Photo: Marta Kierkus
Don’t be an introvert
Most people will tell you that the biggest mistake they made in freshman year involves something that they did. However, my most shameful regret revolves around reluctance to do anything at all.
During my first year, I was about as timid as a groundhog in February, never rising to do anything that was outside my comfort zone. I didn’t participate in intramural sports, faculty sanctioned mixers, or clubs of any sort.
My advice: don’t do that. Trying new things and meeting interesting people is really what university’s all about.
Sure, you might encounter some high-to-moderate levels of awkwardness, but who cares? Studies show that 94.3 per cent of socially uncomfortable situations turn into funny anecdotes approximately ten years down the line.
Not all textbooks are created equal
The biggest mistake I made during first year was thinking that buying all of my course textbooks was key to academic success.
Professors often emphasize the notion that a brand new textbook is a student’s best lifeline. While physical copies of textbooks can save your skin in some courses, a lot of your readings can be found online or at the library.
Even in the cases where a textbook is absolutely required you still shouldn’t have to shell out an arm and a leg for a brand new, updated textbook. Buy it used or ask ask your prof if you can opt for an older edition.
Avoid waiting in that monstrous line at the campus bookstore, Agora, or wherever else your course readings are sold. You can save yourself a whole lot of time and—more importantly— money by ignoring the proscribed necessity of buying new textbooks.
Sometimes the best things in life are free
My biggest first-year mistake was not taking advantage of all the free food on campus.
I ate terribly during my first year, mostly because I found buying and cooking food to be time-consuming and stressful.
Sometime later I found out that the University of Ottawa campus offers so many different events where you can get a snack or a meal free of charge, whether it’s a pizza lunch with the dean of your faculty, breakfast served by the food bank, or events run by your community advisor in residence or your student association.
Those pesky student fees actually pay for these services, so you might as well get your money’s worth, and load up your plate.
Nobody likes a rookie
Binge drinking aftermaths aside, one big mistake that I made in first year was wearing my residence lanyard around everywhere I went. If people didn’t know that I was a wet-behind-the-ears first year before, they definitely knew once they saw it jangling ostentatiously around my neck
During 101 Week, I was about to get invited to a party in Sandy Hill by a couple of older guys, that is, until they spotted my lanyard. Needless to say, after that revelation, I never got the address for the big shindig.
There seems to be some sort of taboo in university when it comes to associating with first-years. Fear not, you’ll make friends all around campus before you know it, but maybe hold off on parading your lanyard around. It isn’t exactly a conversation starter.