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#MyFirstYear in Waterloo Health Sciences

My first year at the University of Waterloo as a Health Science student was unlike what I expected, to say the least. As a result of the COVID pandemic, the entirety of my first year took place online 😭 . Despite this, I made the most of it and took advantage of the benefits (like living with my parents and avoiding some adult responsibilities). I developed a school routine for myself and followed it throughout each semester. It allowed me to balance my academics and have enough time for myself. Here’s an overview of my first-year experience being entirely online.

These are the first-year courses I had to take

Required Courses For Health Sciences:

  • HLTH 101 (Introduction to Health 1)

    • Introductory course into health concepts and how various factors influence one another and healthcare outcomes

  • AHS 107 (Sociology of Activity, Health, and Well-being)

    • Study of how leisure, activity, and health and wellbeing are influenced by factors social and cultural factors

  • BIOL 130/BIOL 130L (Introductory Cell Biology/Laboratory)

    • Focuses on cell biology concepts like a cell’s structural organization and defining critical cell functions and processes

    • Lab consists of experiments relating to BIO130

  • CHEM 120/CHEM 120L (General Chemistry 1)

    • Introductory course to chemistry topics such as atomic structure, properties, chemical reactions and stoichiometry

    • Encouraged development of basic lab skills

  • HLTH 102 - Introduction to Health 2

    • Following HLTH 101, further expands on health barriers, planning and population health

  • PSYCH 101 (Introductory Psychology)

    • Emphasis on modern psychology as a behavioural science

  • CHEM 123 / CHEM 123L (Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter)

    • Similar to CHEM120/L but with a greater focus on stoichiometry of compounds and chemical reactions

Elective Courses

Specifically for first-years, we are encouraged to take the recommended English prerequisites. The options are ENG140R and ENG109. If you chose not to take the English electives in the first year, you must take the ENG210 English course during your second year. For me, I took ENG140R because my fellow peers suggested it as an easier and good foundational option to traditional English courses that seem redundant and mundane.

  • ENG140R (The Use of English)

    • Studies English following concepts of scientific writing, journalism, and literary topics

    • Reinforces grammar and formal writing that is important for Health courses

  • ENG109 (Introduction to Academic Writing)

    • Exercises the use of academic writing such as argument, style, and information presentation

Items that worked for me:

  • Using a planner

It might be a hard habit at first, but I can assure you it definitely pays off! Between the sudden increase in workload, maintaining extracurriculars, and trying to find time for myself, it was difficult to organize my time. I chose to use a dot-jot journal because I can customize it in a way that allows me to visualize my weekly schedule. Personally, I am easily overwhelmed by pages with extravagant designs and I didn’t want that to compromise the purpose of my planner… which is to PLAN! On the left side, I include the monthly calendar, highlighting the week the page pertains to. Below that, the title, “Important Dates,” lists all the due dates of any assignments under that week.

  • Connecting with other students online

Meeting people online wouldn’t be my first choice as I preferred to connect with other students in person. Despite this, I was able to join discussion boards, join the Faculty of Health’s discord channel, and talk with other students in my program through faculty meetings. The discussion boards from my courses or the health faculty were good opportunities for me to get an idea of what my fellow peers are like. We introduced ourselves, talked about our hobbies, interests, and the course load. The Discord channel for the Health faculty came to me as a surprise since I didn’t think they’d make an entire channel for it. We could join study calls, talk to fellow students in similar programs, and get announcements on live events to win prizes. During faculty meeting calls, I learned more about the structure of the faculty, extracurriculars to join, and information about our programs. As a result, I’ve met so many amazing people and connected with them on other platforms as well (─‿‿─).

  • Taking advantage of the Health faculty’s resources

There are so many academic and support resources that can be found on the Faculty of Health site. For instance, there are academic advisors whose role is to aid our undergraduate experience. Any questions relating to health programs, their requirements, the co-op process, and potential career interests can be asked. Another resource like mental health and wellness support can be found, with an email provided if you wish to reach out. Social culture is a big thing, even online with the help of student associations. Catered to each health program within the faculty, many social events take place where you learn about your program and can win prizes from it!

  • Finding new note taking methods

Since high school, my go-to method of note-taking was writing everything out. I’m sure we’ve all been told it’s the best way of retaining newly taught material and I stand by this opinion. Unfortunately in university, the course material eventually catches up to you every week. It became unrealistic for me to write out my notes for each class, for each lecture. Since I made the transition from paper to digital note-taking, it became so much easier to organize my notes and ensure they are completed by the end of the week of it being taught. I use Microsoft OneNote to store all my course notes. My favorite function is the option to organize each unit in a course notebook and label them under subsections. This saves me so much time from having to physically search through my notebooks or risk losing them when misplaced.

Overall, staying optimistic throughout my first year was crucial in my development as a student. I found what worked for me and found other ways of meeting people despite it!


It might feel like a lot after reading but I hope you were able to take away something from this article. I'm glad to be able to share my tips and tricks that have helped me during my entire first-year online. Hopefully, it can help someone who’s currently going through the same thing!

Health Sciences @ University of Waterloo

Campus Ambassador @ LEAP Canada


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