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Recreation and Business at University of Waterloo

Angela (Year 4)

What did you wish you knew before going to your university? What made you choose this institution over all others? What are advantages and disadvantages of your institution or campus? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your university. 

I was set on a goal to attend UW because I had already received so much guidance and help from students at the institution that made me feel supported, without even attending university yet. Wanting a post-secondary experience where I live away from my home and community environment, UW was an ideal institution, as it was far enough for me to build and grow on my independence, find my own community of friends and peers, and at the same time, was not that far of a distance to go back home some weekends to be there for my family. As an individual and student who struggled with my wellness surrounding mental health, I wish that I had learned that resources such as counselling services and asking my professors for advice on personal matters, was easier and not intimidating as I had envisioned. Due to the sequencing of the coop program, an advantage of UW is that many full-time school course are offered 3 times a year (Fall, Winter, Spring), and for the most part, the university or the program advisors are very communicative on when a course will, or will not be offered a head of time.

What did you wish you knew before choosing your specific program? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your program?  List any advice for incoming first-year students about your program of study.

Originally, I had a hard time choosing over the Public Health program or the Recreation and Business program. I chose to enter UW in the PH program. Although I did learn from the first year and PH is a prominent and important topic globally, I knew after first year that it was not what I envisioned myself to be doing and to build a career around. However, I was too "chicken" to switch out after first year, and sticking through the program in second year, I found myself more miserable and studying for the sake of achieving good marks and grade outcomes. --> I should have switched out into my current program after first year. Because later, rather than sooner - I did end up switching into Recreation and Business, in which my mental, social, physical, and learning health was much better because I am passionate in the field, and can instantly apply the learnings to ideas, as well as genuinely being able to be myself and building bonds and connections with my professors, classmates, and peers. 

What was your favourite university experience? 

JOINING A SCHOOL CLUB (student-ran global non-profit organization), and A SCHOOL ATHLETIC TEAM (UW Dragon Boat Team). As a Residence Advisor to first-year students, and in general - my #1 suggestion is to join something, anything (eg: club, team, religious group, society, etc) right away in your first term of post-secondary. While you may think you cannot juggle it yet, and "push it off until you have adjusted into post-secondary," still join! Because there are people there that may be in the same shoes as you, so y'all can go through the journey along... as well as upper year students who are there to support and provide guidance to you!

What was your least favourite university experience?

Needless to say, I always look back and "should have" joined a club or team in my first term of post-secondary. On my top of my mind, I do not have an experience that jumps to me as "the worst uni experience." Don't get me wrong - I've had MANY, countless, bad experiences. But in light of these not-so-ideal experiences, I  had learned lessons, shed some tears, found new resources and support - that turned into memories and lessons that I am glad to re-tell today. 

One of the worst things I experienced was that I was so ill (strep throat and super high fever); however, for the first week I thought I could sleep it off and didn't go to the doctor or tell my parents because "I thought I could deal with it myself." It later became so bad that I had to take almost a month off of school, ended up not being able to walk, talk, or eat for 2 weeks, and returned back to school with many make-up midterms. So, when in doubt - always reach out to your support system to let them know what is going on. Better to be safe than sorry!

What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?

The hardest part about my program is finding the internship positions that I want because in my field - there exists to be a lot of candidates seeking to work (or even volunteer) for competitive non-profit positions. Reaching out to support systems THAT EXIST TO BE HERE TO HELP YOU is an essential step to help and prepare yourself up to success. This includes talking with professors outside of lecture hours (this is where they are able to talk more in detail on information they know, whether it be advice, connections, helping you with resumes, references, interview, etc), and joining your program/facility club or society.

While memorization is not my greatest strength, I find that studying not-at-home helps me to focus more. Throughout undergrad, I spent a lot of my days (and nights) studying my facility lounge. Side benefits from this was meeting individuals in that study space (whether it be small bonds such as giving each other a motivation smile, or looking after each other's belongings when I needed to walk across campus to grab food/tea, or big things such as meeting an upper year who actually look that course before and they giving me advice on how to approach the test, assignment, or professors!)

Group assignments do come up a lot, and most of the time, we dread them. I may not have seen it back then, but this is the professor's way of setting you up and helping you build skills for the workforce world - some members may not be cooperative, and after approaching professors and teaching assistants with the issues, SOME may not provide you with responses that you expect. But doesn't mean you drop and half-ass the project, because at the end of that day ... it does impact your academic progress. So in light of this, you just got to build stronger management skills (worse case - do their part), communication skills (with the rest of the group that actually gets shit done), and resilience. 

If you were able to take electives, what was your favourite elective? If you were not able to take electives, what was your favourite course and why?

For my event management minor - my favourite course is REC 372 (Venue Management). What made the course my favourite is not just about the course topic... but moreso the PROFESSOR. I took this course entirely online during the pandemic, and felt SO supported from my professor - approachable, understanding, clear, concise, and he taught the content that I am able to immediately think about and apply it into the reality workforce. In fact, he is so approachable, that I felt like he was more available, and I was more comfortable to chat with him, than most of my professors that I had in person!

Additional Comments

Always seek for resources and take advantage of them - afterall, these resources exist FOR YOU (and you paid for them). 

You are not alone - resources like counselling services, campus clubs, residence dons exists because in the past, there are individuals who needed these services, so that's why these services are built in place -- in order to better support the students in the present, to help students to become their better selves. 

Get to know your Residence Life Don - they have loads of enrich knowledge, guidance, and experiences (that's why they are chosen through a competitive process). Besides my own Residence Life Don in first year, I was also able to bond with another Don from another area - although I was not part of her group, she welcomed me with open arms and was so supportive and helping to me -- even after my first year. In my third year of university, I took a trip to Vancouver where she was working, and ended up catching up and spending time with her. I never would have thought back then as "another first year student in a large group," but when you make the small steps (maybe out of your comfort zone) to chat and spend time with another person - it goes a long way. Just like this post, if you have any questions - do not ever hesitate to reach out to me! Even if you don't have a specific questions #JudgementFreeZone - I am happy to chat with you!

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