They say every adventurer needs a map. Consider this yours!
Your journey at the University of Ottawa will begin shortly, or may have already started. This place may be unlike others you’ve encountered in your travels, and your stay will last a few years. So, hang tight as we navigate through a few definitions that will help you adapt to this new environment.
First stop, online tools and technologies
uoZone: This secure student portal provides access to everything you’ll need while at uOttawa. uoZone will grant you access to your uOttawa email, Student Centre, and Virtual Campus accounts (see below), as well as to your financial statement, information on scholarships and bursaries, and more. You’ll need to log into uoZone to enrol in your courses.
Student Centre: The Student Centre is one of the main hubs you will be using to explore program and degree requirements, enrol in courses, or change your course selection.
Virtual Campus: The Virtual Campus portal will allow you to access online course websites, as well as other e-learning resources. This is where you will access BrightSpace.
BrightSpace: BrightSpace is your best friend. It’s a learning management system where most of your professors will post course content, including PowerPoint slides, assignments, and reading material. It’s like one of those big binders where you kept all your subjects in high school, except this one is actually organized (unless yours was actually organized, in which case, kudos to you!)
uoCal: Trust me, your university experience will not be complete if you don’t try new things. uoCal is the online calendar where you can search for events within the uOttawa community. By the way, it’s also the only official university calendar in Canada that allows students to post student-run events!
Zoom/Adobe Connect: No, this Zoom isn’t a camera feature (although that makes me think of this old camera commercial). In this case, Zoom and Adobe Connect are video, voice, content sharing, and chat platforms that will become your new classrooms this year.
SecurUO: Safety first! Download SecurUO to be quickly alerted to emergency situations on campus, or to reach out to the University’s Protection Services if you need help.
Next stop, academia
Academic calendar: This calendar will help you keep track of important academic dates and deadlines throughout the year. Make sure you check it regularly to stay on track!
Syllabus: Want to know what in the world to expect at your first-ever university class? Your professor will probably post a syllabus on BrightSpace and go over it during your first class. In it, you’ll find the course outline, the learning objectives, the required course material, and the exam schedule. In essence, it’s somewhat of a “contract” between you and your professor. (Pro tip: add all those mid-term, essay deadline, and final exam dates to your planner/calendar at the beginning of the term).
Units: Ah yes, our precious units (sometimes referred to as credits). This is what will make all those late-night study sessions worth it (*ahem, besides the joy of learning, of course). A unit is the value assigned to an academic activity. Regular undergraduate courses are usually worth three units and run for one term. Graduate courses are typically worth 1.5 or 3 units and have a slightly different schedule.
LEC: Having nothing to do with the League of Legends European Championships, this LEC stands for lecture. However, much like in the video game, this is where the magic - of learning - happens. In a lecture, a professor teaches the subject matter in person in a classroom, online, or in a blended format. Basically, this is the main component of university courses.
DGD: In addition to lectures, some courses include other components. A DGD, or Discussion Group, is a group discussion, led by a professor or teaching assistant, which is held in addition to the regular lecture to go into the subject matter in greater depth. DGDs are a fun environment to apply what you’ve learned.
LAB: Laboratory sessions – Artists, pick up your paintbrushes and scientists, get your goggles; this is your chance to do hands-on work in a laboratory.
TUT: If you miss something in class, need clarification, or just want to go over new concepts, tutorials (TUT) provide time for discussion, requests for information, and a chance to learn the subject matter in greater depth. Not all courses have them, but you should make the most of them if your course does have a TUT.
TA: Teaching assistants are graduate students who provide support to professors and students. They sometimes teach part of the course, as well as grade your papers and supervise exams.
Mentors: I was surprised by the amount of resources available to students at uOttawa. Trust me, you are never alone! If you are ever having academic difficulties, or even if you want to be more proactive in your learning, mentors are there to offer workshops, study groups for specific courses, study skill tips, and more. (Pro tip: check out the services offered by the mentors in your faculty at the beginning of the term; they will come in handy!)
AWHC/CARTU: The Academic Writing Help Centre, (or Centre d’aide à la rédaction des travaux universitaires in French) will help you develop strategies to improve your writing skills. Being a social science student means that I write many papers. Writing your first university essay might feel a little overwhelming, but you can make an appointment to help go over your writing methods, mistakes, etc.
Let’s take a little tour of campus
InfoService: Located in Tabaret Hall, InfoService is the starting point for most of your administrative needs, including requests for official documents, information on tuition fees and invoices, enrolment verification documents, copies of diplomas, your student card, and more.
uOttawa Card: This little piece of plastic is your golden ticket around the uOttawa campus. Although there is no chocolate factory, the card sure measures up, giving you access to gyms, pool and sports facilities, libraries (to borrow books, movies, music, and CDs), audio-visual equipment rental, meal plans and Flex dollars for all retail food locations on campus, photocopies, etc.
And for those of you who don’t like to have fun (just kidding), you’ll need your uOttawa card as proof of your status as a uOttawa student during exams. The uOttawa card is your official University of Ottawa student identification card.
U-Pass: Campus is great, but you might need to get around town for activities, food, and supplies. The Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) program provides a discounted transit pass to eligible uOttawa students. Trust me, it’ll come in handy when taking the long and arduous journey… to Walmart.
DH or Dining Hall: As a first-year student still adjusting to a new city and school environment, I was so thankful to have access to the Dining Hall (one less thing to worry about!) Whether you’re in the mood for snack or a meal, uOttawa’s award-winning Dining Hall is the place to go.
Meal Plan: There are a few types of plans you can opt for: the 5-day plan gives you unlimited access to the Dining Hall five days a week and the 7-day plan gives you unlimited access seven days a week. Once you sign up for a meal plan, it will be loaded directly onto your uOttawa card and you’ll have access to unlimited food in the Dining Hall! Meal plans also have the amazing benefit of saving you the tax when you buy food on campus.
Minto: After all that food talk, you’re probably thinking about how you’re going to stay fit. Or maybe you’re just hungry. Either way, uOttawa’s Minto Sports Complex will help keep you active with a gym, hockey rinks, outdoor multi-sport field, fitness classes, and more. And hey, what’s more Canadian than taking exams on an ice rink?
Campus Rec: University is not all about school. uOttawa has a ton of drop-in activities and registered programming to make your experience an active one. This could be the year you finally try yoga, or take some dance classes with your friends!
Last stop, residence!
RA: Starting university can be a scary experience, especially as a first-year. Residence program assistants are professional Residence Life staff members who oversee Community Advisors and help manage the residence community.
CA: Community Advisors are upper-year student leaders who are there for first-year students; they help foster a community atmosphere in your building, on your floor or unit. This person will pretty much become like a big brother or sister. They will be there for you if you need a friend, direct you to any resources you may need, and deal with any questions or problems you may have.
uOConnexion: Need a buddy to help with the transition to university? uOConnexion is the program for you! They pair you up with an upper-year student who can help you navigate all the uncertainties of the first months at uOttawa.
Gee-Gee or GG: You’re not a true Gee-Gee until you can confidently answer this question “What the heck is a Gee-Gee?” Well, to start, a gee-gee is an old British slang term for the first horse out of the gate in a race. And our mascot is a horse! Also, our school colours are garnet and grey, so the initials in both languages give “GG”. Throughout the years, the nickname just stuck.
Now that you’re a Gee-Gee, welcome to the Gee-Gee family!
The Gee: The Gee is a bimonthly newsletter sent to your student email address containing fun and exciting campus news, information about activities and events, and some interesting curated content. Gee, I hope you read it attentively every two weeks (see what I did there?)
uOCampus: Now that you’re a student at uOttawa, you should connect with the relevant social media pages. Your faculty might have its own pages, but you should also start following Student Life on different platforms to keep up with the latest activities and information for current students: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.