and where I come from, and to strive for authenticity not only socially but also in the classroom.
July 20, 2020
Like many students planning to major in International Relations, I initially planned to rank Trinity College first on my application to U of T. I was drawn to the beautiful architecture, high table dinners, and the opportunity to live amongst students with similar academic interests. The home of the International Relations program on campus, Trinity College seemed like the obvious choice.
However, when the time came to fill in my application, I decided against ranking Trinity first. Instead, I opted for University College. While IR majors tend to congregate at TC, we are few and far between at UC. I realized that while it would be nice to have an intersection between my academic and residence lives, I also recognized that living at UC would make it easier for me to broaden my social circle beyond my peers in IR. I am thankful for my decision – I have a diverse friend group at UC, whose programs of study range from drama to astrophysics.
Over the course of my first year, Trinity College began to feel like a second home on campus for me. The more lunches I ate in Strachan or the Buttery, afternoons I wasted procrastinating in Melinda Seaman, and hours I spent studying in Graham, I grew to be as comfortable in Trinity College spaces as I was at UC.
One benefit of participating in the Trinity One program as a student from another college is the opportunity to use the resources of both colleges. Having access to both the University College and Trinity College writing centres definitely came in handy during midterm season when available time slots are few and far between!
In addition, I found that the structure of my Trinity One seminars allowed me to build relationships with my classmates far more easily than in my other lecture-based courses. Participating in discussion-based seminars twice weekly, attending co-curricular events, and collaborating on coursework over social media has provided me with a new social circle outside of residence. I would have never been able to build as many friendships with students from Trinity College and elsewhere had I not participated in Trinity One.
Participating in the Trinity One program as a non-Trinity College student truly enriched my first year experience. My peers in the program were always welcoming, and I never felt at any moment excluded based on my affiliation with another college. I would advise anyone considering the Trinity One program as a non-Trinity College student to go for it, and to embrace the opportunity to join another community on campus!
July 26, 2019
Angela completed the Medicine and Global Health stream in 2019 and is the Medicine and Global Health stream mentor for 2019 – 2020.
After my last exam in April 2019, I hopped on a plane for a family vacation. Just two weeks later, I began the summer semester of school. It was slightly bittersweet, knowing that I would spend the next four months in school after a grueling first year of university. However, I have found the rewards to be well worth it for several different reasons.
Summer school is highly condensed, and highly focused. The content that would normally be covered over twelve weeks is squeezed into six, and as a result, taking a summer course requires a lot of focus over a very short period of time. This is beneficial if you want to finish a course quickly, or if you’re taking a course that might be difficult to take in conjunction with four other courses in the regular school year. This was the case for me, when I took physics (PHY131) and statistics (STA220) in the first sub-session of the summer semester. I would also recommend summer courses to explore your interests without the commitment of a regular semester-long course. Currently, in the second sub-session, I am enrolled in Sociocultural Anthropology (ANT207) and Environmental Ethics (PHL273). These are courses that I can use for my Philosophy major, but I am taking because I am generally curious about them, and may choose to explore further in later years.
So, should you choose summer school? Overall, it was worth it for me to be able to complete a few program requirements, and also explore my interests. I also tend to get very bored when I have nothing to do, so summer school kept me occupied. Not to mention that the campus is gorgeous in spring and summer, which we don’t normally see during the regular school year! However, there are certain cases where I wouldn’t recommend enrolling in summer courses. If you aren’t the type of person who can read quickly, or pick up new concepts quickly, then summer school might move too quickly for your learning style. Additionally, if you’re taking a full course load (1.5 – 2.0 FCE), then you won’t have much time for working or travelling. While I had a good experience this summer while in school, I think I’ll spend the next few summers doing field courses, studying abroad, and travelling with friends. Summer school is valuable in certain cases, but not always necessary, so be sure to reflect on what might be the most beneficial experience for you.
June 26, 2019
Choosing courses for the first year of university can be daunting. There are many factors to consider when registering such as breadth requirements, prerequisites, and program requirements. After finishing Trinity One, I found that Trin One has prepared me for program selection by offering me guidance and opening up many options.
At the University of Toronto, students don’t select programs to enrol in until the end of their first year, which can seem ages away when a student starts their year off. Trinity One’s various streams helps make the transition from high school to university easier, as students are guided by their professors in their stream and often draw from the program’s interdisciplinary nature for inspiration. While some students decide to request programs that are directly related to or affiliated with their stream such as International Relations and Ethics Society & Law, many students major in a field they found interesting while enrolled in Trin One, such philosophy, a life science, history, etc.
The Trinity One program is flexible to students from all different academic backgrounds in the Faculty of Arts and Science, as well as Rotman Commerce. Some students from Computer Science and Commerce find that a specific topic was of interest to them from their time in Trin One, and decided to minor/major in that subject. Trinity One students may also seek to enroll in a program affiliated with the Munk School of Global Affairs, such as Peace Conflict and Justice, or Public Policy.
The Trinity One program provided the means for first year students to explore their interests in the various streams, and was also a great source of support.
June 24, 2019
Trinity College is known for its small and close-knit community, and the Trinity One program provides an even tighter sense of community. Its affiliation with the Trinity College allows me to get closer to the traditions of my college and also interact more with friends from Trinity. At the same time, the small class setting brings brilliant students from all across the campus, diverse in culture, background, interests, and beliefs. I thoroughly enjoyed the rare opportunity to learn together with students from other colleges and disciplines as it exposes a variety of perspective that I have never considered before.
My Trinity One experience was one-of-a-kind; my first year would have been so dramatically different had I not joined this program, and I would not trade anything for it. The small class experience which it offered had allowed me to dive deeper into the issues and form informed and thoughtful opinions. Discussions with my intelligent classmates challenged me to think twice about my opinions and reasoning, leading me to reassess my views and biases. Listening to my friends share their passions, sometimes on issues I have not spared a second thought, has been a fascinating learning experience. Most importantly, the close interactions with our outstanding professors have not only inspired us with their intellectual passions, but have also nurtured our growth as individuals, academics, and members of the international community.
All in all, Trinity One had taught me beyond looking at history and international relations with a more critical and nuanced lens. It has challenged me to frame my opinions and communicate them with friends from different backgrounds. Most importantly, it has propelled me to feel and care about the history, the culture, and the people we encounter in our readings and research because all of this is part of our world.
June 13, 2019
Entering university is a big step in every person’s life, and one that comes with uncertainty and change. Many students come to the University of Toronto from other cities, other provinces, and even other countries. Needless to say, it can be scary to transition into a new lifestyle. Many of the general first year courses at UofT can have hundreds of students, making it seem overwhelming to meet friends and find a support system. The Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program seeks to offer a different environment, one that allows students to build meaningful connections with other students and professors.
TrinOne allowed me to express my thoughts and opinions in class, and for them to be heard and recognized by my peers. In addition, the opportunity to build a relationship with my professors is something that doesn’t usually happen until third or fourth year. The course content in my stream (Butterfield Environment and Sustainability) was more interdisciplinary in nature than my other first-year courses. My TrinOne courses did not have midterms and finals and instead focused on assignments, presentations, and participation as assessment. This encouraged my classmates and I to pitch in and work together and collaborate both in and out of class. We also had the privilege of having many guest speakers present their research, as well as going on field trips to apply our classroom learning. The seminar style of the classes encouraged me to dive deep into the material and my professors allowed us to customize our final projects to areas of material that appealed to us the most.
The TrinOne program has also provided me with an extensive support system, from faculty to the helpful stream mentors and program coordinators, who were always there to answer any academic questions and offer their help. The sense of community in TrinOne is extended to all students, and I felt extremely welcomed by all of the people I encountered while enrolled in the program. I met some of my closest friends from first year at TrinOne, as the small class helped form lasting friendships. Joining Trinity One is a great idea whether you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert, as it will encourage you to think in new ways and experience a different class format.
June 5, 2019
As a first year student going into university for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect from University. Like any other first year student, I didn’t know many people from UofT and much less from St Michael’s, the college I’ve been selected into. During the summer, I received my acceptance for the Environment and Sustainability Stream of Trinity One, and didn’t understand the significance of the college experience to my social and residential life yet. I would later learn that each college has its own distinct culture and history, that shape their student’s undergraduate experience.
Now a Trinity One alum, I can personally speak to my experience as a non-Trinity student in the Trinity One Program. Like all Ones program at UofT, Trinity One is open to students from all colleges. The Butterfield Environment and Sustainability Stream, which was new for 2018, focused on sustainable practices in and around Trinity, which included an urban beekeeping farm on a rooftop, a geothermal air conditioning system under the Gerard Larkin building, and a rooftop garden on top of the Munk School of Global Affairs. These areas are places I never would’ve explored as a non-Trinity student, and learning about them enriched my experience on campus, as both a student and member of the community.
Living at St Mikes while visiting Trinity twice a week for Trinity One courses allowed me to dive deep into the traditions and history of both colleges. While one day I could be cheering on teams at Dean’s Cup at St Mikes, another day I could be attending the reception of a High Table Dinner, traditional dinners at Trinity College where guests are served dinner accompanied by pre and post dinner receptions. Trinity’s student body are devoted to their college and have taught me about making connections and the importance of community within the university.
To anyone looking into the Trinity One Program, I encourage you to apply regardless of your college, it may be the enriching experience you’ve been seeking in your freshman university experience.