Monday, August 25, 2008

How to Make Friends at University

If there is one thing to be sure about when moving away from your now hometown to university it is that you are going to meet new people and lots of them. Some will be your roommates, some your classmates, and most will eventually become your friends. There are a few tips that Nipissing University may have told you about meeting others, such as:

- everyone is a stranger, but you’ll make friends
- roommates are hand selected to live with each other (hopefully you filled out that form for residence yourself and not your Mother)
- there are lots of activities to take part in

However, there are some lessons that you were not told about in all those mail outs that you have received. The learning begins now, grasshopper.

Here is how a typical conversation between university strangers will go:
Person A: Hi, I’m Person A, what’s your name?
Person B: I’m Person B. What are you studying here?
A: I major in the Bioethical Chemical Physics program with a minor in Nerd.
B: Cool, I take History. Where you from?
A: I’m from Wyoming… Ontario, not the United States. It is close to Sarnia.
B: Neat. What year are you in?
A: First.
****awkward silence***

Now, this moment in the conversation is key. You must avoid awkward silences like the plague and at all costs.

The key to meeting and remembering new people is to get to know them more than the basics in the first two minutes. This means getting to know the person beyond the conversation above by doing things such as drawing connections to others, e.g. “Oh, Wyoming! My roommate is from Sarnia. Maybe you guys/gals know each other.”

It is also helpful to repeat the person’s name to yourself numerous times while studying their facial features. This way you can easily recognize someone and recall his/her name based on facial recognition. Be sure to use the person’s name in conversation. E.g. “So Person B, you’re taking history. Why did you decide to take History, Person B?”

This question leads me to my final point: ask the person “why” questions to learn more information about him/her. Ask why they chose to study something, why they chose Nipissing, why they live in a particular residence, or why they dyed their hair a particular colour. But, don’t ask stupid why questions such as “Why did your parents name you Svetlana?” (refer to awkward silence above). These questions help to generate conversation and ensure that you are not doing all of the talking yourself.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you make friends at university this year (so that your Mom doesn’t do it for you).


Friday, August 22, 2008

Nipissing University wins gold medal; defends provincial championship

For Immediate Release

For the 3rd year in a row Nipissing University has won the coveted gold medal in the province’s most controversial event among post-secondary students: tuition fee increases. Incoming first year students will be drinking fewer Tim Horton's coffees in order to pay $195.00 more in first year tuition fees than their now second year colleagues compared to one year ago (based on 30 credit course load).

Tuition increased from $4,315.00 to $4,510.00 this year. This fee increase is the maximum allowable under the provincial funding rules (approximately 4.5% each year). This maximum increase has occurred each year since Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the removal of the freeze on tuition fees during the 2005/06 academic year. Since this announcement, tuition fees have increased by $560.00 at the maximum rate permitted each year.

Professional Students Paying More

Students who are in professional schools such as Business, Nursing, Computer Science, and Graduate studies will be paying significantly more for their education. Tuition fee increases of approximately 8% will be experienced by these folks. As it turns out, deciding to get an education earlier in life than later actually is cheaper.

Future Outlook Bleak

There are no signs that tuition fees will be decreasing in the near future. A press release issued by Nipissing University in May 2008 announced the approval of a near $58.4 million deficit budget for the upcoming year. You can read the release at In the release it is quoted that “the approved budget will allow the university to sustain the quality of education that it provides to students and, at the same time, continue to grow its capacity.”

In other words, more students will continue to be accepted to Nipissing University at an increased rate in the near future, but the quality of education will not be increasing at the rate of 4.5% or 8% like tuition fees are currently.

Monday, August 18, 2008

9 Things to do Before Moving to University

With only a couple of more weeks before university begins, there are a few things that you should do before making the trek to North Bay to begin your university career. There are many helpful hints and tricks out there. Here you’ll find the checklist to end all checklists. Well, maybe you’re not as convinced as I am. But before hugging Mommy and Daddy goodbye, ensure that you have the following bases covered.

Do the following things to prepare yourself for your first year of university.

1. Hoard all of the toilet paper that you can. This stuff is worth more than gold and vanishes like hotcakes in your suite in residence. Bonus trick: hide a couple of rolls at random (truly random that is - every spot gets an equal chance) places in your room. This way a final search for TP will not end in vain. Simply brush off the lint and reshape that roll from flat to round after you find it under your bed, and you’ll be Ruler of the Throne. The same goes for dish soap and sponges.

2. Write your name on everything you own. This includes the black marker that you used to do this task. Don’t skimp on this one. Individual eggs and slices of bread are not to be ignored. Always remember the golden rule of residence life: if there’s no name on it, it is free game.

3. Buy the most unique yet personality-matching beverage container that you can. Sometimes the price is not worth it, but in this case the end justifies the means. You’ll always be remembered as that kid with the “sick drinking cup” during weekend social hours. Way to brand yourself young lady.

4. Digital camera. Buy one.

5. Change your e-mail address to something less elementary school-ish. No one wants to accept a new friend on MSN whose e-mail is or, do they?

6. Keep the high school stories at high school. At Nipissing University you’ll meet new friends and create new memories. These are the stories you’ll want to tell over and over.

7. You’ll probably want to pick up one of those mini-fridges for your room. They come in pretty handy. Get them quick because Wal-mart moves those things like crazy during move-in weekend.

8. Buy one of those big dry erase calendars. You’ll barely use it but it takes up some neat space on your wall. This item will also complement your dry erase board on your bedroom door. It won’t record legitimate messages, but your friends will definitely make use of it.

9. A tool kit that will hold the basics including Robertson, Phillips, and slotted screwdrivers, small hammer, pliers, and others. You never know when you’ll need these items and you’ll be glad that you have them.

If you can think of any others feel free to post a comment. I’m pretty sure these 9 will do the trick though.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nipissing University Teaching the ABCs of ASL

Last year Nipissing University received a grant from the provincial government worth approximately $500,000.00 in order to establish American Sign Language (ASL) classes for students to take for non-credit. The idea is to target this programming initiative to Education students in the hopes of creating an Additional Qualification (AQ - courses that teachers take to upgrade their skills after they’ve completed their Bachelor of Education year). Eventually an entire section of Education students will be for Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (the official title) that will emphasize ASL.

The funds are largely used to subsidize the classes for students in order to encourage us to enrol in the classes. A two week ASL camp (much like summer band camp but without the instruments or sexual references) occurs in July each year - no oral speaking permitted!

I have not attended the camp but I have taken the first and most basic ASL class: ASL 101 (or coded by Nipissing University SIGN 0101). Students need to have taken two ASL classes in order to qualify for the AQ courses.

So, after having taken ASL 101 and experiencing the teaching methods of a completely deaf instructor (yes, he’s deaf, and fantastic), it was to my delight that more courses will be offered by NU throughout the fall and winter. If you are looking for a new experience and are interested in sign language, you can sign up through WebAdvisor; there’s also an announcement for students posted there with more details.

The unique characteristics of ASL truly make it an appealing language. Just like spoken English, French, or Spanish, ASL is an actual language with it’s own cultural references, inside jokes, and etiquette requirements. Individuals who are deaf and/or hard of hearing are not disabled; they can communicate with their peers in their own language and are able to participate in society. When I placed myself in those shoes, I was amazed at both the fun I had while learning the language and not being able to talk while taking the classes. I was still able to communicate!

ASL requires the use of not just hand gestures, but facial expression and upper torso movement too. The classes are currently offered for $190.00 through the Continuing Education office over weekends for 30 hours/course and have no credit value toward your degree. However, it is a great experience that I would encourage every student to take advantage of at university.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nipissing students to detour around construction

In the ever growing desire for Nipissing University to constantly move forward, students will likely be diverted off their main travelling paths through the halls of the academic institution due to ongoing construction projects.

As we grow, our university has somehow found itself in vicious cycle of development and increasing the number of students beyond holding capacity. New professors will be tag-teaming office space with their more senior counterparts, walls are being knocked out to make room for more photocopiers, and the next step may have student desks stacked on top of each other in a single classroom; remember that episode of The Simpsons of Springfield Elementary cutbacks? In order to avoid the latter, students will have to roll out of bed a couple of minutes earlier than usual in order to detour down less travelled paths. But hey, was it not Robert Frost who said take the trail less travelled? (Google: Robert Frost The Road Not Taken (1915).

There are three main sites that you’ll have to redraw your maps around, record your travel time, and still be able to grab a breakfast coffee:

1. Crooked Staircase by Student Affairs
Have you ever avoided those ridiculous angle stairs due to your lack of co-ordination or desire to remain above sea-level? You may have cut down that narrow hallway just to the left of them (previously the home of Human Resources). Well, before walking into the wall that now blocks that hallway, don’t! What are your options? You can take the next narrow hallway before the Dean of Education’s office or wrestle with those stairs at your own peril.

2. Back of the Cafeteria to the Geography/1st Floor A-Wing
Don’t be caught at this location in the near future. You just might find yourself recruited by construction workers who are building the latest academic/research wing that will attach A and H wings. The steel framing is being installed this week and next. Alternate route? Take the hallway leading to shipping/receiving and Print Plus. It may reek of cleaning supplies but it can’t be much worse than that raw fish your roommate left in your fridge for two weeks.

3. The actual cafeteria itself.
Right now some renos are happening in the main cafeteria that resulted in closing off the entire food service area. Will they be complete in time for the herd of students in September? The last I heard, construction was a week behind due to a scheduling mix-up with the floor jackhammer operator and the plumber. The project began at the end of July 2008. The upside? The Aramark folks are grilling up some mean Debrazini sausage on a bun on the temporary outdoor BBQ.

Note: First year students won’t have to worry that much as they’ll need to get familiar with their new surroundings regardless.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bomb threat message found at North Bay Campus

On the morning of Wednesday, August 06, 2008, a written message about a bomb threat was found in the men's changeroom by the gym. What did the message say? Here it is:

On August 7 at 11:45 am a bomb will explode in a secret location this will take place because Canada is an abomination and has become a burden to the United States of America."

As it turned out, there was no explosion that occurred to my knowledge in North Bay. Even though the message did not specify where the explosion was to take place, the North Bay campus of Nipissing University and Canadore College was vacated for a couple of hours by Security Services.

Apparently the North Bay Police Service has been contacted about the matter.

Now, this was the first time I have ever experienced a bomb threat. Some students may have had the opportunity to evacuate their high school for this same reason during their teen years, but not for this fellow. But, here is the most intriguing thing:

Why is Canada an abomination that has become a burden to the United States of America? Canada doesn't rely on the US for social services, does it? Sure, there is free trade, but that has been hailed as a good thing for North America.

Anyway, I hope that whoever wrote this threat is found or comes forward. Really, we don't need these things going on at our campuses, or anywhere else for that matter.