University 101: A how-to survival guide

Every person who has been to university can probably remember going into their first year: the feeling of anxiousness in your stomach; feeling scared of not knowing what to expect; or excited to discover all the new experiences you are about to have.

Still, whatever you may have been anticipating, one thing is for sure: you needed some sort of guidance to help you along the way. Maybe you needed tips, tricks, or even advice on where to go for help, to catch a quick bite, or even how to sort out your studying schedule. What better way to gain all this knowledge by asking a fourth year student? Having experienced Laurier culture for the past three years, a fourth year student is very familiar with what to do and what not to do. So, if you are a first year student looking for some tips, or an upper year that still doesn’t know what to do, this might be the article for you.

What is a piece of advice do you wish you had as a First Year? 

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think that being on my own made me feel like I had to do it all on my own, but I know now that there are lots of people on campus who want to help.” -Kelsey Mctavish 

“A piece of advice that I wish someone had shared with me going into first year is to put yourself first. University can be overwhelming with new friends, new city, new school, etc., but through all of that you have to take care of yourself. Anything that you do should be because you want to do it, not because you feel obligated, pressured or because it’ll look good on a resume. Follow your passions because those are the experiences that you will get the most experience and enjoyment from.” -Abby Myles 

“Don’t forget to take time for yourself. Your first year is an amazing opportunity to find your fit on campus and get involved. It is a whirlwind of new experiences and is an amazing time as you navigate, meet new people and develop passions. Although don’t forget to take time to self-care, getting burnt out is real! Ensure you spend time to breathe, relax and have hobbies.”– Hannah Gamblin 

For someone that may be moving to Brantford from a bigger city, what are some fun things to do?  

“Moving from a bigger city to Brantford can be really different, but there are still things to do. Movies, going out for food, there’s even an escape room place on campus. There are also lots of museums around if that’s something you’re into.” -Kelsey Mctavish 

“During the winter months I would most definitely suggest bringing your skates for the free outdoor skating rink in Harmony Square! This is my favourite way to de-stress, especially during exams! Other fun things would be going to First Year Leadership Program (FYLP) events, Students’ Union events (Hawk Team, Healthy Lifestyles, program student associations, etc.) and many more that occur throughout the year. Off-campus there are many pubs that often have student discounts where you can go to hang out with friends. A very popular place is Game Time, as you can get food and play pool or arcade games.” -Abby Myles.  

“I am a big fan of the Grand River trails. It is beautiful scenery, a breath of fresh air and a chance for some great photos!” – Hannah Gamblin 

How do you balance going out with friends or staying in to catch up on your readings? 

“It can be hard at first to keep a good balance between having a life and keeping up with school. The only thing that has helped me is keeping my priorities in check. Knowing what is most important helps to make sure that I am spending the time I need to spend on what needs to get done.” -Kelsey Mctavish 

“This requires a lot of self control and regulation. It can be very easy to skip on readings for other engagements that seem more interesting or fun. I find that I try to schedule time with friends during the week or on weekends in advance, as a goal for myself. If I do my readings at the allotted time that I have scheduled them, then I get to reward myself with having a night, meal or afternoon with friends.” – Abby Myles 

“Schedule. Schedule. Schedule. Time management is key when living a balanced lifestyle. I keep an up-to-date calendar, so I am always aware of deadlines and responsibilities. Along with this, prioritization is incredibly important. If you have a 40 percent essay, make that your priority! If you know your friend’s birthday is coming up, get ahead of your work so you can spend it with them. Organization, prioritization, scheduling and being proactive helps make this balance possible!” – Hannah Gamblin 

How do you deal with roommates you may not get along with? “I am not a confrontational person, but I have learned that sometimes you just need to be honest. Whether its going to someone and saying, “Listen would you mind doing your dishes more often?” or sometimes you must be the bigger person and bring it up. “I can tell that we have a problem. If we talk about it, we can fix it”.” – Kelsey Mctavish  

“Roommate contracts with your don are super helpful! I have used [them] every year of university and have found that they really help me to get to know my roommates better but have also addressed problems before they can manifest. I do not think that it is mandatory to be best friends with your roommates and it regularly doesn’t happen, but the most important thing is that you can still be kind and respectful to one another.” – Abby Myles  

“Crucial conversations are key! Addressing issues early will definitely help and keeping the communication open. I make an effort to be conscious that everyone has different values, experiences, and beliefs [that] may influence their living habits. I think it is also important to remember you do not have to be best friends but being respectful and cordial is necessary.” – Hannah Gamblin 

Living away from home means making your own meals. What are some tips for meal prep and trying to eat healthily?  

“Don’t try and completely change your eating habits right away. If you’re trying to eat healthy but you’re used to eating out a lot stopping all at once won’t always work. The other thing is make it taste good! Healthy food doesn’t have to taste awful. Find things that you like, and you’ll be more likely to eat them. I tried to eat the healthiest foods I could find, but I hated most of them, so I never wanted to eat the meals I’d made. Try different things and find what works for you.” – Kelsey Mctavish  

“I have found it really helpful to schedule meals with friends where you can cook together. This can be really easy in residence because everyone is in such close proximity. It allows you to take your own cooking knowledge to teach others what you know, and you can also learn meals from the knowledge that they have. There are often easy, healthy recipes that you can find online on Pinterest or Facebook that can be handy as well. Cooking for yourself can be a very scary task, so don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you to figure it out together.” – Abby Myles  

“Meal plan! Having a meal plan will ensure you only purchase what you need and ensures you don’t waste food. I think it is important to be realistic. Healthy doesn’t need to mean kale and celery. It could be including more vegetables and reducing your dining out. I always plan a month at a time and use Pinterest to ensure I am excited about the recipes!” – Hannah Gamblin 

How would you go about making friends outside of residence for someone who lives off-campus?  

“Talk to people. It sounds so stupid but it’s true. Come out to campus events and talk to the person sitting next to you. Join a club and talk to the person that you’re setting up with. Find the person in a few of your lectures and ask to compare notes.”– Kelsey Mctavish  

“Orientation Week is a great way to make friends across campus and in different stages of their degree. You will be placed on a colour team that is made up of several different residences and communities and will have Icebreakers in various programs, years and involvement opportunities on campus. Everyone is new and trying to create relationships and meet new people, so it is much easier to create connections during that time.”– Abby Myles  

“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and simply say hello! Classes are an amazing opportunity to meet new people and make some great friendships. It will feel awkward, but everyone is feeling the same way! I challenge you to reach out to a new person every single day for September.” – Hannah Gamblin  

If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you do? 

“I would have gotten help with mental health sooner. There are places and people on campus who are there and want to help. Reach out if you need help.” – Kelsey Mctavish 

“I can’t think of anything that I would change about my first year experience. I feel that the mistakes that I made were mandatory in learning and figure out what works for me and how I can be the best Abby that I can be.” – Abby Myles  

“I would do it the same. Obviously, I have made mistakes and there were challenges, but it taught me so much about myself! Don’t be hard on yourself, it’s a learning experience!”– Hannah Gamblin 

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