The Mandatory 'I Graduated' Post

If you look hard enough, you can see how
I am freaking out inside. 
They say growing up is hard to do. I’ve learned that the process of becoming an adult happens fast and doesn’t consider if you’re ready or not. It invades your life and forces complicated decisions that don’t always make everybody happy. As the soft-spoken hairy Italian photographer prunes my robe and details the cap before gingerly placing it on my head, a flood of life surges through my legs and up my spine. Six years and I’m sitting on a stool attempting to hold a smile with some fake diploma held across my trunk. I feel absolutely silly and can’t wait to leave the cramped meeting-room-turned-photo-studio as my awkward levels reach a boiling point. Also, this is the first time things really start to hit hard: I am graduating.

Six years of post-secondary…..over. Now what? I mean, I kinda know the answer, but I still find myself caught in my first real existential crisis while I attempt to untangle the experience of college and university and everything in between while trying to simultaneously figure out what I want to do with my life. In the past month I’ve finished two jobs at PARC and CDS, wrapped up the last projects and classes I’ll ever have to deal with as an undergraduate student, started training and working with the March of Dimes Canada, found a loft I can call home on May 1st, and slid – nay, collided face first – into adulthood.

And how the hell do I sum everything up? Three words: I know nothing. Of course, I know some things, but really…really, I know nothing. That is what all this learning was taught me. The more I know, the more I realize I don’t really know anything. This isn’t a self-deprecation nor a self-pity psalm, but a realization of the world and my puny insignificance that pushes me forward. Only the most ignorant think they know everything, and I’m happy to be placed in the category of little to no comprehension of things, for the earth has `so much more to teach me. University changed me, and now I am ready embark on a new scary adventure as an empty vessel of nothing.

Thank you, university.

Safe travels,

Aaron Turpin

Lost and Found's Guide to Post-Grad Employment

So apparently I am good at job hunting.

In early January I posted an article entitled ‘Happy New Fear’ that was supposed to reflect my anxiety on formulating some kind of post-graduate career plan amidst a plethora of under-employed former students. As it turns out, it was the same gut-wrenching apprehension of joblessness that motivated me to ruthlessly search for a position that suited me and my interests. Oh, and it paid off – with a full time position as Personal Support Worker with March of Dimes Canada.

But not without a steep learning curve and plenty of job hunting mistakes made in previous attempts, which begs the question: how could I not write a post about post-grad employment? Below: the five biggest lessons I’ve learned on my journey not being broke and homeless and sad after six years of post-secondary madness.

1)   Let Other People do the Work for You

It sounds silly, doesn’t it? I mean, if you could outsource your own job hunt, wouldn't you want to? Welcome to the real world, Watson….It exists.
It's elementary.....Ahem, job sourcing, dear Watson.
During my search for a life-after-university plan, I had two different employment agencies who knew my name, interests and field – one was a private head-hunting company and the other a temporary agency run through York University. Although I didn’t have to use them in the end, I was confident in their ability to find me a ‘fall back’ plan because I had personally introduced myself and had made sure they knew I was a dependable person.

But it doesn’t stop there – especially for recent graduates. Universities all have career centers with job boards, resume and cover letter workshops and sometimes even job counselling. Government agencies are also interested in getting young educated people into the workforce, that’s why they have placement agencies in many locations. Share the load and connect with these services – you may be surprised at the outcome.

2)   Shake some Hands

In the world of online everything, it can be so incredibly easy to hide behind your digital resume. Online application systems are now the primary input source for prospective employees, and while filing off dozens of resumes online may be an easier alternative, nothing beats doing it in person. Please, please believe me on this. My personal mantra during my last job hunt was to bypass as many online applications as possible and meet someone from the company – a secretary, HR rep, whoever – before showing them my resume. I am certain this is the main reason why I was offered my new position.

Doing this puts a face to the name and shows the employer just how serious you are about working for them. The effort of travelling to a place of business pays off quickly – as a networking tool and motivational technique that is sure to give you a strong leg up on your competition. 

3)   Meet People and Network the Hell Outta Them

We all hear about how important networking is and how it leads to so many jobs. While this is especially true today, I still don’t think graduates understand this. Networking should be a process started far before you enter the ‘real world’, and universities are teeming hotspots of opportunity because they naturally attract professionals from all different kinds of fields. If you don’t take advantage of this, you’re missing out on some great potential job openings.

But I’m not just advocating signing up for conferences or events. The fabric of the professional world has changed over the years, and the lead-in to jobs is getting more and more informal. My best piece of advice is this: view every new encounter as a possible networking opportunity, regardless of where you are or what you are doing. Friends, family, relatives, co-workers, peers – they’re all untapped opportunities to wiggle into a job of your dreams. It sounds ruthless, I know – but it works. The better you are at forming new connections, the greater your chances of working in your field.

4)   Learn from Rejection

This is a tough one, especially for us young adults – failure can be detrimental, but it is a necessary part of improving a skill like job hunting. If anything, know this: when it comes to the Canadian job search, you will always experience more failures than successes. I know it sucks to hear that a majority of your applications as a new grad will end up in a trash can with barely a skim, but it’s the rotten truth and the best thing we can do is learn from it. There are plenty of ways to do this, too.

If you’ve found yourself on the wrong end of an application group, ask why you weren’t selected for an interview or given the position. At this point, there’s really nothing to lose and many HR departments are happy to provide a little feedback. It shows that you are interested and helps you improve your next attempt. If there’s one hard lesson I’ve learned, it’s that no one can ever have the perfect resume/interview/cover letter. Bettering oneself in the job market is an infinite process – the more you learn about yourself, the easier it becomes. 

5)   Be Stubborn and Stick With It!

Stubbornness gets a bad rap these days. It shouldn’t when it comes to job searches, because the more we get our name on peoples desks, the more we increase our opportunities for employment. Job hunting can be incredibly de-motivating, but don’t let a few turned heads drag you down. Remember – this is your future and you shouldn’t stop until you’re truly happy with it. It pays to be resilient, so build your tolerance to the negative parts and you’ll surely succeed. It takes time and effort to land employment in the 21st century and patience is a virtue.

Good luck grads of ’13!


Happy New Fear

Ah, yes…2013 is upon us like the flabby and unwanted ‘beer baby’ obtained after a few too many holiday Tecates you smuggled across the border while on that ‘Mexican thrill ride’ fall vacation. Indeed, as we celebrate twelve new months of…well, whatever, it’s hard not to feel hope, promise, success and….fear?

Just like th...Wait, what?
I’m not a fan or maker of resolutions, but if I were to wish upon a New Year’s star my aspirations would probably seem more like basic living requirements instead of dreams of celebrity and healthier choices. At the top of my list: a job.

I, like many of my academic comrades, will graduate in the spring. When the classes finish and a degree finds its way into my palms that sweat in tense anticipation, I am released unto to the world and will attempt to navigate my way out of the supernovae of jobless graduates and young post-students who aren’t even remotely working in their field. It’s a scary prospect, so is it weird that I feel so excited about it?

Hence, by virtue of this post, my happy, new fear. Happy because I plan on enjoying life after university, and fear because I’d rather not also end up making a living by re-selling outdated couch covers at above market price from my parents basement. Today, more university graduates have been unable to find a job/ a job in their field than ever before. Apparently because everyone gets degrees nowadays. And a whole bunch of people who were laid off during something called ‘the recession’ are also trying to find a job. Super.

So…What’s my plan? I’ve got extra-curriculars, volunteer hours, an internship, work experience….but is it enough? Seeing as the job market currently operates on internal postings and something called nepotism , perhaps I should revisit my strategy and lower the bar (just a bit?). See, this would all be easier if I could just shape shift into my virtual Sim.

Enjoying the flowers of employment.
But sexy Sim Aaron only exists in my brain and not on my resume, so it’s time to buck up and face the reality that good professional jobs are hard to come by and seem to take a combination of luck and good fortune to obtain. As I try my dandiest to be an exception, I can’t help but feel my condolences for the other new grads that (unlike me) will be flung into the market with overwhelming debts and pressure to perform. Is this really how we want to treat our young ‘leaders of tomorrow’? Never mind changing the world; we’re still worried about paying next month’s rent. 


Innovation vs Transformation at YorkU's Change Academy

Behind the mighty closed doors of York University’s faculty and administration exists groups of professional adults attempting to understand what university students actually do. The results are, predictably, hilariously out of touch with the realities of young people everywhere as I’ve come to learn over time and through many interactions with university professionals. My double-edged perspective as both student and staff allows me to mediate and close the dark chasm between a rigid university and its tuition-paying disciples, but sometimes that gap in communication looks more like the Grand Canyon of dead space with mindlessly bewildered staff on one end and hopelessly lost students on the other. 

I came into the Change Academy a skeptical martyr who had been caught floating in a directionless vacuum of student/staff relations before and was expecting the two day conference to morph into another never-ending cheerleading session for York. Instead, I was thrown into a team that not only acknowledged its limitations but shared my frustrations of operating in a system that prevented institutional transformation. Once I realised we were on the same page, I started to open up a little, and in turn learned substantially.

Let’s back track a titch here. Last summer, I was offered a spot to attend an invite-only conference at York University entitled the ‘Change Academy’. While I was not given any depth or context to the event, I willingly obliged thinking that it was, if anything, another opportunity to network amongst skilled professionals (and enjoy two days of free catered meals). The project team that asked me to be a part of this process is designing a ‘Virtual Learning Commons’; a set of online learning modules freely accessible to all students and staff and geared for helping students easily access information on foundational learning skills for success. I was familiar with this group through my work, and, honestly, because they were paying me to go....I went.

That said, my expectations amounted to what happens after Stephen Harper promises to keep Millennium Development Goals. What I found immediately entertaining, though, was my position as the only student in a team of seven project leaders and the opportunity to disrupt the process to add a little student-based criticism. While the idea of a Virtual Learning Commons is highly innovative (or at least innovative enough to be chosen for a summit of ‘York’s most transformative projects’), it is only as effective as its ability to be adopted into the university community. My job at the Change Academy, because I believe in VLC, was to find the best way of doing so and communicate that to the people in charge.

Perhaps less expected was the outright transparency my team had when discussing their struggles and inter-organizational issues. I had, like never before, become witness to the problems and stresses of university staff who are driving change. Their tensions fascinated me and substantially added to my doubled-pronged approach when helping students as both a student leader and staff member. There is always more than one side of change, and if I am to grow in my position for as long as I may be here I have to start paying more attention to what happens behind the surface or Canada’s second largest (and lowest ranking) university. There’s nowhere to go but up.

 Safe Travels,

Aaron Turpin


4 Gross Misconceptions about University

Welcome to university, where the wild winds of intellect collide with the stupidity of first years who think that the Triple Entente is a keg stand marathon. Whether you are aware if it or not, that knapsack strapped on tight during the first days at University is carrying more than just books; it’s also filled with silly thoughts and pictures of things that don’t actually exist within the four walls of degree-obtaining torture. The assumptions we have about post-secondary education are so fat and ill informed we might as well have taken them from the Mayor’s office in Toronto.

Fun fact: his IQ also matches the amount of chins.
Now, I’ve spent a little too long in university to not a) identify these absurd notions of the realities of students and 2) correct them using every sarcastic joke I can find in my arsenal while also probably being a little offensive. Consider that a forewarning.

1) ‘You can’t slack off at University’

Yes you can. In fact, many a student are rewarded for slacking off because professors are often too damn busy to enforce every single missed deadline or skipped class. Although the end result may not be honours material, the common sloth-like student is still well suited to skim through university while exerting less than half of the effort of everyone else, taking full advantage of the fact that barely meeting requirements is good enough to get you that degree.

The key thing to remember here is that it shouldn’t matter how hard or easy it is to do well in university; what should be important are the reasons you’re here in the first place, and just how in tune you are with those personal motivations. Yes, we’ve all wanted to club the slacker in the eye like the weak seal who just wasn’t fast enough to escape the end of a stick with a rusty hook on the end, but at the end of the day that’s just a side effect that doesn’t really matter. Working hard at something is a learning process and skill in itself that will help you immensely after you graduate. Oh, and that pot head that never left his room next to you and blasted Bob Marley all day? Well…

Now all of his songs end with 'would you like fries with that?'
2) ‘You’re just a number at university’

University can be a scary thing if only for the fact that many of them are absolutely massive institutions that seem to fart out millions of graduates a year after steamrolling through a system designed to slap a number on your chest and force ideologies into your face. The intimidation factor is there and often terrifies students out of actually involving themselves in the community of post-secondary education. Indeed, you are assigned a number and thrown into a system BUT that’s the job of some penny-pushing sorry excuse for an assistant who lives somewhere in the upper rings of administration and wipes the golden butts of higher ups. In the meantime, you’ve gotten yourself into a place that embraces things like sexual experimentation, and there’s more than enough people your age that are ready to explore their Grover fetish.

Grover likes bathtime.
University will be the only time in your life that you will be exposed to an indefinite amount unique people who form open groups designed to support your personal interests. You have an opportunity to try things you’ve never tried, go places you’ve never gone and completely change who you are. Seriously, when is the next time you can just say to yourself ‘self, today I want to begin a journey as a NERF warrior’, and then immediately find people who want the same thing because there’s a NERF Club that meets twice a week and costs nothing to join? The answer is probably never, and you only have four years to do awesome shit like this, so why the hell aren’t you yet?

3) ‘Bachelor’s Degrees won’t get you anywhere these days’

We’ve been hearing all the fear mongering over how useless university degrees are these days: how hard it is to get a job in your field and the crazy rate of unemployed post-grad students who are stuck living at home under buttloads of debt. While I am not working to delegitimize this phenomenon, I also have a hard time understanding why students who do nothing with their time in university except go to class and play World of Warcraft have the right to complain about joblessness in adulthood.

We no longer live in a world where a piece of paper automatically gets you that dream job. The harsh reality is that, although you may be working your ass off for top grades in all of your classes, you also have to allot some time to apply that into the real world. Luckily for you, university is also a place that gives you umpteen opportunities for this (see above). Volunteer for a political party, join a human rights advocacy organization, do an exchange overseas – whatever your deal, make sure you graduate with a resume that doesn’t just say ‘I went to school and on my spare time I watched German porn’.

4) ‘You can’t party all the time and be successful’

If there’s one absolute summary of what every first year university student is thinking during the days leading up to Frosh Week, it’s this:

Party time.
University and drinking go hand in hand, just like Teletubbies and crack, minus the creepy talking baby sun and swirling multicoloured bellybuttons. So maybe Teletubbies and university have nothing in common, except for the fact that after ten beers you start sounding like one.

It is said that 80% of your learning happens outside of the classroom, but I would say it’s closer to 99.999573%, because statistics taught me how to math. A large part of this learning is going to come out of getting insanely drunk and dancing naked in the university courtyard (and other related activities). Young students have a natural urge to go buck wild, and it’s really only during this point in their youth that it becomes somewhat socially acceptable.

Take it from the man who was once crowned the funneling champion of his first year residence: get that party faze out of your system early on and you’ll avoid becoming that thirty-something year old who can’t handle their whiskey and hits on construction workers. 


I'm an Environmentalist.

This is not a rant. I am writing on behalf of the hundreds who call themselves students of Environmental Studies; environmentalists, if you will. 

You see, we’ve been placed into a box – like many other folks pursuing certain academic things – and that box can be very limiting in terms of image and portrayal of this discipline, leading to more than a few prejudgements from those on the outside. I want to set the record straight. Right here, right now. There’s probably a lot of inaccuracies or - and I hate to use this word - ‘labels’ attached to us Environmental Studies students, but this is just a short list of the ideas other people have had about me during my four years in university. 

1)    I’m a hippy

Nothing against hippies, I’m just not one. On the contrary, identifying yourself as a ‘hippy’ is nothing to be ashamed about; hippies have pulled the human rights wagon further than most groups. At the height of the American Counterculture Movement during the 1960’s, these folks worked on having an incredibly positive impact in many places. If it weren’t for the ‘hippies’,  LGBTQ Rights, freedom of speech, anti-war campaigns and environmentalism wouldn’t be close to what we know and have today. 

And I wasn’t part of any of that. So please, stop calling me a hippie, and read a history book, or better yet watch Zeitgeist

2)    I am solely responsible for saving the world 

There’s a really scary word used by big businesses called externalities. It refers to the residual aspects of industry; the side effects of mining, lumber exports, building houses, global banking, etc. and, you probably guessed it, these externalities really mess things up. The damage caused by whatever means to create a product are often ignored because some people think that other interest groups will just take care of it.
According to this logic, I am part of this ‘other group’, solely because I will graduate in a year with a degree that flashes ‘here they come to save the dayyyyyyy!’ In rides the environmentalists on golden steeds, ready to fight for justice and make everything right again. It’s this kind of image that perpetuates thoughts like ‘somebody else will take care of this’ or rebuttals like ‘isn’t there people advocating for that already??’

Sometimes we ride in on golden crocodiles, too.
Take a good look back into history. The only time anything big and important ever got done, such as significant legislation enacted, human rights extended, wars ended, etc, it was because a multitude of people from a multitude of backgrounds came together over some commonality. Environmental Studies isn’t trying to breed a group of distinct individuals who will save the world from inevitable destruction, it is trying to create people who will bring more people together. So stop relying on me to fix everything. 

3)    I am going to work for Greenpeace/PITA

As I near the end of my time as an undergraduate student in university, I enter the realm of expectation I think all graduates-to-be transition into (whether we like it or not). It’s a period of your life when the apparent immaturity and carelessness of student life begins to fade and the adult you forms….As others may see it. Soon, a relentlessly annoying golden question will begin to crawl its way into your life: ‘So, what are you going to do with your (blank) degree after graduating?’

'Lets throw our hats to show how hopelessly unidirectional our lives are!'
I get it. Most people mean no harm with this question; it’s motivated by an unconscious desire to categorize and place you into a nice sounding career and/or lifestyle. You’ve just spent thousands of dollars and four years on a piece of paper, now do something with it. But it’s not that easy, and the answer, these days, won’t seem quite as sexy. In fact, there might not be an answer at all.

A large majority of my peers who have, or are about to, graduate university don’t have a very straightforward post-degree plan. Or if they do, it does not involve finding a permanent job and settling down. Contrary to this trend, I have literally had conversations with other people (sometimes other students) who have assumed I will end up working for Greenpeace when I graduate. Again, it’s that urge to find a poster child for every discipline, and then automatically tag the student to it. That way you won’t have to put any thought into the answer. Business majors have Pfizer, English majors will be teachers, and Fine Arts majors will be jobless (okay, maybe that last one is a tad bit accurate….). 

4)    I practice (inset random generic spiritual thing here)

Yoga. Meditation. Reiki. Tai Chi. Buddhism. Hoola Hooping. 

Whether I’ve practiced these things or not, it’s a bit unfair for one to assume that all Environmental Studies students know everything there is to know about vegetarianism or Jainism. It’s not like we synthesize every one of these activities by osmosis and default into Ghandi. I don’t even think I’d particularly like that. 

5)    I’m going to make you feel bad for eating that chicken. 

There is one thing I can say for sure about Environmental Studies students (at least the one’s at York), and that is there is much higher than average percentage of vegetarians in the program (I being one of them). It could be that a lot of the ideals we study foster this sense of stewardship, but then again it also gets challenged by many in our discipline at the same time. 

There’s this idea largely held by non-vegetarians that us herbivores make it our life mission to publicly shame others while they consume meat. What becomes misunderstood is that our dietary restrictions are for most of us veggies (and I hope I speak the truth on this) a personal choice. Meaning, it has nothing to do with your choices for eating meat. Meaning, you don’t have to ask us if we’re offended before you eat that leg of chicken. It’s okay, you can still be my friend.


Nikki Satira on Coming to Terms 
with your Inner Creative Superpowers

If there’s one thing being in university has exposed me to, it’s the world of creative thought and action. I am proud to be a part of a faculty that is attempting to re-establish a relationship between creativity and academia. Some key individuals within the system are now reinventing university space to make way for a new merging group of students who combine music, art, poetry, story-telling, physical activity, dance, and many other realms of creative movement inside the classroom. By doing so, they are weaving inclusivity and accessibility into our hardened web of books and lectures, finding a new learning that focuses on expression, free thought and personal analysis instead of theory and formula. This is a change that is slow but deeply rooted on the energy of a new and brighter future for post-secondary education.

Classic Nikki Satira
Enter Nikki Satira, a 22 year old Toronto native born activist, musician, poet and writer. At the present, Nikki is one half of the hit folk band Houses for Birds, a witty and intelligent ukulele-based duo that sings about everything from obsessions for beards to experiences travelling Canada’s diverse landscapes. Her early interest in animal rights and vegetarianism has led to a lifelong crusade that has successfully catalysed sustainable changes in the name of preserving and caring for the non-human world. Nikki has also found her niche as an accomplished and published writer and poet, taking her uncanny ability to use language and personal prose to evict emotion and thought from any of her readers.

There is no contesting this girl’s in touch with her creative side, but Nikki is usually the first to admit that it isn’t always easy. In an interview I conducted on getting in touch with your creative capabilities, Nikki discusses the big challenges and even bigger rewards of finding that part of you that intrinsically wants to be creative.

1) Briefly describe yourself and what is most important to you. What makes Nikki tick? What are you passionate about?

I’m loud, bubbly, a tad eccentric and definitely offbeat – and my passions and beliefs have moulded me this way. The most important thing in the world to me is being a kind-hearted, well-balanced person who sees the intricately beautiful characteristics of everything on this planet - and I’m passionate about using those skills and traits to connect with people and make the world a brighter and more colourful place to live. I live and act as though strangers don’t exist and I try to embrace the idea that people do bad things but there is no such thing as a bad person. To me, the world is full of magic - and I know that sounds a bit naïve and juvenile, but it’s a way for me to reconnect with the wonder, imagination and excitement of being a child that we all unlearn as we grow older. We’re too much in our heads and not enough in our bodies and in our hearts!
I also love to explore and I find that through exploration, I face my own fears and overcome challenges that allow me to learn something new about myself… and through this process of learning about myself, I am able to embrace the differences that surround me in a positive way and get a little bit closer to finding my path in life. 

Katelyn Plant (L) and Nikki Satira (R) aka Houses for Birds performing at the House of Energy in December 2011

2) How do your creative interests factor in to who you are and what you believe in?

I love words. Before I was a musician, I was a poet… which is one of the hardest endeavours I’ve ever undertaken. It’s not easy to say something unique and profound in only a few words, and I guess I fell in love with the rush of accomplishing exactly that. With that being said, I use words and lyrics as a form of mental satisfaction, and this satisfaction comes from writing a sick rhyme, a well-thought limerick, or a melodic string of puns. On top of that, the lyrics I create are always reminiscent of my beliefs and wishes - sometimes happy with a silly twist, sometimes serious with dark undertones and sometimes a mixture of the two. That way, after all is said and done, I can have a piece of work that will make people think about things they’ve never really understood before, in a way that makes them laugh, cry or even silence them. I love people, and to open up a dialogue in that way is what it truly means to be an artist to me! 

3) How do you find the time and effort to dedicate to your endeavours as a musician, a poet, a writer, and creative mastermind?

I don’t, hahahaha. I kind of just wait for ideas to hit me and then I take the time to see them through. When that happens, I pretty much just drop everything I’m doing and it usually only takes about an hour for me to write something when I’m hit with an idea. If I force myself to write something, it usually takes weeks and kind of sucks anyway so I just end up abandoning it. I used to think that this was just me being lazy, but now I understand that it’s simply how I work. It is important for me to be able to drop everything I’m doing and work on an idea, otherwise nothing would get done.

4) Why do you think it is important to be creative in life? What are the benefits of this?

There are both benefits and serious implications! Being creative allows you to accomplish something you can be proud of; it gives you satisfaction, boosts your confidence and forces you to interpret things through an entirely new lens – all the while making the world a bit more of an interesting place to live. The benefits definitely outnumber the implications, but you have to be careful. Sometimes what you create may never be good enough to you, and you’ll either give up because of that, or try so hard that you end up making things worse and sacrifice a lot of time and sanity to do so. 

Relaxing on a beach at the Wawa Music Festival 2011
 5) Imagine I am a person who has never once tried to do something organic and imaginative. How can I learn to ‘flex my creative muscle’ and establish my own creative foundation?

Think of it as being shy. I’ve never been a shy person but a few years ago I was too timid to start conversations with random strangers. I forced myself (and it scared the hell out of me) to start saying hello to people on the subway and people around me that I didn’t know because I believed to my very core that the world lacked a sense of community. I ended up meeting some amazing people that way and learning so much that I didn’t know, just by pushing myself out of my own comfort zone. It’s like that with a creative endeavour. You just have to do it, you can’t think about it too much or you’ll disappoint yourself – and once you’ve accomplished something, this amazing feeling overcomes you, like you’re so incredibly proud of yourself that you just want to keep going.
The first time I ever wrote a poem I gave it to my favourite teacher to read. Even though it wasn’t a great poem, he still said it was awesome and did everything he could to help me progress into a full blown poet. He recently told me that it didn’t matter that the poem was good or bad – what mattered was that it was the first time I had attempted something creative, and that incredible moment is something to celebrate regardless of whether or not it’s “good”.
It doesn’t just happen instantaneously though; you have to kind of make your own toolkit before you start any creative endeavour. When I first started, my toolkit included my passion for animal rights and my desire for world peace - even though it has changed so much over the years, it’s what worked for me then and it’s why I’m here now.

6) If you could sing one song for the world to hear, what would you sing and why?

In a tree at Stanley Park, Vancouver!
That’s a freaking hard question. If I’m going to sing a song for the whole world to hear, I want everyone to love it as much as I do, understand the lyrics in the way that I do and be moved by it like I am moved.  Everyone has so many different musical tastes and interests it would be impossible to sing a song for the world that would do that. With that being said, I’m just going to give you a copout answer and say that everyone needs to hear (I wouldn’t sing this, it just wouldn’t be the same) Tally Hall’s song, Bananaman – because I feel as though the world needs to loosen up a bit with some laugher, a lot of weirdness and a bit of insanity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEEmUdkTyJ0 – Enjoy!

7) What does the creative future look like for Nikki Satira? Folk-rock stardom perhaps? Or maybe beat poet of the decade?

I’ll let you know when I’m finished my degree. For now, I’m just going to worry about school and fixing the fret board of my ukulele!

*Check out more of Nikki Satira here:

On her blog ‘Words from the Woods’ - http://wordswoods.wordpress.com/

On the Houses for Birds Soundcloud - http://soundcloud.com/housesforbirds


at The Emerging Global Leaders Program

Your generation might be the last.’ A single opening-keynote sentence that effectively floored a room full with 50 of York University’s top student leaders of which I had the privilege to be a part of. This become one of my first impressions of EGLP, a weekend conference retreat designed to explore key concepts and challenges of leadership in Canadian and international contexts. And it was a sobering thought to say the least.

These first few words hit me at 8am last Saturday after taking a bus into King City, Ontario to attend the conference.  Dr. Walter Perchal, Special Advisor and ex Commanding Officer of The Royal Regiment of Canada and the Canadian Army, stood at the front of the conference centre meeting room after calmly stating the aforementioned line. He came with a simple but tough message for us: the next generation of young leaders will face some of the largest and most complicated challenges the world has ever seen.

Speaking at the World Bank scenario led by Mr. Nigmendra Narain
Dr. Perchal both scared the crap out of me and inspired me beyond comprehension. What I envisioned as a fluffy combination of workshops that weekend actually became a test of my ability to connect, respond and coordinate with the most assertive and motivated agents of change. I found myself questioning my own loyalties, ideas and beliefs while being exposed to an intense diversity of backgrounds (I was one of three white males attending!). To my amazement, this clash of cultures, morals and histories consequently stripped away the superficial aspects of attending a ‘leadership conference’ and made my experience honest and real. Having a discussion with a 20 year old who recently escaped civil war in a country halfway across the world puts things into perspective like that.  

Guest speaker Ms. Janet Keeping

This busted another prejudice I was carrying with me to EGLP. Just because you share certain skills and aspects with someone else such as youth and ability to lead does NOT mean you share opinions. Finding out that the friend I made on the bus doesn’t believe in universal health care makes for an interesting conversation. Now multiply that by 50 shark-like personalities and throw them all in the same room, close the doors and watch the chaos ensue. It became immediately important that I find a way to bridge the gap between my own core values and the opposition of others, or else common ground was a place in a very far away land.

Pushing myself to exist outside of my comfort zone was what made EGLP worthwhile, and that would not have happened without the support of delegates, organizers and facilitators. Even though some sessions were admittingly out of hand, it was specifically our diversity and differences which connected us and made us stronger. At the end of everything, it is our VISION to DREAM and to not let other stop us that counts and we’re not going to accomplish this if we aren’t willing to put in the effort. Or, in the wise words of Dr. Perchel,  ‘if you want to be a leader, you have to get off of your ass.’


Academia for Non-Academics

Do you remember taking ‘self-knowledge’ tests in high school, maybe with the guidance department? You know; the ones where you answer a series of generalized questions or react to those obtuse statements of self-interest, all designed to place you in a certain category of profession. Do you enjoy getting your hands dirty? You should be a car mechanic!

The truth of the matter is most of us had no idea who or what we wanted to be
at that point in our lives. Heck, I’m not even sure I do now! The last thing we
needed was a predisposed rubric handed to us on a piece of paper, which through
some form of complicated calculation involving a series of numbers and letters
in a web of life-force powers, created a solution to guide us through the rest
of our days. Was this the epiphanal moment we needed for final clarity on our
life’s endeavors? For most of us, the answer is no.

If you really think about it now, the concept seems quite silly. How can a
non-sentient piece of paper give me accurate advice on my ultimately pathway?
Unfortunately, some of us believed it, and such was the case for 15 year-old me. 
I used to tell everyone that ‘I’m not university material’, and mostly because that was
what I was told by my teachers and guidance counsellors. It wasn’t until some
key people outside of that realm actually forced me to look at the whole thing
differently that I finally realized I could do it. (That includes you too, Mom
and Dad).

So, here I am, a forth year Honours Environmental and Urban Studies Double
Major, and future graduate of York University. This page is dedicated to my 
academic adventures and learning experiences at school, all thanks to those who 
told me it could be done.

Safe travels,

Aaron Turpin