Back to School

PhotoThe end of summer came as suddenly as did the realisation that I had woken up eight minutes before my 8:30am class on the first week of school. I was off to an excellent start. Adjusting to a new schedule can be difficult; for most people, including myself, the beginning of the school year triggers a perceptible change in behaviour. As we put down our summer vices and pick up our books, raucously late nights become early ones spent with a cosy mug of tea, social lives are reduced to interactions with roommates and classmates, and hours spent lounging in the sun become futile attempts for fresh air between rushing to class and catching the bus. Our four months of freedom are over and we are once again left with an overwhelming sense of what did I get myself into again? But, as I settle into my classes the feeling becomes one of excitement and anticipation. And I remember that I’m here because I genuinely want to be.

I’m in the final stage of my undergrad now and being in fourth year is both a dream and a nightmare. Fourth-year seminars mean that I don’t have midterms or final exams. Who knew the day would come when I no longer had to memorise slides? Fourth-year seminars also mean really small classes where we actually sit around and talk to each other, rather than fidgeting with our laptops in a lecture theatre while pretending to take notes. However, being a fourth-year student also means that it’s all going to end very very soon. What am I going to do next? Where will I go? Am I even qualified for anything? These are questions that run through my head daily. And what about my friends? Will it be like high school again where we all disappear to separate corners of the country (of the world?!?!?)? I’m being very fatalistic but these are all very real concerns. I can’t help but to think back to my first year when I felt a little bit lost and confused but mostly excited and adventurous. I really didn’t know what I was doing at all and didn’t even choose Art History as a major until the end of that year. I do wish someone had told me where to go and what to do and who to talk to for making the most out of the Art History student experience. I don’t claim to be some sort of all-knowing guru of undergrad wisdom, but I’ve been around for a few years and if you’re reading this as a first or second-year, here are some things I wish I had known three years ago:

1. Go to as many exhibition openings as you can! Apart from free food (and alcohol if you’re lucky) it’s a great way to meet people in the arts community.

2. It’s okay to not always do your readings. We all have other commitments – including social lives – so it’s hard to prioritise that thirty-page chapter in your textbook. To make up for this, make sure to pay attention in class and use your textbook as a study companion during exam season!!!

3. Volunteer! Volunteer at a gallery, a museum, a community centre, or any other arts-related organisation. I know this sounds like free labour (because it is) but you will end up making valuable connections that will probably lead to job opportunities and you will discover what exactly you might like to do with your degree. Below are links for places that would love to have you around.

4. Talk to your profs and TAs! I know it seems like a daunting task to visit your professor during office hours when you’re in a class of two hundred people and she or he has no idea who you are. That’s exactly the point – you want your prof to know who you are. By taking this extra step you are already 100% more memorable than the majority of people in your class who will not make an effort. An easy way to do this is to ask about an upcoming assignment or essay – are you on the right track? Does your thesis statement make sense? Is this topic okay? Professors and TAs love to help.

5. Talk to your undergrad advisor! Make sure you are taking the right courses and are organising the next four years in a way that makes sense. did not do this until my third year when I discovered much too late that I had been very disorganised in choosing my classes. As a result, I will be taking second-year classes in my fourth year.

6. Use StudyBlue! I spent an exorbitant amount of time making cue cards to memorise slides for exams – printing images, cutting out images (usually upwards of 70 of these), taping images to cue cards, writing info on cue cards…not to mention this is extremely wasteful. StudyBlue is an online cue card service that will save you time and money (printing is expensive!!!) and allow you to share your cue cards with your classmates if you choose. It’s even available as a phone app – perfect for studying on the bus! This is definitely one of the most useful things I have discovered during university.

7. Sign up for the Artlist! The Artlist is a daily email powered by Artengine that has a comprehensive list of all art events, exhibitions, screenings, workshops, calls for artists, and job postings in Ottawa.

8. Perhaps the finest of all gems the Art History department has to offer is candy. Every day, lovely Diane in the AVRC (on the fourth floor of St Pat’s) leaves candy or chocolates for students to snack on. This is perfect for when you’re in need of a sugar rush before class. Stop by and say hi to her!

Just because summer’s over it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! Check out these upcoming events in the city:

Ottawa International Animation Festival – 18-22 September

Double Major at CUAG – 24 September at 7:00pm

Fall Exhibitions Opening at the Ottawa Art Gallery featuring Dave Heath and Sook-Yin Lee – 19 September from 6:00-8:00pm. The exhibitions run until January 2014.

Nuit Blanche Ottawa Gatineau – 21 September 6:00pm until sunrise

Volunteer somewhere:

Ottawa Art Gallery

Saw Gallery

Ottawa School of Art

AOE Arts Council

Shenkman Arts Centre

Centrepointe Theatre