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GEMinar 5: Networking IRL

No matter what field you are in or decide to go into, networking is crucial. You shouldn’t miss any opportunity to do so because you never know how many connections the other person may have. I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people and networking but I never realized how it was such an important skill to possess. It will always be beneficial and aid us in our future career prospects.

Luckily enough, our girls got the chance to attend a ‘Networking in Real Life” GEMinar on Friday February 5, hosted by Lisa Orr of Orr Etiquette. Personally, I thought this GEMinar was amazing and I feel that I really needed this. It was especially relevant at this point of the school year and before going off to university, where I’ll be meeting new people every day. By the end of the event, I felt a lot more confident about the way I interact with other individuals and meeting new people.

GEMgirl Fatima Waheed said, “This was, by far, one of my favourite GEMinars and also the most applicable in real life. People say ‘first impressions aren’t the last’ but I think when it comes to job interviews, this isn’t true because people don’t have time to get to know you personally. First impressions do matter a lot but now I feel more confident about mine,” We couldn’t agree more, Fatima!

The GEMinar facilitator, Lisa, was very friendly and made the GEMinar fun and informative at the same time. When I came into the room, I saw a bunch of people in shiny, blue capes and stepped back thinking maybe I came to the wrong room. However once I stepped in, I realized I was just in time for the second activity, which was introducing yourselves to a new people and then having them comment on the back of your cape. I was astonished by the results of this and still have pictures saved of what was written on mine. Someone said “You’re very friendly, very confident and I could talk to you all day.”

Throughout the session, one of the most important things I learned was how to strike up a conversation by asking people questions about themselves. A simple “what’s your favourite book?” is a very good trick because who do people like talking about most? Themselves, of course.

To end off the event, we got the best swag bags ever; our own business card! Thank you to the GEM team and Orr Etiquette for that. Can’t wait to start giving those out!

Shanzah Zulfiqar is a grade 12 studen at Marc Garneau C.I., a GEMgirl and Creative Writing Intern at GEM.

Top 5 FUN and FREE things to do over the break


You have two weeks off of school. You relax, you sleep, you relax some more, you make some pizza, you eat the pizza, you watch all six seasons of Modern Family and now you’re utterly bored. You even did your homework- okay, we all know you didn’t do your homework. If you’re like me, you’re going to quickly run out of things to do, and three days into the holidays, you’ll be staring at your ceiling, wondering why you’re so boring. Fortunately for me, this year will be different, this year I did some extensive research and found the best things to do during the break in the big city. And all of these things are free, so bring your mentor and as many friends as you want.

Ice Skating. Nathan Phillips Square is located in front of City hall; the beautiful setting is enjoyed by people all year long. But in the winter, the Christmas lights go up, and the reflecting pool becomes a skating rink. The best time to go would be the evening, when you can skate underneath the decorated arches, and enjoy the Christmas lights. Remember, that the rink can get very crowded so avoid peak hours. For a less crowded venue, try the Natrel Skating Rink at Harbourfront, which offers a great view of the C.N Tower, and is set right by the waterfront of Lake Ontario. The great thing about the Harbourfront Center is that it is a 10-acre site that has something for everyone.

Home Ground. The Aga Kahn Museum is holding an exhibition that will only remain open till January 3, 2016. The exhibition in collaboration with the Barjeel Art Foundation, features 12 Arab contemporary artists. The theme is focusing on how politics in the Middle East and North Africa intersect with the inherent struggle of being an artist. Free on Wednesdays from 4:00 p.m to 8:00 p.m.

City of Toronto Christmas Concert. The annual concert features three choirs and runs from 11:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m on December 24. Features All the King’s Voices, Toronto Beaches Children’s Chorus, Toronto Mass Choir. Is a great place to take younger siblings to as a visit from Santa is expected to make an appearance.

Sledding. No matter how old you are, if it snows you might as well take advantage of it and go sledding- even if you do end up with a face full of snow. Centennial Park, offers a very steep, and thrilling hill for sledding. The steep angle, guarantees fast sledding. If you’d rather go with something a little bit smaller, but still steep, and smooth, try the hills at Withrow Park. It’s safe enough to take children on, but still thrilling, and the plus side of Withrow Park, is that they offer steps to climb up, so you don’t have to trudge up the hill. For more variety, go to Christie Pits Park which offers hills of different sizes and steepness.

The Bay Windows. Every year, Hudson’s Bay goes all out for their holiday window displays. The beautifully decorated and masterfully crafted holiday displays run the length of the windows, with their train sets, moving Santas, and mechanical mice. The nostalgic displays take you right into all the good Christmas stories. (176 Yonge Street (Yonge and Queen)

Make the best of your vacation, and remember to spend time with your family, and catch up with friends you haven’t seen in awhile. Happy Holidays.

Tabassum Lakhi is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM and also a GEMgirl.

GEMinar #4 and the Power of Mind-Mapping

The human brain is probably the most complicated thing in the entire world ; even more than physics and calculus! People have been trying to understand how it functions since the beginning of time and yet find something completely new every day.

Have you ever wondered how many thoughts and ideas go through your mind all day? More importantly, how to you deal with them? The truth is, with all the school work and extracurricular activities, most of us don’t pay any attention to it.

We have these plans in our heads about how our future should be and we want to accomplish them but we never think of the steps we need to take for us to be able to reach those goals. In order to do this properly, all of us need to learn to make mind-maps, get a sense of what our priorities are and things we should start changing.

Luckily for us, the team had a GEMinar on mind-mapping, which, personally, was extremely helpful and helped me clear up a lot of things. For those of you that don’t know what mind mapping is, it is a graphical way to brainstorm ideas and concepts and the GEMinar was focused more on ideas about our future. One of the first activities we did was brainstorming our future goals and the steps we need to take in order to accomplish them. This is something all of us should do every once in a while. Here a few tips:

  • Come up with a central idea- the basic problem you have that you want to solve.
  • Write down your goals/ dreams/ aspirations no matter how difficult they might seem – the mind map doesn’t work unless you do!
  • Now jot down the steps you’ll have to take, in order to achieve that goal.
  • Be sure to think about how each of those steps will affect other things in your life, ie living on campus and finding a part time job to pay for it.
  • Go out there and do it!

After creating our maps, we were asked to explain it to a friend first and then a stranger. Something very interesting I learned was that the more I explained it, and the more I talked about it, the clearer it all got for me.

Since we need to be relaxed to make our mind maps, the GEM team gave out yoga mats towards the end of the program. What better way to take a break from all the busy things going on?

Overall,like every single GEMinar in this year, this was amazing as well. As GEM girls, we are getting opportunities that many other students wished they had- Lets make the most of it!

Shanzah Zulfiqar is a grade 12 studen at Marc Garneau C.I., a GEMgirl and Creative Writing Intern at GEM.

GEMinar 2: Beat the Busy Brain

On Friday October 2nd, we had our second GEMinar at the Aga Khan Museum and I wouldn’t be wrong if I said it was the best so far!

All of the girls in the program are in high school and many are in their senior year aka stress year. In order for us to get through this tough time, we need to learn how to tackle stress and keep our minds healthy. The GEMinar we had showed us some great tips on how exactly to do that, thus getting its name- Beat the Busy Brain!

We had Dr. V. Wilson come in to teach us a few very important techniques to combat stress based on our own biofeedback. She has worked with many professional athletes and her job is to teach them how to recognize stress in their bodies and stay calm under intense pressure and stress. Personally, she had me all ears when I saw her hooking up Hajra to the lie detector and all of the other biofeedback equipment.

Using Hajra as an example, Dr. Wilson showed us what happens to our brain activity when we are stressed by asking Hajra a bunch of progressively harder math questions in front of the group…definitely a great way to make her feel stressed!

I learned a lot from this GEMinar:

  1. Many of us have short attention spans, particularly me.
  2. I’m breathing all wrong! We learned to calm ourselves by breathing into our bellies instead of our shoulders! What your body does can make you even more stressed!
  3. Focus – when in a boring lecture and our brains get really busy – focus on words by saying them or writing them down to better focus and “Beat the Busy Brain”

I genuinely feel that this GEMinar was helpful and something all our girls and staff needed at this point in the year!

Shanzah Zulfiqar is a grade 12 studen at Marc Garneau C.I., a GEMgirl and Creative Writing Intern at GEM.

Aspirations & Impressions

Tabassum Lakhi is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM and also a GEMgirl. Tabbassum shares her first impressions and hopes for the year ahead in the GEM program.

Interviews are intimidating. It’s all about what you can do for the interviewer, what you can bring to the business, and why you’re the right choice. But seldom do you walk into an interview wondering about all the things they can do for you and how much of an asset they would be in your life.

I had a very high impression of GEM walking in and out of the interview I had to do to be accepted into the GEM program, and so far GEM has yet to deter that. After the first meeting, I was able to see in depth, what GEM has planned out for the girls this year. I knew GEMgirls would get lots of opportunities, but I honestly didn’t expect this much; the ballets, the coffee chats, the scholarships, and so much more. I have yet to meet my mentor, but I already know this is going to be a great year.

Before applying to GEM as a creative writing intern, I hadn’t really gotten the opportunity to share my work. With GEM, I’m able to set out of my comfort zone and explore a dream of mine; to be a creative writer. It’s not only an opportunity I am extremely grateful for, but it is also an opportunity that will help enhance my writing skills. Although I love writing, I also love biology, which is why I am pursuing a career in the medical field. I hope to attend university, and become a nurse practitioner, a surgeon, or an orthodontist. To be able to write, and still pursue a career in the medical field, would be the best of both worlds.