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My Experience as a First-Year Female Student in STEM

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Waterloo chapter.

The time is here, guys! I’m so proud of all of us for finishing the first fully in-person year since the pandemic. Last year was also my first year of university, and it was a rollercoaster to say the least. As someone who was mega-terrified of starting university, I now have some milestones and tips that I want to share with incoming first-years.

The first month: Experiment 001

The first month of university for me was like going on a tour without knowing my next destination. Every decision I made was almost baseless, but that was OK — because that’s why we call it experiment 001. 

I wish I could rewind back to the first month of university and have more “fun.” Having the pressure of academics on me, I felt like I needed to fully dive into school and figure out the social aspect afterwards. Try not to do this! It’s the only first-month first-year experience you’ll have, so make it worthwhile by prioritizing whatever makes you happy and building a strong foundation for the next couple of years. 

The involvement aspect

“For the resume!” is one of the phrases I despise hearing; it seems like students only join clubs to fill another line on the resume. I disagree with this, though. Clubs should be used as an outlet for your creative side (even if it’s unrelated to your program!). Showing your employer that you’re more than your chosen industry is more important in my eyes than anything. Join whatever clubs you want to, especially those that pique your interest, no matter how unique. 

How do I make friends?

This was the thought that would always cross my mind during the fall term. There were so many new faces that I had no clue where to start. What helped me the most were my roomies! We all had the same problem of being glued to people in our program and not having the chance to talk to new people. 

So, we devised a plan: knock on every door until we made at least one friend. Surprisingly, I now have a best friend from that experience, and I’m so grateful to have met her through my (kind of stalkerish) strategy. Reach out — and don’t be afraid, because everyone is on the same wavelength as you. 

The ultra-fast speed

University is, in fact, no joke. All the assignments are due on the same day, and you can’t beg your professor to move the exam just because you have another one earlier in the morning. This was a major problem for me, and you should never do what I did: in my first term, I overloaded my schedule, meaning every second was accounted for. I had no time to step back and enjoy the term. 

A tip I found very helpful was breaking up assignments and essentially working backwards. When an assignment was given, I’d think backwards from the due date and schedule what task had to be done on which day in order to keep up with the assignment. It seems tedious, but trust me. This strategy makes a difference in ensuring you don’t fall behind. 

Well, that’s a wrap on my first year — I can’t believe how fast it flew by. I hope we all have a school term filled with new opportunities, fresh air, and cute cafés!

Vanessa Duong

Waterloo '27

Hi there! My name is Vanessa and I'm in Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo. I love cooking, rambling, and am an advocate for mental wellbeing.