Students talk stress management during exam season

Looming deadlines, final exams a source of stress for Halifax’s students.

Exam season has arrived at Canadian universities and colleges, prompting students across the country to take to Twitter to express their frustrations.

John Camardese, a chemistry study coach at Dalhousie University, says exam stress is often linked to past exam performances and lack of preparation.

“The key is to be well prepared and to start early so you can comfortably cover the required material for the exams,” he said.

With final exams and the stress that comes with them still the norm in Canada, one can’t help but wonder: how stressed out are students about exams, and what can be done to minimize those stress levels?

Majority are ‘very’ stressed

Students were asked via Facebook and Twitter how stressed they are about exams. Of the 10 that responded over the past week, six said they were “very” stressed about finals, while none of them said they are “not at all” stressed.

When asked what they do to help relieve stress, most of them said they find exercise, non-academic reading and watching television to be great stress relievers.

“A good stress reliever is lots of exercise,” said University of King’s College student Sam Krueger. “Any chance to get some is fantastic.”

However, it isn’t just exams and final papers that have students stressed out. According to Dalhousie student Michael Kamras, there’s also an added pressure on students to stay healthy over this important period of time.

“There’s a lot of stress to make sure that you’re keeping healthy, which is really difficult to do considering the high stress levels,” he said.

Students: support services losing effectiveness

Universities do provide support services for exam-stressed students, but many are only available for a short period of time. Dalhousie, for example, brings therapy dogs to their school during exam periods to allow students to take a break from their studies.

In addition, universities like Saint Mary’s and Dalhousie provide on-campus counselling services, but according to the Facebook and Twitter respondents, most people who sought counselling to manage their stress were told the wait to see someone would likely be months.

What’s worse is many students often don’t know their schools offer counselling services and workshops.

“I’m sure there are services offered, but I’m not too aware of them,” Krueger said.

“I think there could be a bit more reaching out by the university for students to take advantage of what they’re offering,” Kamras said.

Requests for comment on this story from counsellors at both universities were either not returned or referred to other campus support services for information, but information on managing stress can be found on their website.

Watch the video below to learn more about how stressed out Halifax students are at this time of the year and what they are doing to try and manage that stress.

In a recent development, the National Post reported last week universities in Alberta and Ontario are considering giving less weight to exams or eventually eliminating them altogether because of the popular belief that “high-stress exams give a false picture of a student’s abilities.”

Until Canadian universities and colleges decide to do away with the final exam once and for all, students will have to continue finding ways to manage exam-related stress.

Visit this website, provided by Dalhousie’s Student Academic Success Services for more information on exam preparation and time management.

And for more information on stress and how it can be managed, check out the Canadian Mental Health Association’s website, which features tips as well as links to community support services.

Johnnyland debuts all-ages event in Halifax

Organizers of music and art event looking at expansion after successful first show.

The first Johnnyland Halifax event was held on Thursday at the Bus Stop Theatre in the city’s north end. Johnnyland events showcase youth artists and musicians for people of all ages.

Organizer Joe Dent said Johnnyland was started several years ago in Toronto by Dan Drory-Lehrer, who realized how hard it was for underage music fans in the city to attend events.

“In Toronto, all the bands play ‘19 plus’ shows,” said Dent. “There’s so few venues that have all-ages shows.”

Dent’s co-organizer, Camila Salcedo, came up with the idea to bring Johnnyland out east after she discovered that Halifax also lacked all-ages shows.

Johnnyland Halifax's first event was held at the Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen Street. (Photo: John Sandham)
Johnnyland Halifax’s first event was held at the Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen Street. (Photo: John Sandham)

Although the Halifax Pavilion regularly holds all-ages shows, most venues around the city do not. Halifax Pop Explosion, arguably the city’s biggest annual music festival, hosts the majority of its events at 19 plus venues.

“When I came here, I was kind of feeling that there weren’t enough all-ages shows and that I was missing that from the Halifax experience,” Salcedo said.

Dent felt the same way, joining the organizing team after a chance encounter with people from Johnnyland Toronto last summer.

As Dent recalls, the Johnnyland Toronto organizers asked him and his band to play some of their winter shows. When he told them he’d be in Halifax until the summer, they told him about Salcedo and her interest in starting Johnnyland Halifax.

Dent and Salcedo met weekly to plan the event. Their first show featured seven local bands and artwork from seven students studying at NSCAD University.

Art by NSCAD students displayed in the lobby of the theatre. (Photo: John Sandham)
Art by NSCAD University students displayed in the lobby of the theatre. (Photo: John Sandham)

Despite the snowstorm last Wednesday that dropped an estimated 50 centimetres of snow on the city, the turnout for the show was exactly what Dent and Salcedo expected.

“Even with the snow, people seem to be really excited,” Salcedo said.

Stepheny Hunter, who works at the Bus Stop, said the theatre was almost filled to its 170-person limit.

“They for sure had over 100 people if not more,” Hunter said. “Most people were dancing and having a good time.”

Dent was optimistic when asked about the future, saying “there’s definitely long-term plans for Johnnyland Halifax.”

“[We’re] just trying to bring the all-ages scene out here so everyone can sing, dance, and have some fun,” Dent said.

Proposed bike lane yields mixed response

University Avenue bike lane proposal faces legal opposition from business owner.

The first public consultation on a controversial bike lane in Halifax’s south end was held Wednesday at Dalhousie University in light of some very vocal opposition to the project.

Jerry Reddick (known as The Dawgfather), who attended the meeting, has operated a hotdog selling business on University Avenue for 18 years. He has filed an injunction in an attempt to stop the project because he says he was not consulted during the project’s planning stages and claims the bike lane would put him out of business.

“Nobody took the time to consult with me, and that’s why it’s a problem,” Reddick said.

“University Avenue is not a place where a bike lane is needed,” he said. “You could find other places for that bike lane if you truly want [one].”

The first of its kind in Nova Scotia, the lane would run between Lemarchant Street and Robie Street and would be jointly funded by the provincial government and the university.

Cars parked along University Avenue. (Photo: John Sandham)
The bike lane would run from Lemarchant Street to Robie Street. (Photo: John Sandham)

The project has been in the works since last spring, and although the bike lane would only be 400 metres long, David MacIsaac, a member of the project’s planning and implementation team, hopes it will inspire more would-be cyclists to get on their bikes.

“We would like to have more of these protected bike lanes because these are the types of facilities that attract new cyclists, people who are perhaps scared to bicycle right now and would prefer to have some kind of separation between themselves and motor vehicles,” he said.

Dal Bike Centre employee Meghan Doucette echoed MacIsaac’s sentiment. “I think the purpose of it is to increase bicycle ridership,” she said. “It’s a good space [for] a pilot project, just to learn from this and see if they can implement this on other streets around Halifax.”

Halifax regional council initially approved the proposal in September, but that approval was withdrawn last month following the legal roadblock.

Apart from concerns about his business, Reddick said he’s also concerned about the reduction in parking along University Avenue and how it will affect people with disabilities.

“They lose direct access to seven buildings from University Avenue if that bike lane goes in,” he said.

As part of the project, the university will lose 24 parking spaces. (Photo: John Sandham)
As part of the project, the university will lose 24 parking spaces. (Photo: John Sandham)

Although construction of the bike lane would result in a net loss of 24 parking spaces along University Avenue, Nathan Rogers, the project’s lead planner and Dalhousie’s assistant director of capital planning, said the university has ample parking to make up for the loss.

“On-street parking just represents one piece of the parking picture,” he said.

The project’s planning team will now take public feedback into account and determine if any changes to the project are necessary before seeking approval from council before the end of April. If approved, construction could begin as early as May.

Rogers acknowledged the current legal proceeding against the project, but he is hopeful that council will once again give the project its support.

“There’s always obstacles and challenges associated with any project, so it’s not surprising that there’s opposition out there,” he said.

Brewmaster Lorne Romano keeps things old school

Longtime Rogues Roost beer maker bucks trends, prefers the traditional

Rogues Roost brewmaster Lorne Romano leans over a serving tank, tucked away in the back of the Halifax brewpub. As he describes in detail what purpose each tank serves, I confess to him that I know absolutely nothing about brewing.

“Neither do I,” Romano says, stifling a laugh.

As it turns out, Romano does know what he’s doing when it comes to beer. In fact, Rogues Roost has been named “Best brew pub” in Halifax by The Coast a total of eight times since 2005 and Romano himself has won more than 30 brewing medals worldwide.

Originally from Toronto, Romano worked in real estate, the music industry, computer programming, and even owned a variety store before finding his calling in brewing. His affinity for the craft was kindled back home in Ontario, where he and a friend would often visit businesses that let customers brew their own beer.

Craig Pinhey, a writer who covers the beer scene in Atlantic Canada, has known Romano since the 1990s when they both served on the board of the Canadian Amateur Brewers Association (CABA). He says Romano’s homebrews were “better than most commercial beers.”

Romano also started brewing commercially around that time, working with Michael Hancock, a member of the Molson family who formerly ran Denison’s Brewing Company.

“That place made excellent beer,” recalls Pinhey.

One of the owners of that brewery, according to Romano, was Prince Leopold of Germany.

“I’ve worked for royalty,” Romano states, matter-of-factly.

One day, a friend of Romano’s called him from Halifax to tell him about a job opening at a new brewpub in the city. Garrison, Propeller, the Granite Brewery and the Henry House were the only microbreweries in Halifax at the time.

Romano was inbetween brewing jobs at the time, and shortly after coming to Halifax for an interview, he accepted the position at Rogues Roost.

In its early days in the late 1990s, Rogues Roost was always the first place Pinhey went when visiting Halifax. He’d always sit by the window with a newspaper and would often see Romano wearing his rubber boots around the brewery.

“He’s an odd duck and not much for the spotlight, but a great brewer,” Pinhey says.

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After 17 years on the job, Romano estimates that he’s brewed around 20 styles of beer.

While going over the beers currently in his fermenting tanks, Romano pauses to explain the story behind one of the names: his Ukrainian Freedom Stout.

“Well, I’m Ukrainian, I can’t call it Russian Imperial Stout anymore,” he says, pointing to the beer menu above the bar. “They won’t put the word Ukrainian on there, so they just write ‘Freedom Stout…’ I figure if everyone else can come up with new beer styles, I’m allowed.”

Does he consider brewing to be a job or a hobby? Romano pauses before answering.

“It used to be a hobby,” he says with a sigh. “It’s more of a job these days since I don’t drink anymore.”

He doesn’t elaborate, but Breanna Lovett, who has worked with Romano for three years, says she believes he stopped drinking because of health concerns.

Romano says he considers stained glass making, gardening and landscaping to be his hobbies nowadays.

Dealing with competition

Romano is well aware of the recent boom of microbreweries in Nova Scotia. He initially proves hesitant to talk about it.

“I gotta watch what I say,” Romano says. “I’ll say things that a lot of people won’t be happy with. And they know I’ll say [those things]. It’s just [that] when they see it in print, they’ll be a little more upset.”

Besides, Romano says he isn’t interested in the opinions of his competition. He prefers to turn to his customers for input.

“I don’t really care what everyone else is doing,” he says. “[But] I know what our customers like to drink.”

Lovett agrees that Romano is certainly one for conversation, especially with customers.

“He likes to talk,” she says. “He’s a very interesting person with a lot of history.”

True to form, then, Romano eventually expressed his frustrations regarding the current state of affairs in the brewing industry.

According to Romano, a current trend in the microbrewing industry is for beers to be high in alcohol and contain lots of hops, much of the time coming at the expense of taste.

“I don’t get into these over-hopped beers,” he says. “Older guys like me, they’re still brewing traditional, well-balanced beers.”

‘I hate these growlers’

Two years ago, Rogues Roost decided to start selling growlers, large bottles of draught beer that customers can purchase and take home with them. Although Romano admits that growlers are popular in the microbrewing industry, he is disappointed at his brewpub’s decision to follow the trend.

“Personally, I hate these growlers. Terrible representation of beer,” Romano says. “They’re not getting the proper carbonation in the bottle. Someone takes home a two-litre growler, if they don’t drink it all that same night, it’s flat the next day.”

After talking with competing microbreweries, Romano says that he’s most concerned about the amount of beer that’s lost while filling up growlers. Romano says one brewery he talked to told him that they lose 15 litres of beer a day just filling them up.

“There’s so much spillage, it’s ridiculous,” he says. “But it’s a trend. I don’t understand it. I hate it.”

When asked what a good alternative would be to purchasing a growler, Romano predictably pointed out a classic: the six-pack.

“[With a six-pack,] you’re going to get a better representation of the product that the brewery produces, because it’ll be properly carbonated,” he says.

Or, as Romano suggests, one could simply sit down and enjoy a cold one at the brewpub, just as their product is intended to be consumed.

Romano believes that growlers have actually cost Rogues business.

“Why should we sell beer to take home? We’re a brewpub,” he says.

New owners, same job

Although the brewpub was recently acquired by the Murphy Hospitality Group of Charlottetown, which also owns the Gahan House on the Halifax waterfront, Romano maintains that Rogues Roost is still very much the same place today as it was when he started working there.

“This place needs a going-over,” Romano says, pointing out the faded paint on the walls. “Usually seven years is the rule, and then [most restaurants] will do a major renovation.”

Seventeen years after his career at Rogues began, Romano insists that he still enjoys going to work every day.

“I’ve pretty well enjoyed most of my jobs that I’ve ever had,” he says. “It’s nice to be in a profession you enjoy doing… Most people don’t do the job they enjoy doing.”

The familiar ease with which Romano goes about his business is proof enough that he knows exactly what he’s doing.

Residents slam proposed Birch Cove cell tower

Eastlink representatives met with hostility at community meeting.

Representatives of Eastlink were met with irritated, sometimes even irate residents at a public information meeting regarding their application to construct a nine-story cell tower on the property of Birch Cove Baptist Church.

The meeting was held on Jan. 15 at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Halifax. Nearly 40 residents of the surrounding area, mostly seniors, were in attendance to voice their concerns with the proposed 30-metre tower, which included health concerns, aesthetics, and potential decreases in property value.

Birch Cove Baptist Church, whose lands the proposed tower is located on. (Photo by John Sandham)
Birch Cove Baptist Church, whose lands the proposed tower is located on. (Photo by John Sandham)

Reg Verge, who lives on Donaldson Avenue, says that Eastlink shouldn’t be proposing a tower in a residential neighbourhood. He also says that he believes they haven’t done enough research to ensure there are no other sites in the area on which they could locate the tower.

“Eastlink shouldn’t be allowed to make their profits by just putting towers wherever they want, especially in residential zones,” Verge said.

Besides being an eyesore, residents suggested that the tower might pose a threat to their health. Although many studies attempting to associate an increase in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer with exposure to telecommunications towers have proven inconclusive, locals still believe their proximity to the tower will have a negative impact on their health.

The tower’s necessity was also called into question at the meeting. While Eastlink maintained its position that the tower is necessary not only to upgrade the service it provides to the area, but also to expand its service area, those in attendance thought otherwise and questioned whether or not Eastlink had actually received complaints from people in the area regarding the quality of its service.

Halifax city planner Carl Purvis speaks at the meeting (Photo by John Sandham)
Halifax city planner Carl Purvis speaks at the meeting. (Photo by John Sandham)

“I don’t want another cell tower,” said Larry Pope, who also lives on Donaldson Avenue, across the street from the proposed site. A 20-metre Bell Aliant tower already exists on the same property and it too was met with criticism from the local community. Despite the efforts of locals to stop its construction, the tower went up anyway.

Eastlink made no offer to withdraw its proposal immediately following the meeting. Verge and his neighbours say they won’t give up fighting until that happens.

“We’re all working together to get this stopped,” Verge said. “We don’t want any kind of a cellular tower there at all.”

Halifax city planners will now reexamine the application, taking the public’s reaction into account, before making a recommendation to Industry Canada, which ultimately makes the final call on all telecommunication-related infrastructure.