54 Netflix-Free Things to Do for Free at University

So you get home from class or work, and it’s 8pm and dark and cold, or 4pm and dark and cold, or 10am because your 9am class was canceled and that’s the end of your day. Your tiny residence room is empty and lonely or your dark, cold apartment greets you with a funny smell and maybe a gift from a mouse, and all you want to do is go back to bed and Netflix-binge until the weekend. Fair enough. University life is not fun for everyone.

That’s basically what September to December looks like for university students, at least the ones I know, or who live in my house. So by mid-December, it’s about time for a Netflix detox. When that time comes, sure you can always wash the dishes, but maybe make that Gilmore Girls-free time a little more appealing with some of these non-Netflix, free activities, meant for introverted, unhappy, university-goers with no money and too much free time:

  1. Change the sheets – probably don’t do that enough anyway
  2. Do laundry – you’ll need clean sheets
  3. Design your business card for when you finally graduate and have a career, or just to show people so they remember your name (try Canva if you’re not a Photoshop guru)
  4. Test all the pens in your house and throw out the ones that don’t work
  5. Go for a walk (but not at night alone nor in a sketchy area)
  6. Phone a friend
  7. Colour
  8. Throw darts at a map (unless you want your damage deposit back, in which case just look at the map longingly)
  9. Read your class notes and actually try to remember something. Just one thing.
  10. Read something very much not for class, that’s just for you.file_000-1
  11. Put away old assignments and notes and papers so your workspace is clear
  12. Actually do wash the dishes
  13. Open the windows and let the fresh air in
  14. Match your socks like your mom used to before you wore whatever two you could find
  15. Write something fictional
  16. Learn an instrument
  17. Knit/crochet
  18. Sew those buttons back on
  19. Write a letter to your bestie with a pen and paper and put a proper stamp on it and find a mailbox and wait to see just how long it takes to get there and be thankful for texting and Skype
  20. Call your cell phone plan provider and try to negotiate a better deal and if you can’t just have a nice chat with the poor person working minimum wage.
  21. Look for a job
  22. Do that one thing you’ve been putting off forever
  23. Write simple things on a list and feel satisfied crossing them off
  24. Take a different bus and see where you end up
  25. Join a political debate on Twitter, just for kicks
  26. Read the news
  27. Listen to the radio and support your public broadcaster
  28. Make dinner. Or just cereal.File_003.jpeg
  29. Clean up the leaves/garbage/snow/ice/weeds outside your house or residence
  30. Take all the stuff out of your backpack or school bag and wash it, then put back only the things you need
  31. Start a blog (clearly, anyone can do it!)
  32. Make up with that friend with whom you’ve been silently fighting for weeks
  33. Find a new playlist on Spotify, or make your own
  34. Listen to an album from home/childhood
  35. Sing
  36. Pay your visa bill (sorry)
  37. Have tea
  38. Invite your neighbour to have tea, even if you don’t know her, especially if you’ve been hearing through the walls as she talks to her parents/cries/fights with her boyfriend, etc. She could use a Netflix/loneliness break too file_000
  39. Volunteer somewhere
  40. Vacuum or sweep
  41. Clean the bathroom, you really can’t do that enough
  42. Sit in the sun
  43. Cook something with just the things in your kitchen
  44. Design a flyer for a skill you possess, even if you never want to market it
  45. Pack a bag for when you get to go home
  46. Take things to the Salvation Army
  47. Find a free event to go to and actually go, even if you don’t feel like it on the day of
  48. Make a list of things you will do when you can afford them
  49. Go to the library
  50. Put up photos on your wallsIMG_1274
  51. Read articles on sites like The New Yorker and The Walrus
  52. Try this bullet journaling thing everyone is talking about
  53. Go to the gym or just try a push-up
  54. Sleep

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by mid-December, it’s about time for a Netflix detox. When that time comes, sure you can always wash the dishes, but maybe make that Gilmore Girls-free time a little more appealing with some of these non-Netflix, free activities, meant for introverted, unhappy, university-goers with no money and too much free time:

Taking Responsibility: Student Wellness and Mental Health

Memorial University is known for its high-quality education, the respected faculty, active student body, picturesque campus, immense program offerings and the positive impacts its alumni have had on Canadian society. These positive attributes are not to be neglected in light of what I am about to say. But there is more to university in 2016 than just academics. Student mental health is one of the hottest topics on digital news sites. It is spoken about regularly at panel discussions. We have hotlines and fundraisers and weeks of recognition of mental health problems in this country. More needs to be done.

“Engaging youth for mental health and wellness”

“The Wellness Program is designed to educate students about self-care and healthy lifestyles.We offer health education programs…”

“Student Health is here to help you maintain physical and mental wellness and help you thrive at university”

“Memorial University hopes a new app will help students identify what makes them feel good and what makes them feel bad – and improve their mental health.”

These are just a few of the responses to a Google search for “mental health memorial university”. Of course, it is important that students take responsibility for their own mental and physical wellness. And of course, it is good that the university implements policies and programs that aim to improve – or at least not diminish-  students’ mental health while at school. Interestingly, none of the first results that come up speak to what the university staff and professors (aside from those in the health and wellness clinics) can do for students, particularly those with anxiety or depression. Students are expected to take responsibility, to make an appointment, connect with a therapist, alter their schedules and practice ‘self-care’, whatever that means. Social media is filled with lists of how to have a better morning, ways to encourage self-love, and methods for journaling, lighting candles, and going to bed earlier, all meant to address the epidemic of mental health concerns among young people, in Newfoundland, and in Canada.

Nationally, university communication offices issue statements after students commit suicides. News outlets publish endless, tragic commentary from family and friends following these events. Administrators and professors wonder what else they could have done. Really? You wonder what else you could have done? The number of people and organizations taking responsibility – and sometimes blame – for students’ mental health problems is growing daily. But the group that seems to fail to acknowledge and act on these tragedies are the university staff. Yes, increasing funding for mental health services is important. But the staff, professors and instructors at universities across Canada have a crucial role to play, and they are failing.

When a professor has office hours and fails to appear for them, when you book a meeting and the professor doesn’t show – this is not only disrespectful, but anxiety causing. When the university fails to acknowledge what courses the students require to graduate, or decide not to offer required courses that have been promised to students – do they know the stress this causes? When the student’s union offers services that are meant to make students safer, like shuttle buses and other programming, but cancels them arbitrarily, do they know that we notice, and feel left out to dry? Does the registrar’s office understand what it costs – financially, and emotionally- when required courses aren’t offered, and we are forced to stay on for another term, or another year? The cost to students of being away from their homes and families, of worrying about money and the heat bill, of not knowing whether or not they need a place to live for the summer, or whether or not to apply to grad school? The stress of university work and classes is high to begin with. When professors start their term by reading old course evaluation questionnaires from past students in order to emphasize what behaviours they are not prepared to change about themselves or their teaching – do they imagine this is useful? When you ask a simple question about course selection and receive an answer that is incomprehensible, and when you ask for a form or a meeting to find out if you can ever escape from this institution, you’re told you can’t have more than one a year or per month, or some other seemingly arbitrary rule, does the university think this is improving our mental health? There are highly educated, intelligent people working in all those offices in Arts and Administration. Do you think they recognize the role they have to play in the mental health of their students?

I am sure there are students who handle all of these blips with grace, or maybe who go through their four, or five, or six year degrees without encountering any of these issues. And there are dozens of administrators and professors who are working harder, staying later, and advocating more for students. But for those of us who experience the stresses of navigating university logistics – separate and apart from university work – it’s enough to give you anxiety. If you were not depressed already, being told you had to stay in school another term that you can’t afford because that one English course, contrary to what you were told, wasn’t actually ever going to be offered can break you.

If administrators are operating an educational institution, that’s fine. Let’s educate to the highest standard possible. Let’s see professors willing to wait an extra fifteen minutes after their office hours are over so a working student can make it to campus to see them. Let’s see the staff in the registrar’s office do an extra ten percent – not above and beyond their job description, just the part they aren’t doing right now. Let’s see those emails answered before deadlines pass. Let’s see mutual respect between instructors and students, not an abuse of power and defensive responses to thoughtful course evaluations. Please, let’s not see more money pushed into supposed ‘mental health initiatives’ that place all responsibility on students’ shoulders. First, let’s acknowledge that if staff, administrators and professors put as much thought into how to help students in their own jobs, instead of pushing us from one office to the next, we might not have as many students needing to avail of the mental health services. Let’s bring some humanity back to universities, and behave like the empathetic humans we all are.

Encouraging students to consider what makes them feel poorly, and what might make them feel better is a great step. But does the university fear that maybe what is making us feel anxious, depressed, and really like we shouldn’t be here at all, might just be them? 

The Dialup {Week 5} Five recent movies that look terrible but are actually worth seeing twice

Happy Dialup day! You know when you see a preview for a movie and you think to yourself (and sometimes say out loud) wow, that looks really dreadful. 

So I do that all the time, and then sometimes when there’s nothing on Netflix to watch, I’ll watch all those movies I just turned my nose down at. And then, it turns out.. my initial impression was wrong (god I hate when that happens).

Here are five of just those kind of movies, one for each night of the long long work week.

St. Vincent – that comedy with Bill Murray about a single mom and her son who move in next door to a crotchety old guy who befriends the little boy. Turns out friends can come in all forms.

Expected: Crass, rude, story-less plot.

Actually got: A feel good story, with Melissa McCarthy played less comic than heartfelt, Bill Murray fit his role perfectly, and that little boy was some cute. Would watch again! 4 stars

Mountain Men – Picked this one randomly, had seriously low expectations as a result.

 Expected: Canadian guys wandering through mountains with no plot and/or bearded guys grunting at each other (check out the poster, you’ll see what I mean).

Actually got: Family comedy, brothers reuniting, feel-good film, where nothing bad really happens, in true Canadian fashion. Gorgeous scenery of BC mountains. 3.5 stars

Her -That freaky looking one about a guy who talks to his phone a lot

Expected: Sci fi, weird tech thriller with an almost always creepy Joaquin Phoenix

Actually got: A touching, thought-provoking, beautifully filmed piece of art, that leaves you thinking about it for months after. Best seen on the big screen. 4 stars

The Fundamentals of Caring – Kid in a wheelchair, new caregiver, Selena Gomez plays a runaway…

Expected: Netflix movie, cheesy, same plot as everything else, made-for-tv effects

Actually got: A really funny, realistic story about a bunch of regular people doing things they didn’t think they could do and surprising themselves and each other in the process. Would watch again. 4 stars

Hector and the Search for Happiness – The title really gives it all away.

Expected: An indie movie with no plot about a guy who really does just search for happiness.

Actually got: An indie movie with a plot about a guy who really does search for happiness, but the whole film is also a study in culture and priorities.

**If you are in the Annapolis Valley, these movies and so many many more are available at Cinematopia video rental store in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Support local!**

Want more of the fun? Try this, this and this.


The Dialup {Week 4}

Anyone else got the end of summer blahs? Here are some of the things making that ominous, fall-is-coming-and-you’re-going-to-have-to-do-real-things feeling a little bit more bearable:

  1. Mumford & Sons with Baaba Maal – There Will Be Time

With the awesome news that Newfoundlander Tom Power will be taking over CBC Q from current host Shad, I bring you my Q find for the week.

A successful hosting change over + and new music = success this week.


2. Instagram – @nakedwithanxiety

This is quite possibly my new favourite Instagram account. Danielle brings all us worriers cute sketches, words of anxiety-free wisdom, and works with the motto “I help worriers become warriors”. Give her account a little look-see the next time you’re stressing.

3. Stickers! 

I’ve been hanging out with a lot of small children in the past weeks, and stickers are now attached to just about everything I own, and all of my friends who have come into contact with me. But to up your sticker game, check out these gems from RedBubble. Even if you don’t have wanderlust, you can always pretend to justify a sticker binge.

4. Choir Nerd Moments

The always amazing Canadian Chamber Choir sang in my small town this week. Comprised of singers and conductors from all across Canada, they perform Canadian music in a different province every summer. My favourite piece of the night was Tabula Rasa, by Don MacDonald. Tabula rasa – meaning blank slate – comes up often in my philosophy classes. Nothing improves my week more than combining my two loves. Listen here to the U.B.C. Singers.



5. Fish Sauce Goes International

This article from CBC about a Halifax professor whose interest in fish sauce and decreasing infant mortality rates led to a surprisingly simple breakthrough. Local science meets international solutions. Yay for Nova Scotia success stories.

What are some of your end of summer blues solutions?

Pin this, if you like!

Mumford and Sons with Baaba Maal, Tabula Rasa (choral and philosophical), instagram accounts for the anxious, and more, on the Dialup at oneredphonebox.com

The Dialup {Week 3}

Week 3! Actually more like week seven, because as predicted I am really not stellar with the whole follow-through business.

Maybe these kids can help me figure out my calendar, when they’re done solving all the other world problems.

My week, which was going okay until it wasn’t, was significantly brightened when I received a package because who doesn’t love a package? Even better than a package as a concept was getting Kat McLevey’s album, Evergrown. Check that out here.

We just signed the lease on a new apartment in Newfoundland, on our favourite street in the city, super exciting. Major highlight of my week has been searching Pinterest (find me here on there) for cheap ways to make our sad and empty house less sad and empty. This memo board is project #1 for me. Or at least, the first project I intend to delegate to someone else because I really don’t do projects. Art + me = ick for me, and bad result.

And just to end your week on a slightly-depressing-but-maybe-uplifting-depends-how-you-look-at-it note… I read two excellent articles from Atlantic Business yesterday. This one made me angry (as most things do) and then less angry and then happy that someone is actually saying these words. The second one is a super reminder that we (by we I mean women, just to be clear) have to keep stepping up and being active participants, sharing our ideas, and taking advantage of the place we have made at the table by actually using it. For all the social media/interweb types, this is your weekly prod to keep sharing and liking and send your virtual love this week to women writers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and telling magazines and newspapers that you appreciate hearing about women, and from women.

Finally, my favourite Instagram of the week: IMG_1274.JPG

This shot of our B&B room at The Groundswell on Isle Madame on Cape Breton Island, NS. The light, the wallpaper… and the name of the room – “Paperback Writer”. Can’t beat that. Find me on Instagram, and follow to get updates: @oneredphonebox.

The Dialup {Week 2}

Mondays suck. Three months ago I was in school and Mondays sucked because, well, no one really wants to study philosophy first thing at the beginning of the week. Now, I have a job, and Mondays are just a really good reminder that I need to get back on the becoming-independently-wealthy track.

If your Monday is sucking like mine, try checking out some pictures of manatees that are ready to give you a wide-eyed look and tell you that they believe in you. Really. The internet is a magical magical place.


Also, these sketches of Cuba that make me wish to be somewhere else and also to have just a small amount of ability to draw. If you actually have the ability to be somewhere else right now and just don’t know where, try this for an escape.

I just finished reading Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, which was a surprisingly uplifting -and easy – young adult read about the joys of looking different in middle school. I wasn’t feeling the love for this one and was more than mildly upset when it came in to the library as I was in the midst of a John Irving novel. However, upon opening the cover I came upon a quote from the lovely musician Natalie Merchant and her song Wonder! Of course, I couldn’t not read it then.


(Are you on Instagram? Find this picture and other shots of small town life here!)

Finally this article from the New Yorker will make you happy if you read fiction or if, like me, you think being a bibliotherapist is actually a profession you might enjoy.

So there you go. Happy Monday/hopefully happier Tuesday. Answer your emails. Do the extra ten percent. Go forth and be useful.


The Dialup {Week 1}

One Red Phone Box is positively almost enthused to bring you the Weekly Dialup (we’re so retro), a conglomeration of stuff that is hopefully mildly related and meant to improve your week. Theoretically, these will be published weekly, with somewhat regularity, and themed. But because I’m not great at the follow through, let’s just be happy when they occur at all.

Having said all of that, welcome to The Dialup {Week 1}, Theme: Music for Rainy Afternoons for Cleaning the Kitchen Drawers and Being Generally Melancholy. Start with this one from Ryn Weaver, just to make sure you’re really depressed before you start the cleaning.

Side note. If you’re going to clean the drawer with all of the cleaning cloths (because every normal family does that as a group activity), beware of the following conversations:

Cleaner 1: I don’t like this cloth.

Cleaner 2: Why?

1: It’s microfibre.

2: So?

1: It doesn’t clean. And it’s too big.

2: Clean what? How can a cloth be too big?

1: Too big for my purposes.

2: Okay. This one is terrycloth. Do you use this one?

1: No.

2: Because it’s too big? Too soft? Too non-cleaning?

Spectator: Or just because it’s not on the top of the pile?

1: pause. All of the above.

Spectator: Sigh

2: This is why you are not involved in this process. Usually.

1: But I don’t mind! I’m so laid back, I’m practically comatose.

2: Puh.


Before starting this conversation, turn on the music:

Oh Wonder is one of those bands that I’m pretty sure is cool only if you’re a cool person and if you’re wanting to be cool by being not cool (is that a hipster? I don’t know) then it is too really cool to be cool or something. I don’t know. Regardless, they have this cool-not cool-too cool song that is not at all cheerful but kind of upbeat and has the same name as another excellent depressing song that we all know and love already. Find Landslide (Oh Wonder version) here.

Joni Mitchell wins at life. The choral version of Both Sides Now is also astounding. And Judy Collins does a more cheerful rendition.

The Weakerthans are known for a uplifting song about Winnipeg, but Left and Leaving is the opposite of all of that.

If you haven’t finished that drawer by now, let Van Morrison keep you on task with Into the Mystic.