by John Leung

Last year, I attended Sutherland Secondary, a high school in North Vancouver with a student population of 850. I transitioned to U of T which has a student population over 84,000 across its three campuses. My PSY100 and SOC103 classes, held in Convocation Hall, each has more students in the class than the total number of students in my high school. That switch in scale has been intimidating, particularly when looked at from the point of view of the increased exposure to germs.

Convocation Hall, U of T

Convocation Hall. It’s big.

I admit that I wasn’t an especially clean child, but as I grew older and matured (sort of) into a young adult, I have become a bit of a germophobe. In my defence, there’s sound reasoning behind that: like everyone, I don’t like being sick — even more so now that I have to take care of myself. I find, too, the biological structure of a germ really loathsome…  


green germ


As a result, I might be hesitant when people touch me or when I touch them.

I will now share some of the challenging situations that I encounter as a germophobe. Hopefully, you will understand the struggle: these are, after all, scenarios that you’re familiar with as well even though you may not feel as strongly about them as I do.


Hand Sanitizer

If push came to shove, I reckon I could survive without food and water in my room – the essential thing I need to have in there is hand sanitizer. I want to have it right there, because if I get my hands dirty I don’t want to have to leave my room to go to a bathroom, nor do I want to have to wait to deal with it. My preferred brand of hand sanitizer is One Step: sure, some people might find it a little strange to have a specific preference, but being a germophobe makes you super aware of the tools that best help you feel more at ease. One time when my friend and I were catching up in my room, she noticed that I squirted hand sanitizer on 5 times in the span of half an hour. In general, I just use a lot of hand sanitizer 🙂



Making a trip to the bathroom in residence is a disconcerting experience. Shower stall floors and bathtubs freak me out because who knows what may have taken place there. Hence, I always wear sandals when I shower.


Door handles are what bother me most in the bathroom. I really dislike seeing someone wash their hands and then open the door while their hands are still wet. I know I’m not alone in finding a wet door handle gross. Even if you know why it’s wet, that doesn’t matter: it’s still kind of disgusting.



The Gym

Every time I work out in the Strength and Conditioning Centre, I use the automatic hand sanitizer frequently. The thought of a person with sweaty hands holding a weight or the stationary bike handlebars before me is far from pleasant. dumbbells


Exam Centre

Taking an exam is already a disagreeable experience. But what alarms me more than the exam is that I don’t know who sat in my table spot before me. This person could have had a cold or the flu, would inevitably have touched the desk surface and may have sneezed all over the place. So, yes, you’ve guessed it – I try to touch the desk as little as possible.

final exam



I’m sure a lot of students will agree with me on this. The cafeteria, in particular the dessert section, has the potential for spreading germs. There is always a possibility that someone picked up the food with their hands but did not like the size or changed their mind and put it back in its original spot. Come on, people, don’t be doing that.

Even raccoons wash their hands before they eat.

On occasion, I’ve even taken a longer route to my destination in order to avoid germs or to access a cleaner bathroom.

bathroom faucet


Are my concerns reasonable, do you think? Or am I a little… eccentric? Of course, either way, you can always be sure that I’m not going to be the one who spreads any germs to you!