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Introducing SASS’s peer blogging team!

This year, SASS has a team of student bloggers who’ll be writing about their experiences of studying remotely every few weeks. In today’s post, our four bloggers introduce themselves, discuss what they’re excited to work on this year, and provide words of wisdom for everyone from first years to PhD students. Check back again in a few weeks to hear how Liyi, Santosh, Sarah and Kate are progressing!

Liyi (Engineering, Class of 2024)

Hi everyone! My name is Liyi and I am entering my first year of Engineering at Queen’s. I come from Guelph in southern Ontario. I love to bake cupcakes and cookies and to drink coffee (although I’m worried about getting hooked on caffeine!), and I am looking forward to playing recreational volleyball at Queen’s, as I have played competitively for several years.

I’ll be here with you over the next few months, ready to take the first step into the next chapter of our lives with you as we figure out online university. In this blog, I will share my thoughts and experiences with the intention of helping us all study better together.

This semester there are lots of things I am excited about. I bought my first Queen’s sweater online the other day. This piece of clothing somehow marked the first real thought that “I’m a Queen’s student now.” It felt wonderful, and I know I share that thought with so many others. I am looking forward (hopefully!) to seeing everyone on campus in the cold Kingston weather in January.

Academically, I want to improve my essay and lab writing. At high school, I struggled with learning how to study and work effectively in a way that was best for me. In high school I wrote 4,000 words of an essay before scrapping it and trying to start again after following some bad advice. At Queen’s, I plan to follow my gut, seek support from professors and other people on campus (like SASS!), and write using methods that suit me. My fingers are crossed that it works out, but there’s a lot to learn.

I am thrilled that I can share my thoughts using this medium as I am passionate about helping others. I want to share all the tricks I learn along the way to ensure that we are all successful. For all the first years coming in, I hope you are looking forward to university as much as I am!

 

Santosh (Life Sciences, Class of 2023)

Hi, my name is Santosh and I am a second-year Life Sciences student here at Queen’s! I live in Ajax, which is a town located about half an hour from Toronto. When I am not submerged in the books, you can usually find me on the soccer pitch trying to bring out my inner Messi (which I have yet to find) or jamming on my guitar to the latest songs. I am a huge Toronto Raptors fan, so whenever it is game time, you’ll see me supporting the team!

University is an important time to explore options. The first weeks at university can be a drastic change from the environment we grew accustomed to, both academically and non-academically, in high school. This was one of the things I struggled with during my first few months. Leaving my family and friends took a toll on me—and my academics. I joined clubs and played intramurals to integrate myself into the Queen’s community.

Getting over that initial homesickness also helped me refocus on my courses. It is so important to stay on top of all the work, because it can pile up in no time. Throughout first year, I also had a chance to find out which study methods worked, which has shaped the way I learn for the better. This year I look forward to working on my time management skills because that is something I have always struggled with. I know remote learning, which needs new time management skills, is going to be a perfect challenge for me. I hope you’ll follow me on this journey as I try to master my time management skills!

As we inch closer to the beginning of another academic year, I would like to welcome all first-year students and welcome back upper-year students to Queen’s. Even if you are a thousand miles away from campus, we are all connected by the university. I wish you all the best this year and, even with remote education, I hope you take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that Queen’s has to offer.

 

Sarah (Health/Environmental Studies, Class of 2022)

Hey everyone! My name is Sarah and I am in my third year of Health Studies & Environmental Studies. I am from Kingston, but I opted to stay in the city for my undergraduate. In my spare time, I can be found running, kickboxing, or watching documentaries about the ocean. My next big challenge is learning to sail—ever since I saw Mamma Mia, I told myself I would do so.

My experience at Queen’s has been an academic rollercoaster. The biggest struggle I had in first year was time management. I mastered the “art” of procrastination, defined as a cycle of extreme stress, anxiety, and mediocre grades. Come second year, I was determined to fix this. Going into my third year, I now have a better grip on my procrastination. I understand what triggers it and how to work around it. I am not perfect, but compared to who I was in first year, I’ve come miles. This makes me confident going into third year. I have nowhere to go but up!

Despite everything happening in the world, I am genuinely excited for some of the courses I have coming up this year. Extrapolating from my love for health and geography, I am taking GPHY 243: Geographic Information Systems and GPHY 227: Cities, Geography & Urban Life. So, this semester, I’m excited to keep challenging myself academically by taking electives of interest, actively work to unlearn my procrastination habits, and keep the motivation going.

If you had asked me what my third year would have looked like, I would have said I would be on exchange to Australia, doing a placement, or finally be learning to sail. Due to the pandemic, and like everyone else, I have had to revise my plans for 2020-21. At times, it is so hard to be positive, but I refuse to let a global pandemic take away any of my Queen’s experience!

To my fellow on-campus students, we were lucky to establish relationships with our peers, faculties, and programs on campus through our first, second, and third years. These do not vanish because a pandemic has robbed us of our physical proximity and (some of) our plans for our time at Queen’s. As my friend Logan once said, “It’s not the geography that matters. It’s our connections that make us close.” To the incoming Class of 2024, this same saying applies to you, although it may be a while until we are all on campus together again. This is still our time. We’ve got this.

 

Kate (PhD Psychology, Year 1)

Hi there! My name is Kate and I am beginning my PhD in psychology here at Queen’s University. I took my undergraduate and MSc degrees at Queen’s too, so I’ve been here a while! I grew up in Sudbury, ON and am a lifelong figure skating enthusiast. I skated competitively throughout elementary and high school and have been a part of the Queen’s recreational figure skating club for the last six years.

As I gear up for my seventh September at Queen’s, I am preparing for my upcoming Master’s defense. I spent most of the winter and spring writing my thesis and am now in the process of practicing my presentation and refreshing myself on the literature. The discussion section alone took most of May and June to develop and refine. The toughest lesson throughout the writing process was learning how to be concise. Quantity did not equal quality. As I wrote my discussion, I quickly realized that I could not possibly cover the entirety of my field in ~15 pages. Thus, with each revision, I became more skilled at filtering out the “fluff” to make sure my point remained crystal clear throughout my writing.

With defense preparations taking up most of my time and energy, it is a little difficult to focus on what’s to come for the fall semester. That said, I am most excited to 1) begin my research proposal and 2) find out what courses I will be TAing. At the moment, I am unsure about the direction I want to take my research in, but I am thrilled to be continuing with my MSc supervisor.  Additionally, I have only ever chosen to TA courses with tutorial or laboratory components because, in my opinion, the best part of the job is interacting with the students. I am curious to see how I will adapt my TAing style to fit with this transition to fully online coursework.

For all the graduate students who are eagerly waiting to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with their lab bench or office, I hear you and I am with you! Despite the changes to course delivery and campus life, I fully intend on getting the absolute most out of this academic year and I hope you do the same (in a safe and socially distanced manner, of course). I’m looking forward to writing more in the coming weeks about my experiences studying in this new environment and sharing my advice about how to write and learn more effectively!