How Networking Can Change Your Life

I’m in third year now and I have attended a few networking events. These events are usually full of professionals in the field and my peers. Networking is a fancy way of making friends. Literally, it is fancy because it is making friends in a professional manner. Now, the key word is professional. Your traditional way of making friends won’t work. It won’t work because you need to watch what we say and how we say it.  Ted Rogers basically engraves all of its students with the skills of networking but what about the rest of the disciplines? People in STEM programs need it too. Especially since we are known for having the knowledge and skills, but don’t knowing how to articulate it. But this fancy form of socializing is crucial if you want to become a confident and well-rounded person. Confidence in your abilities and being well-rounded so you can speak to a wide range of people will not only help you get a job, but will help you figure out a path beyond your degree. So as per usual, I want to make this a quick and easy read with a list of baby steps you can take.

1. Practice makes perfect.  The more events you go to, the more you will be exposed to the “real world.” Now I usually hate the use of this world but I find it applicable to this list. You may think your routine of going to class, studying and partying is the real world but it is only a small part of it. This routine will eventually come to an end and you don’t want to wait for that to happen before you expose yourself to the rest of the real world. When this routine ends, you don’t want to be frantically trying to “find yourself” and what you want to do with your degree. You should try to find yourself and develop your interests in and around your degree. So here are some resources for you to take advantage of and explore the Ryerson environment.

2. Be positive. First impressions count the most in professional settings. This will mean the difference between getting a business card or a handshake goodbye. I have personally seen so many awkward situations where students are caught complaining about other students, professors and the school. This only reflects badly on you because it means if you were to join their team/organization and something doesn’t go your way, you will in turn spread your negative views, Learn more about the power of positivity here.

Again, from experience, I know people appreciate positivity and can sense genuinity. So, don’t be afraid to be yourself!

3. Listen more, talk less. In any event, you will meet people who just want to talk your ear off. Just don’t be that person. When you speak less, you listen better. And actually listen. So many times I’ve seen people zone out in conversations and it reflects poorly on them as a person. I know someone who currently works for the Biomedical Zone at St.Michael’s hospital and has worked for numerous other organizations in the past, yet has never formally applied for a job. You might think that is too good to be true, but really it isn’t. More often now than ever before, managers are moving away from the traditional style of hiring employees.

4. Ask names. By learning names and actually remembering them, you will stand out from the crowd. Students usually don’t have business cards but making an effort to stay in contact will benefit you in the long run. Especially knowing people from an array of programs. Students often make the mistake of staying in a bubble and only making friends in their program. From experience, I can tell you that knowing and meeting people from different programs has helped me with my stress and anxiety. This is because they help put life into perspective. By understanding that everyone is on the same boat but are going in different directions you begin to feel confident in your own path.

5. Follow-up! Following up with them doesn’t guarantee you a job but will set you apart from everyone else. Whether by email, setting up a meeting or attending other events they might be a part of, staying connected will allow you to build your network.

I hope these tips help! I try to practice them as much as I can but I am guilty of inconsistency myself. So don’t be discouraged when you are unable to follow through with them. One of the best resources I can give you now is Ryerson’s Career Center. You might know this but you’ve already paid for their services through your tuition fees so why not use them? They offer workshops as well as one on one sessions to help you with your resume, cover letter and provide you with career advice.


Reading Week Aftermath

As the last bit of your reading week comes to a close, you begin to wonder what you actually accomplished this break. So before you let the guilt and dread sink in, let me reassure you that you will be okay. Yea you could tell yourself that you could have done better and that you should have known better. But really, you knew better and chose to ignore that little voice in your head that told you to work. So I am here to give you a quick list of sure fire ways to get you on the right track. Now, I’m no guru – yet – but I have been practicing what I preach and so far, it’s going pretty well.

1. Make Your Bed.
Yes your mom has been telling you this for years but there is real logic to this! I cannot state it better than the U.S Navy Adm. William H. McRaven who said in his speech to the University of Texas,

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed”.

Also BuzzFeed never lies.

2. Dress for Success
Success means something different for everyone. If it means sweatpants, a 3 piece suite or a onesie than go for it. But generally, dressing like an “adult” makes you act like an adult. For me, it’s a pair of jeans that an “adult” gave to me and a plaid shirt which means business. Research has been done to prove this overused phrase so you can train you body to believe it too.

This also includes not dressing at all. When you want to succeed in getting a good night’s sleep, research suggests sleeping naked is the way to go. Now semi-nude is my preference but it’s important to find yours so you can get the most out of your beauty sleep.

3. Don’t Forget Your Squad
After a week of socializing you might want to cut everyone off. And while I am extremely guilty of this, it does more harm than good. By cutting people off, we are at a higher risk of burning ourselves out. Our mind and body can only handle so much sitting, writing, typing and re-writing. So depending on how behind you are, try to maintain a balance. Learn to separate your friends from those you can get work done with, from those you cannot. Group studying/work sessions are a tried and true method and although they don’t work for everyone, they make you realize that everyone is on the same boat. So if it isn’t studying with friends, it’s grabbing a bite to eat with them or playing games – tag used to be all the rage back in the day.

4. Get Your Heart Pumping
Sleep schedule a hot mess? Can’t stop thinking once you get to bed? In the height of guilt and dread from not getting our work done, we spend more time worrying than doing. So if you find yourself unable to focus and relaying the same thing again and again in your head, then go for a walk. A walk to the fridge is one of my all time favourite activities. In it I get exercise, adventure, nutrition and appreciation.

5. Realize You’re Human

“I am a human being, and thus nothing human is alien to me”- Terentius Lucanus

This is one my favorite quotes and it was introduced to me by Dr.Maya Angelou in her recording of I Am Human. I highly suggest listening to her yourself. In it she explains the quote very eloquently and makes you realize you can achieve greatness. Think of someone you idealize, or want to be like. Now, realize you have in you the same components as they do. If you know your biology and human history, it isn’t a far fetched idea. Genetically, we aren’t very different. Rather, it is our genetic codes that are turned on or off or non-existent or in a different place that make use unique. These codes can be turned on or off due to many factors so technically, yes, I have in me the same components as Drake and I too can go from being an underdog to the 6 God in my field. So can you.

So my point is simple. You are at a time in your life where the little things count. The little things, truly depending on your program, can make or break you. So don’t let them break you. Strive for greatness because it is achievable. It has been done countless times before you, and will continue to happen around you and after you.

“If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better” – U.S Navy Adm. William H. McRaven

If nothing else works, remember Jeb Bush. Just a simple twitter search of his name will show you how he epically failed in the U.S elections. After 2 generations of his family being Presidents of the United States, his story would have made it a trilogy. Luckily, the trilogy ended humorously

What Does it Take to be a Public Health Inspector?

It’s quite an honor to become a public health inspector. After all, it’s like being a superhero – the public doesn’t care for you until something goes wrong.
There are downfalls as well. You’ll never go back to eating week old takeout without thinking about the risk, going to swimming pools that smell so strongly of chlorine and lastly, but certainly not least, watch submissively as a stranger coughs openly into the air. Along with these and a few other downfalls, there are so many more rewarding aspects of being a PHI. So this blog is here to help you become one.
I have taken it upon myself to ask other PHI’s what they would like to tell students and what they wish they knew when they were students themselves. I took what they had to say and comprised a shortlist, to help you get your foot in the door.

1. Stay positive. This is especially true when applying for summer positions that you think will make or break your career. It’s all about timing really and if you are ready for that practicum. For those of you in the fast-track program, time is not on your side but, your faith should be. Faith in your abilities is key as your unique background gives you a significant advantage. Even if it has nothing to do with public health, your maturity and experience in the game we call life is what sets you apart.

2. Don’t be desperate. This was repeated so many times that you might as well engrave it into your minds. PHI’s can smell desperation a mile away and unfortunately students often can’t help exuding the odor. Be confident in your ability and know your worth.

3. Communicate, communicate and while you’re at it, communicate some more. Do you know how to communicate? If you don’t, then learn. Communication is 90% of what PHI’s must do. Written, verbal, non-verbal, formal, informal, it all counts. It isn’t as hard as it sounds either. It just takes practice. Trust me, this process is sweaty, takes a lot of handshaking and courage. It will take a lot of practice but it won’t only help you in your professional career, it will help you in your personal life. As a professor of mine once said, it’s harder talking to your family about public health. So take chance, go out there, meet new people and soon you’ll be able to communicate with the best of them.

4. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Now this saying is repeated all the time. And it is true, to some degree. “Putting a face to the name” is very important to PHI’s as it’s a small community. And as one mentioned “they are all getting old so you have a better chance!” Now, knowing the community of PHI’s won’t help you on your board exam but it will when you’re looking for those beautiful summer practicums. So go to networking events – and this word is ecstasy business but frightening for science students – , go to conferences

5. Take advantage of your opportunities. You’re attending such a diverse school that wants you to be more involved, why not take advantage of it? Yes you have school, jobs and families but just going to your class isn’t enough. From going to seminars, workshops, volunteering, you have so many opportunities to add the words “interpersonal, “interdisciplinary”, and of course, “communication” skills to your resume – and really mean it.

So I really hope this helps and I will leave you with some more last minute tips:

Learn about the health unit you are applying for. I was asked specific questions like what cities are in the region and why I want to work for this region in particular.

Think about your goals. There is so much you can do with the knowledge you’ve acquired. If you want to work in the private sector, some companies don’t require you to be certified so do your research!

Forget the competition and apply for the job. As one inspector said, even if someone is really qualified, we look at how they will fit into our team. Not everyone will have the maturity, the determination, or the communication skills that you possess!

What I Learned From A Child Soldier

You never know what to expect when you come to Ryerson University. Surrounded by such diversity and opportunities, I’ve come to take every day as an unexpected journey – an everyday Bilbo Baggins. That’s why when I saw a poster that read “In Conversation with Michel Chikwanine: A Former Child Soldier,” I couldn’t look away. Although my parents were expecting me home in the next 2 hours, I knew this was another one of those “once in a lifetime opportunity”.

The International Issues Discussion (IID) series is designed to engage the community on major events and issues in contemporary global affairs. Michel’s presentation was incredibly captivating as he effortlessly took us back to when he was a boy living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a refugee in Canad and now, a public speaker and  student at the University of Toronto. I had not intended on retelling his story on this blog but I feel it is important to do so. His story is special because he survived but it isn’t unique as people to this day, are still living his story.

child soldier

Courage and the pursuit of knowledge are two things that Michel has come to live by. For one, I think courage is a loaded term. What one might find courageous, another finds idiotic as it often means fighting the norm or what is expected of you.

“If you want anything you must be resilient’ – Michel Chikwanine

It was when Michel was a boy that his one courageous act is the reason he is still alive today. When he was a boy, Michel stayed afterschool to play soccer with his friends – defying his father’s order. It was there that soldiers came and abducted him and his bestfriend. There, like thousands before him, he was conditioned to become a weapon. Stabbed in the arm with cocaine and gun powder, he was blindfolded and told to shoot the gun that was placed in his small hands. The foreign curves and weight of such a violent tool was too much for him and he dropped it. But as the hysteria from his wounds took over him, he finally shot. When he opened his eyes, he saw his best friend lying there, in a pool of his own blood. He was 5 at the time and his best friend was 12.

That was his initiation. The soldier then evoked more fear by saying because he had killed his best friend, his family will never love him and they are his family now. This initiation step has forced children to believe a lie that encapsulates them in a life of fear, hate and violence. But Michel knew he needed to escape and he finally did when the soldiers took him to a village. Everyone went with their guns into the village but Michel ran into the forest. He ran for days, in a direction he did not know without food or water. To this day, he still has scars around his body. After days of running, he came out of the woods, to a shop that looked familiar. He ran into it, mumbled hysteria and passed out. He woke up in the hospital with his family around him.

After that things got worse and better. Michel’s father was a human rights lawyer and was abducted and tortured because he spoke out against the injustices that went unnoticed. When soldiers came to his house they made Michel watch as they raped his mother and three sisters. They said they would come back the next day so they fled that night with the clothes on their backs. Their journey as refugees was brutal but they eventually made it to Canada. To my shock, they were billed for the flight and food they had not only on the plane which amounted to $5,000.

Today, his family is not whole as his father was poisoned and one of his sisters went missing when she was getting her refugee papers. But Michel remains optimistic and courageous. He speaks about his experience and advocates for change that one day children won’t have to endure the terrifying experiences that he went through. I leave you now with the words his father told him many times before and that he strives to live by:

“Who in this world won’t die? But what defines us is the legacy we leave behind”  – Ramazani Chikwanine

“One break down and everything breaks down”

Did you know Friday November 20th, 2015 was National Housing Day? To my dismay, a lot of people, especially students, weren’t aware. Why is that? Is it because students have 99 of their own problems and housing just isn’t one of them. Well, as one person so eloquently put it, “one break down and everything breaks down”. This is more so the case for people and families without a greater support system but it can apply to anyone. The truth is, we are all susceptible to losing our homes whether it be a natural disaster, economic disaster or a social disaster. So, why can’t we come together to support one another with something that should be a human right? Well for one, if the government doesn’t care it really deters the efforts of those who do – and havehousing 1   dedicated their lives to care effectively. Right now, Canada does not have a national housing policy but there is hope. The new Liberal government campaigned that they will fix our affordable housing crisis. Only time will tell how many lives will be sacrificed before something is done.

My experience 

On National Housing Day, a march and assembly took place to in Toronto. Organized by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and the Rights to Housing Coalition, it brought together an array of people who advocate for more affordable housing in Toronto.

As the attendees marched, they sang along with a band named Parc Drummers as they played the djembe drum and sang “get up stand up, stand up for your rights.” A beautiful song by the late Bob Marley completed the most collective and diverse march that I’ve ever been a part of. With the beat of a drum evoking voices of support, the march ended in front of the Holy Trinity Church. The church has been an advocate for supporting people experiencing homelessness for decades now. In fact, the church has funded the reporting of deaths on the streets of Toronto for years and the latest list can be found here. 

list of homeless

The People’s Assembly for the Right to Housing went to the streets to protest the lack of government action in creating a national housing policy and ending the affordable housing and homelessness crisis. Actors from The Branch Out Theatre then took the stage to present real life situations that people experiencing homelessness have gone through. The stories were a harsh reality of what happens to people experiencing housing shortages. The audience was then asked to participate onstage to offer alternative solutions to this systemic problem – on the individual, institutional and government levels. People from the audience would yell stop and take the place of the other actors. This would led to a policy making session in which policy ideas were brought forward and heard by housing advocates, policymakers, legislators and others witnessing the process. The policies were then voted on.

This event was inspirational, to say the least. The fact that members of the community could collectively come together on such a cold day and support forward thinking in a safe place does not happen often. So now what? On Thursday December 10th on International Human Rights Day, I urge you to attend the speaker and open house panel on the Rights to Housing in Canada. The event will discuss the importance of a human rights based approach to homelessness and housing insecurity in Canada.

housing 2

Sugar Sugar

I read an interesting article today called the Your Retirement Plan May Be Inside Out by Robert Laura. Now you may be thinking, what does this have to do with the title? Well I’ll get there. To sum up the article: we look at retirement wrong. We focus so much on saving money and working hard in order to reap the benefits in the future, we forget to take care of our health. So I dare ask, it worth it? Is it worth putting your health on the back burner so you can save for an unforeseeable future? Well I don’t. But I, along with many others, are guilty of doing it. Now, I’m not saying don’t work hard and hustle, but don’t do it at the expense of your health. Just because 50 Cent’s motto is to “get rich or die tryin” doesn’t mean yours has to be. And in light of recent events, you can see even after his great hustle, he is still struggling. So, instead, you should work on a no-regrets retirement plan. This is where you take care of your health first. Or else, your future health will diminish and you’ll end up literally dying/decreasing the quality of your life. Now here is my segue to the topic at hand: today is World Diabetes Day and 1 in 3 people don’t know they have diabetes. 

This should scare you. People with prediabetes have a blood sugar level that is higher than normal but are not considered diabetic. Unlike type 1 and 2, prediabetes can be reversed through healthy lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, if type 1 diabetes is left untreated, then your chances of developing type 2 increases. With type 2, severe complications occur like diseases of the heart, kidney, eye and problems with erection and nerve damage. Now, this blog is not meant to scare you too much, rather scare you straight. Like most diseases, prevention is key. When it comes to diabetes in particular, a healthy lifestyle is the key, lock and door. However, some people are predisposed to diabetes due to uncontrolled circumstances like your ethnicity and family history. So, Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian or from African descent and/or have blood relations to someone with diabetes you should be cautious. The other slew of risk factors can only be confirmed by a doctor. But that doesn’t mean if you aren’t at a higher risk, you aren’t AT risk. In fact, the World Health Organisation predicts that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death by 2030.

So, where do you want to be in 2030? 

The Canadian Diabetes Association to combat WHO’s prediction hold regional events in order educate and prevent the disease. In fact, Ryerson has its own club dedicated to educating students known as the Ryerson University Chapter. But, if 1 in 3 people don’t know they have diabetes, what are the odds of someone stopping and inquiring more? That is why the club strategically held an interactive event with free games, prizes and desserts, the 4 words students gravitate to.

diabets pic 1

The event was a great success as many students stopped by to learn more and take pictures. But I believe the RU Chapter can do more. What about a Sugar Party? Now this is bound to get students attention. A sugar party would involve the song Sugar Sugar playing in the background – for reverse psychological effect – and a health care professional that would debunk and confirm myths from facts in a casual setting. This would also allow diabetics to tell their story and connect with fellow Ryerson students.

Now let me get to the really sweet part. The CDA RU Chapter has a monthly contest that you can easily win from. This month the theme is Healthy Study Snacks where you have the chance to win 2 movie tickets! All you have to do is follow and tag @ru_cda on Instagram with your healthy study snack recipe and picture.

diabets pic 2

What can you do now? Grab at least one friend and take the online test created by the CDA:

It may take longer than 2 minutes for those of you who are like me and don’t know a lot of your personal information. But it is sure to be a bonding and possibly life changing experience!

*The medical and statistical information in this post comes from the Canadian Diabetes Association website.

I will end this by scaring you straight with Laura’s words:

“Unfortunately much of retirement planning today is fear driven. People are constantly being programmed to believe that their biggest concern should be running out of money. It’s so perverse and far reaching that people actually sacrifice the things that are most important to them in the hopes of fixing or addressing them once they’re financially set in retirement. The reality is, running out of money is nothing compared to running out of family, friends, health, and ultimately time.”

A Country Without Poverty?

Today, more than one in seven Canadian children live in poverty. This means, if you walk into a high school, especially in Toronto – the child poverty capital of Canada – the odds of you finding a child struggling physically, socially and/or educationally are very high. This is because research shows when a youth experiences poverty, they become predisposed into a life-cycle of unending poverty. So what can we do? If we have Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors and the National Child Benefit, why can’t we do better as a nation to provide supportive income for families struggling to raise their children?

For starters, we need to start a discussion. People first need to be informed of the issues before change can occur. This is where the conference, Action on Youth Poverty Reduction: Building Collaborative Connections comes in. The conference, planned by Ryerson University’s Faculty of Community Services Research Centre and funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, is a preliminary step in hopes of producing lasting change. This 2 day event saw many people from diverse backgrounds come together in their interest for creating a better future for our youth population. Aimed to build networks and inspire future research, it was a stepping stone for more research projects to come. Presenters from an array of backgrounds presented, from Hugh Segal who was an former to Elizabeth Saewyc, a Professor from the University of British Columbia.

Segal, currently a master at Massey College spoke about the introduction of a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI). This is a government run program which would automatically deposit money in the bank accounts of individuals that are at the poverty line. His main supportive point for a GAI comes from a study that was conducted in Canada about 41 years ago in Dauphin, Manitoba. From 1974 to 1979 the program known as Mincome, a snazzy word for minimum income, toped up poor workers incomes that were at or below the poverty line. So, at the time, an individual making $3,386 was considered low income.

The 17 million dollar program was supported by the federal and provincial government. This partnership however was shut down when the Conservative party took power at the provincially and federally level in 1979. When the study ended, the data was stored and a final report was never published. That was until 2005. Dr. Evelyn Forget, a researcher from the University of Manitoba went looking for them. Then in 2011, after years of researching and tracking participants of the project, Forget published her paper, The Town With No Poverty.

She found that during the project, there was a significant decrease in the number of people going to hospitals for mental health and accidents as well as a larger number of students going to grade 12. For example, a woman, who at the time was a single mother of 2 girls and on welfare. Then knowns as Mothers’ Allowance, discouraged her to get a job. “She said she wanted to get some job training. They told her to go home and take care of her kids and they would take care of her said Forget. When Mincome came along, she was not restricted on how she could spend her money which enabled her to get training and work at the local library. Through Mincome, she was given the opportunity to gain skills that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. Putting everything into context, this study was conducted about 36 years ago and changed not only the lives of individuals but caused intergeneration change.

Putting an effective GAI plan into place may be possible under the Liberal government but only time will tell. Promises have been made, but actions speak louder than words as the systemic issues surrounding poverty require a multidisciplinary approach with enough funding to not only end poverty, but sustain its extinction.

To read more about the Mincome project: