10 things I wish I’d known in first year

Posted on Monday, August 17, 2015

Students on the main campus walk path, in summer.

By Sarah Foster

Welcome Week is just around the corner, and you’re both excited and nervous about beginning a journey through a world of new experiences, people and perspectives. The thought of starting university and stepping out of your comfort zone may seem scary, but we’re here to help!

We met with three student ambassadors to bring you their top tips on making the most of your new challenge at the University of Ottawa.

1. Meet new people

This may be the first time you’re away from your high school circle, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to meet new friends. Embrace your new life and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself in residence or in class.

2. Participate in events

The first week of the session isn’t only about partying. The Community Life Service is hosting an impressive lineup of events for Welcome Week 2015, such as information sessions, performances, the President’s Brunch and the newest additions to the lineup, Picnik International, uO Show and the Fluo Party. But don’t stop going to events once Welcome Week is over. Over the year you’ll have the opportunity to meet your dean, hear world-class experts speak at lectures, attend 3D-printing workshops, participate in free yoga or attend the many on-campus festivals such as Poutine Fest, Taco Truck Fest and the Snow Festival.

3. Get involved

There are over 175 clubs on campus for all interests. They are great for discovering a new passion or meeting new friends and likeminded students. If you don’t find the activity you’re looking for, start something new! Feel free to submit your idea and start a club — you’ll meet friends who share your interests and help other students discover something new. Great clubs have been created over the years thanks to students, like the official uOttawa Quidditch team.

Students can receive a Co-Curricular Record, which is an official university document that records approved volunteer activities, for the time they dedicate to a club or campus activities. Various other volunteer opportunities are also offered to students of all faculties through the Centre for Global and Community Engagement.

 Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to be an athlete to play sports. In fact, one in five students participates in an intra-mural sports team.

4. Use the library services

The library isn’t just a place to cram before an exam. You can reserve a group study room, borrow iPads and laptops, use the computers, print your papers, and use the Media Library to access workstations equipped with Adobe Photoshop CS6, Adobe Acrobat Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. The library offers a variety of free workshops for undergraduate and graduate students, including general library orientation sessions and workshops designed to improve research skills. Subject librarians who specialize in your program of study are available in person, by phone, by email or in chat to help with your research.

5. Get to know your professors and TAs

Your professors are leading experts in their fields — don’t miss out on the opportunity to ask them questions and gain insight on world issues. If you don’t feel like speaking up in class go see them once class is over. They will be happy to discuss the course subject with you. Your education is about more than a textbook, which is why your professors and TAs are available to help you understand course material and review your exams or papers. Your professors can also inspire you to pursue graduate studies and give you the tools to achieve your goals. 

6. Go abroad

Consumed by wanderlust? You can participate in a summer exchange program for a session or a full academic year as part of your program and reach one of 300 international exchange destinations in 47 countries. The University of Ottawa offers mobility scholarships to all students selected to take part in an exchange program. Students who take part in an international exchange receive a scholarship of $1,000 for one session or $2,000 for two sessions abroad. Students who take part in an exchange within Canada receive a scholarship of $500 for one session or $1,000 for two sessions.

You can also receive funding for international research or volunteering. Summer research programs are offered in Germany, China and France and participating students receive a grant of between $1,500 and $3,000. The Centre for Global and Community Engagement offers scholarships to students who wish to volunteer in Canada or abroad.

7. Choose your electives based on your interests

Electives give students the opportunity to learn about subjects outside their program. Your friend may recommend a class just because it is easy, but taking it might mean missing out on a subject that you’re passionate about. Explore your options before settling on electives. You may want to try an unconventional course like Witchcraft, Magic and Occult Traditions, learn one of nine languages offered at uOttawa or explore your passion for science.

8. Use your time wisely

Your first weeks will go by fast! Before you know it you’ll be juggling project deadlines, group assignments and exams. Don’t wait until the last minute to finish your project — you may think you can write 10 pages the night before a deadline but your grades will suffer. Opt for reading in between classes or reviewing notes with a friend rather than finishing your series binge on Netflix. Also, printers can smell fear and have a tendency to run out of ink or jam 10 minutes before your paper is due. Avoid printer woes by finishing your paper early and printing it out the day before it is due.

9. Get to know your services

Did you know the Student Academic Success Service (SASS) and Health Services (UOHS) offer pet therapy on campus? Therapy dogs are on-campus every week to help students reduce anxiety and stress. Did you know that you can register with a family physician at UOHS? Or that you can make up to three 45-minute appointments per week with the Academic Writing Help Centre’s writing advisers to enhance your skills? Feeling financially unstable? A part-time work-study job on campus is a great way to earn extra money and gain work experience. These are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to services available on campus. Also, check out the Free Store at 641 King Edward Avenue for items of all kinds, and always free!

Explore the campus and website! You may never use many of the services offered (although you maybe you should!), but when you do need help you will know where to go.

10. Get to know the campus. The University will feel like home!

Embrace your new challenge — you will feel at home in no time! Find a favourite study place and favourite places to eat, and explore the tunnels to avoid the harsh winter. The University may be in the heart of the city, but 25% of the campus is composed of green space, including five community gardens. No matter how busy you get, make time for activities that will alleviate stress. The next four years will go by fast, so don’t forget to have fun!

Students with therapy dogs.
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