Move-in Week photo
Move-in Week at the U of O. Image: Bardia Boomer/Fulcrum.
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Academics, socials and school spirit

The fall 2022 semester has brought thousands of new students to the University of Ottawa campus for a year that promises to bring exciting changes and new challenges. First-year students at the U of O can either learn more about their campus and programs through personal trial and error, or they can take the advice of some seasoned upper-years. 

The Fulcrum reached out to fourth-year students and asked what they wish they had known back in their first year.

Chai Lenaduwa, the VP academic for public administration for the International, Political and Policy Studies Students Association (AÉÉIPPSSA), thinks “the best thing to do [as a first year] is keep an open mind.”

“You’re gonna meet so many different people,” said the fourth-year public administration and political science student. “You’re in such a big pond this year and anyone can be your best friend, and you can learn so much by just being a bit more open to new groups of people you hang out with.”

Fourth-year communications and feminist and gender studies student Lindsay MacKenzie works as a mentor with the University of Ottawa’s Regional Mentoring Centre. 

A self-proclaimed introvert, MacKenzie shared what she would have done differently in her first year. “I found [university] a little intimidating and definitely isolated myself. Now I wish I had put myself out there more — it would have been beneficial.”

Combining the first-hand experience of fourth-years with the gift of hindsight, the Fulcrum has compiled a list of 10 things to try in your first year at the U of O. 

  1. Introduce yourself to people

MacKenzie put it best by pointing out that first-year students are “all in the same boat.” The drastic changes of university can make students feel alone and isolated, even in a lecture hall of 300. MacKenzie shared, “I always recommend students turn to someone in their class and introduce themselves, because everyone’s hoping that someone’s gonna talk to them. Even if it’s not a long term friendship and you just sit beside each other in class, it never hurts.” 

  1. Join a club (or five!) at the clubs fair

Campus Vibes uOttawa (CVUO) hosts clubs fairs for on-campus groups to speak to students about the different projects and opportunities their club might offer. Students can also learn what the average club meeting entails and ask any questions they might have for a specific group. Embrace the opportunity to speak to club executives who are passionate about the work their group is doing. If you can’t make it to the clubs fair, you can also look through CVUO’s clubs list, which displays the more than 360 registered clubs on campus.

  1. Visit a museum

Lenaduwa recommends you “try to hit up all the museums and art galleries in the city.” Ottawa is home to seven of Canada’s nine national museums. The National Gallery of Canada, Canadian War Museum and Canadian Museum of History all offer free admission on Thursday evenings. “It’s always fun to grab a few friends and just go,” remarked Lenaduwa.

  1. Evaluate your profs

Towards the end of each term, students are prompted to complete their course evaluations through their U of O email. This is the time for students to give feedback on both their courses and professors. Your evaluation is completely anonymous, and won’t be seen by any of your fellow students.

  1. Find a go-to spot for coffee

Unfortunately, the jokes of sleep deprivation in university are based on reality, so you’ll want to find a coffee (or highly caffeinated beverage) to grab before late night studying or early morning lectures. Lenaduwa shared one of her recent off-campus go-to’s. “Planet Coffee in Byward Market [is] really cute, because you can see a courtyard from the window. Go there when it’s warm and you can have a little Parisian moment.” 

  1. Skate – Rideau Canal, Rink of Dreams, and Minto

Usually opened in January, the Rideau Canal is the world’s largest skating rink. If you are hoping to learn to skate this winter, skates can be rented onsite. For those interested in using a rink near campus, the rink of dreams at Ottawa City Hall has lights and smooth ice. For a rink even closer to campus, you can book time to skate at Minto Recreation Complex through the gym registration page

7. Get involved with a student group

Lenaduwa and MacKenzie both said they began to feel like a part of the U of O community when they got more involved with student-run groups. MacKenzie shared how her work as a mentor made her feel that she “truly belonged to the community and had a role in it, as opposed to [being] a passive participant.” You can get involved as a club executive, or run for a position on your student association’s executive team.

  1. Participate in Panda Game festivities 

Scheduled this year for Oct. 1, the Panda Game is the closest thing to a homecoming weekend for both University of Ottawa and Carleton students. The rival football teams face off to win the decades-old Pedro the Panda trophy.

  1. Take part in your faculty events 

When asked what made her feel a part of the U of O community, Lenaduwa said, “Model Parliament, which probably sounds a bit geeky to people who aren’t in [political science.] It introduced me to a lot of people in my year.” Other faculties also put on events throughout the year, including weekend trips, visits to Saunders Farm, and much more. 

  1. Vote in student union elections

Held each Winter semester, the UOSU general elections puts candidates for UOSU executive positions, UOSU Board of Directors (BOD), UOSU Board of Governors (BOG) and the University Senate on the ballot. Have your say, and be sure to keep up with the work of your student representatives.

Editor’s Note: This article was edited on Sep. 10, 2022 to correct phrasing under the ‘Participate in Panda Game festivities‘ section. Any questions regarding the correction can be directed to editor@thefulcrum.ca


  • Bridget Coady was the Fulcrum's news editor from spring to fall of 2021. Before that, she was the Fulcrum's staff photographer.