How To Have A Fantastic First Year 101

Your first year at U of T has the potential to be the worst year of your life. You might start university and, after a month of classes, start spending all of your time feeling sorry for yourself because, if you had only gone to Carleton, you’d be getting grades that are 20% higher with half the effort.

That being said, your first year at U of T also has the potential to be the best year of your life.

I’ve complied a list of cool stories about my life things you should try to do during your first year to make it the best year ever.:

 

Make Friends With Your Roommate(s)

I’m not saying that you and your roommate(s) have to be BFF; I’m saying that you’re going to be living together for the next 8 months, so you may as well like each other. During my first year, I lived with three other girls in an apartment-style residence – one was an Engineer, the other two were in Commerce, and I was (and still am) in Arts & Science. Although we had contrasting personalities and hung around with completely different crowds, we got along amazingly; we made cookies together and talked about cute boys late into the night. Three of the four of us are living together again this year.

I think that the reason we got along so well is that we found things that we all have in common (our shared love of cookies and cute boys), but we also managed to embrace our differences. Having roommates that are different from you is good because you never run out of things to talk about and you’re always learning something new.

To avoid problems with your roommate(s), check out the tips on eHow and Suite101. However, if you’re living in residence and you and your roommate(s) end up wanting to kill each other, go to your Don. They’re there to help you deal with that kind of thing.

Get Involved Early

The first way to get involved? Participate in your Frosh Week.

Seriously. I skipped most of my Frosh Week and regret it. I guess I was worried that I wouldn’t make friends but, looking back on it, everyone else was worried about the same thing. Eventually I did meet tons of cool people from my residence, but it shouldn’t have taken me as long as it did. Although most of the FW activities sounded kind of lame, everyone says that the activities turned out to be super fun because of how ridiculous they were. At least give it a shot – chances are, you’re not going to have much else to do during your first week here. FW is also a good way for you commuters to meet people living 0n campus, which will be really helpful when you need a place to crash after an 8-hour study session at Robarts and don’t want to face the TTC.

Make sure that you also take time to check out all of the volunteer opportunities on campus, as well as Ulife for more information on all of the recognized clubs and teams at U of T. This school has pretty much every club you can imagine but, if the club you’re looking for doesn’t already exist, start it! Heck, send blogUT information about your new club and we’ll help you promote it. There you go, you already have supporters.

And then there’s the non-U of T-recognized Fratland. U of T has 7 sororities and 18 fraternities to choose from. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Stop right there. Truth is, though, Greek life actually has a lot of up-sides: frats and sororities serve as small communities in an enormous school; they do a lot of volunteer work; and the members of your frat or sorority really do become like your brothers and sisters. I went through PSR (Panhellenic Sorority Recruitment) during the fall and had an absolutely amazing and unforgettable time meeting all of the girls. That being said, once I got offered a bid to the sorority I wanted and went to the first meeting, I realized that Greek life isn’t for me. But don’t dismiss Fratland just because I ditched. Some people thrive in these groups and it’s worth your time to at least check out what they’re about. Give them a chance and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

In short – put yourself out there.

Try New Things

Start with your courses. Need an extra credit? Pick something that sounds somewhat interesting and go for it. I took Gender Studies as a filler and only realized how passionate I was about it once I was in the course. That being said, I also took Philosophy as a filler and I hated that course more than I have ever hated anything. However, even though I didn’t like it, I don’t regret taking it; I met some amazing friends (we bonded over how bad all of our marks were) and occasionally something interesting did come up. Plus, now I can check off my Breadth Requirement 2. HUZZAH.

OH, ‘HUZZAH’ reminds me of another new thing I tried this year.
Dungeons and Dragons.
Oh, how I love it.
I’m a cleric.
Even on DDO, I’m a cleric.

I’ll admit that I only went to the first D&D meeting because my friend created the group and needed at least one other person to show up. Plus, I was promised free food. If you’ve ever met me, you know that I do not pass up free food. Ever.

So I figured that I would go, eat some free food, and possibly check out any cute nerdy boys that showed up. During the first couple of meetings, I didn’t even play the game – I just watched, read a book, or snacked on pizza and drank disgusting amounts of Coke. Eventually, though, the group convinced me to join their new campaign and I ended up having a great time. After that, I went to the meetings not only for the free food and cute boys, but also to satisfy my constant cravings to smash some monsters with my heavy mace.

Stay Up Late

I don’t mean stay up late doing last minute papers and problem-sets, although that’s bound to happen. What I mean is more along the lines of staying up late to explore Toronto with new friends, go to shows, and go to Canton Chilli at 1am. Toronto is one of Canada’s most exciting cities, so you may as well get out there and enjoy it.

Plus, the city is a completely different place at night. Go for a walk by yourself in the middle of the night sometime (there are those red emergency posts all over the place, if it makes you feel better) and you’ll see what I mean.

Get Ahead

You thought high school was stressful? Brace yourself.

Absolutely NO amount of work you do in high school can even begin to prepare you for the amount of work you’ll be given in university. But don’t fret – a bajillion students before you got through it and you can get through it too. The trick is to stay on top of things and, if possible, get ahead.

Step one: Actually USE that free agenda you get in your UTSU orientation kit. Being organized is key.

And then there’s the having-to-do-work part. Instead of sitting at your computer lurking Facebook all day, pick up one of your textbooks and read a chapter or two. Take a look at Blackboard and your course syllabi early on in the terms to figure out what you can get a head start on. Oh yeah, and during Reading Week? Actually read. It will seriously help you come the last few weeks of classes when you’re handing in all of your assignments and cramming for exams. Also, if you don’t understand something you come across, you’ll have plenty of time to figure it out.

Honestly, getting ahead isn’t difficult unless you’re an Engineer. Then it’s okay if you’re not ahead, or even on top of your work for that matter, because no one else in your class is either. Just go drink your feelings at Suds.

Take Time For Yourself

Step away from schoolwork and parties and spend some time alone every once in a while. Things can get kind of overwhelming in the city, where it’s always so busy and everyone seems to be in a rush. Find a relaxing hobby and make time for it at least once a week. I play guitar. One of my roommates watches TV. Another one of my roommates likes to sit in her room and listen to really loud classical music. Whatever makes you happy.

However, if you find that school is still too overwhelming…

Get Help

There are so many on-campus resources available to you, many of which are are included in your fees. Having trouble with that paper? The Writing Centres have helped me write A papers with just one one-hour session. New to the big city and having safety concerns? The Community Safety Office offers workshops and self-defense classes to put your mind at ease.

And, of course, if you just need someone to talk to, there’s nothing wrong with calling CAPS to make an appointment with one of the counselors. They realize that the transition you’re going through can be overwhelming and that school can just plain suck. They’re there to help. If you need it, use the resource, because it’s a damn good one.

Just a note: call CAPS as soon as you think you may want to speak to someone. You have to book a phone evaluation before you can make an appointment and it can take a little while.

 

You’ve probably already heard this many times, but I’m going to repeat it (and put it in bold and caps, so you know that I’m serious) because it’s so, so true:

YOUR ENTIRE UNIVERSITY CAREER IS WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO MAKE OF IT.

Yes, grades are important, but you can’t spend all of your time cooped up in your room by yourself. University isn’t just about getting a 4.0 GPA (although some people may tell you otherwise) – it’s also about developing your social skills and discovering new things about yourself and the world. Explore everything and get exposed to as many different things as you can.

Good luck, and have an amazing year! Tweet us every once in a while and let us know how you’re doing, ya hear? ;)

4 comments for “How To Have A Fantastic First Year 101

  1. August 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    This. Is. Amazing. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I had a terrible first year, mostly because I didn’t do half the things you said. Other than make cookies and brownies with the roomies at midnight and occasionally watch a late night movie, I spent a lot of time focusing on studying. I lived, breathed, ate all the courses I was enrolled in and, because of damned Lady Luck, I didn’t get to do fun courses like you did.

    That being said, I learned from it and in second year I took some philosophy and history courses, just to keep myself sane. If it didn’t take those courses, I wouldn’t have decided to go into my history minor.

    So listen to Leah, you guys! She knows what she’s talking about. ;)

  2. Bruno
    August 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    A billet on how fraternities work would be very interesting, since I was not aware U of T had those and I still don’t know how they work exactly.

  3. August 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    I agree with Bruno and if someone could write an article about UofT frats and sororities, how to join, and other information like that, it’d be INCREDIBLY appreciated!

  4. August 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Bruno and Sadia – Thanks for the suggestion! I’m sure a lot of other people would love to know more about Greek life too. I’ve contacted some guys from fraternities to help out Bruno and there are tons of girls I met during my sorority recruitment that I know would love to offer their input.
    I’m on it. :)

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