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Navigating the First Year Experience

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

When I think back to my first year experience, I see little 17-year-old me feeling nervous to be living by herself for the first time, attempting to navigate a new city and the university environment. There is a specific kind of all-consuming loneliness you feel during the first few months of first year. In my case, I had moved away from my family and all of my close friends. I didn’t know anyone going into university, and I had yet to develop the social skills needed to make friends easily. University culture was overwhelming, and I didn’t know who to ask for help. 

  1. Live in an on-campus residence

I decided to live in residence in an attempt to make the transition between living at home and living alone smoother. Especially in first year, this is a great option. The people who live on your floor (who are likely in the exact same situation that you’re in) become your friends. Even if these friendships aren’t long-lasting, they still provide some social interaction while you find your footing. 

  1. Start conversations with others first

Something I tried in first year was talking to people like we were already close friends. If you establish a level of comfort and openness, it could take away some of the awkwardness. This is definitely not a fool-proof method but it did come in handy sometimes and worked well for me. Once classes start, you’ll be able to meet people in your program. It may seem hard at first but try to strike up a conversation with someone in your class. It could be something basic like asking them a question about class content. If anything, it’s always helpful to know people in your classes. It will come in handy when you have to miss class, need help with homework, or inevitably catch frat flu. 

  1. Stay on campus as much as possible!

I can relate to the feeling of wanting to go home every weekend. I know it’s hard but staying on campus is the best solution to getting over that hurdle. I wish I knew this because during my first year, I was on the train home every Friday night. Forming a support system is crucial to helping you get through university, and you’ll feel less lonely as a result! If you stay on campus, your chances of meeting people are much higher. Before you know it, you’ll start to feel at home. Join clubs, study on campus, look into volunteer opportunities, and make plans with friends (even if you don’t know them too well). I know it’s hard to be away from home for long, especially if your parents or significant other lives there, but that’s what FaceTime is for! 

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your advisors

When it comes to navigating university culture and academics, it’s best to approach a staff member with your questions. To help with choosing courses and degree requirements, an academic advisor is the best person to answer your questions. You can find their email or office information through the university website. I remember being so nervous to email the wrong person. Don’t worry about that! It’s likely the person you email will direct you to another staff member who will be able to help you. 

I definitely haven’t expressed all the lessons I learned during my first year, but I hope some of this advice is helpful and relevant. University is a time of extensive growth and development as you enter your adult years. I know it’s a cliché, but the time really does fly by! I can’t believe I’m graduating this year. Looking back, I feel like I got what I wanted out of my university experience and I hope you will too. Good luck!

Larissa Faria

Waterloo '24

Hello! My name is Larissa. I'm a fourth-year university student at the University of Waterloo. I also have a successful freelance business where I work with clients to create video content that meets their creative vision. I have recently become very passionate about researching and advocating women's rights and experiences. I also enjoy creative writing, photography, and content creation.