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Eight things I wish I knew going into my first year of university

By Kristy Wong, August 30 2018 —

Entering university, there were a lot of things I didn’t know and a lot that I didn’t expect to learn. I did what most people did, stumbling blindly around campus to a chorus of “you’ll do great”s while wondering what the hell I was getting myself into. If you’re entering your first year, welcome and good luck. These are a few things that I wish someone told me.

1. Make campus your home — even if you don’t live there:

By “make campus your home,” I don’t mean that you should camp out on the sidewalk in a bed of foliage. What I mean is you should make it a priority to explore all campus has to offer. You’ll spend countless hours studying and attending lectures here. Find a nice, quiet space where you can relax or work during those dreadful three-hour class gaps. It makes a big difference.

2. Don’t do what you don’t want to do:

It sounds simple, but I feel like we all need this reminder. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was, ‘Don’t take morning classes if you can’t wake up early.’ Same goes for picking a lighter class load. University is one of those places where you are allowed to make decisions on your own accord, so make it easier on yourself by making the choices you want.

3. Take classes that interest you:

The University of Calgary has hundreds of classes from a variety of departments. Whether you want to take a music theory class or learn about slavery in America, there’s something for everyone. Choose courses because they interest you, not just because your friends are also taking them. The best time to figure out your interests is in your first year so you can decide whether to continue on to the higher-level courses.

4. You will get lost:

Unless you’re born with an innate sense of direction, you will most likely get lost. The online Interactive Room Finder will be your friend. And if you really can’t find it, just ask. Most of us are more understanding than we look.

5. Figure out the difference between a lecture, lab and tutorial:

Lectures are for class time (hello PowerPoints). Labs usually have assignments, quizzes or some other structured, mandatory work time. Tutorials are normally for extra practice sessions run by a teaching assistant and are sometimes optional.

6. Relax, nobody knows what they’re doing:

Although it might seem like everyone has already planned out their future, I assure you most have not. Most have come here to do the same as you — figure out what their path is. Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what you want to do just yet.

7. You get out of your university experience what you put into it:

Whether you join every academic club or just attend occasional meetings is up to you. But what you put into your experience outside of academics is what you get out of it.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help:

This is the most important tip for new students. Don’t understand a concept from class? Attend your professor’s office hours. If you’re struggling academically or personally, the university has many resources to help. Some on-campus resources include the Students’ Union Wellness Centre or the Student Success Centre. For a full list, check out ucalgary.ca/currentstudents/student-services.

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