By Sarah Foster and Rebecca MacFarlane
The thought of starting university and stepping out of your comfort zone may seem scary, but we’re here to help! Here are our top tips on making the most of your time at the University of Ottawa.
1. Free stuff is everywhere
Although being a university student will be one of the most exciting times of your life, it can also be extremely stressful financially. That’s exactly why the free services provided by uOttawa are so great. Our favourites are the Free Store, a student-run facility where you can pick up everything from household items to clothes, and the Muggy Mondays program, which provides fair trade coffee, tea or hot chocolate to anyone who brings a reusable mug to participating locations.
2. You can rent your textbooks
Textbooks for most courses can be rented at the uOttawa bookstore. Once your course materials are posted in the Virtual Campus or you have your course syllabi, search the book titles on the bookstore website to view your purchase options. You’ll usually have the option to rent a used or new textbook. Some courses use Benjamin Books (122 Osgoode Street) or Agora Student Bookstore (145 Besserer Avenue).
3. There are exciting and enriching events going on all the time
The first week of the session isn’t only about partying. Student Services is hosting an impressive lineup of events for Welcome Week 2017, such as information sessions, uOShow, the President’s Welcome, International Hangouts, the Football Home Opener and much more. But don’t stop 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 and the Snow Festival.
There are lots of workshops, seminars and presentations that make the student experience at uOttawa so unique. Some feature well-known personalities (including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau). Be sure to check uoCal for all upcoming campus events.
4. uOttawa has one of the most sustainable campuses in Canada
One of the things that distinguishes the University is its dedication to reducing waste and remaining sustainable. For example, the campus has been bottled water free since 2010. Take part in Bike to Work Day and National Sweater Day to show your support for sustainable transportation and heating alternatives.
5. Support is out there
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?
SASS also offers mental health and wellness services such as professional counselling, peer counselling and coaching.
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.
6. You can use your Flex/Dining dollars just about anywhere on campus
With a simple tap, you can purchase items from various locations accepting your uOttawa card, including the 24-hour Dining Hall, the Pivik, the uOttawa Bookstore, Tim Hortons, the Second Cup on Laurier Avenue and many more. You can also use Flex dollars to buy textbooks, other school supplies and the uOttawa gear you’ll need to wear to rep your school at the annual Panda Game.
7. Your Dining dollars don’t have to go to waste
Dining dollars are only valid for the period for which they were purchased, which is typically one school year. Sometimes you just can’t use them all up in that time. However, uOttawa offers a simple solution for these leftover funds: transferring your Dining dollars to your Flex dollar account. That way, the funds don’t expire until you are no longer a student!
8. Losing your student card is not the end of the world
As a university student, you will be incredibly busy juggling your course load, maybe a part-time job and extracurricular activities. It’s surprisingly easy to lose your student card. But don’t worry. Getting a new card is super easy. All you have to do is visit InfoService or the uOttawa Card Service, present ID, and pay $25 to receive a brand new card.
9. uOttawa is rich with opportunities to make a difference
The Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement offers different types of opportunities to volunteer in Ottawa and around the world. The University also has more than 250 partner institutions in some 52 countries, providing students with exceptional opportunities to participate in international exchanges. CO-OP placements abroad are also an option for students taking part in the Co-operative Education Programs.
The University provides hundreds of scholarships and bursaries annually for students of all faculties and all backgrounds. Most involve a very simple application process: Click the “Finances and jobs” tab in your uoZone account and then the quick link “Online scholarships and bursaries”. Once you’ve completed your student profile, apply away!
11. Getting involved is easy
There are more than 250 clubs on campus for all interests. They are great for discovering a new passion or meeting new friends and like-minded 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.
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.
12. 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 software. 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.
13. 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.
14. You can 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 a course in the hot new field of digital humanities (such as DHN 1100), learn one of more than a dozen languages offered at uOttawa or explore your passion for science.
15. 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.
16. Embrace your new challenge — you will feel at home in no time
Find a favourite study place and favourite places to eat. 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!