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photo by Mico Mazza

Solutions to shitty situations faced by first years

Here at the Fulcrum, we believe in telling it like it is. The truth about being a university student? It’s hard. And being a first-year student? It’s really hard. Gone are the days of getting an A on the assignment you started the night before. Say goodbye to comfortable furniture, fridges stocked with edible food, and your hometown friends. Freshly laundered clothes will no longer appear like magic in your drawers and—horror of horrors—your new living space is the size of your old closet. Welcome to university!

Yes, you’ll undoubtedly run into difficulties during your first year of university life. But true to our ongoing goal to inform the students of the U of O, the Fulcrum has compiled a list of solutions to the problems many first years are bound to encounter. Cut this guide out, stick it on your mini fridge, and refer to it as needed.

What do I do if I hate my roommate? 

Living with a complete stranger is perhaps one of the most difficult adjustments a first year may face. Even roommates who spent all summer pouring over an IKEA catalogue together will eventually discover that achieving domestic bliss is not as simple as buying matching bedspreads.

As roommates, you must be mindful and respectful of each other’s needs and lifestyle. Be prepared to compromise, communicate like never before, and wisely pick your battles. Some of your roommate’s habits may irritate you, but if you can live with them (and they don’t jeopardize your health, safety, or school work), then let them go.

Sometimes two people simply cannot live together. If you and your roommate have talked (or fought) until you’re both blue in the face and you still can’t come to an agreement, it may be time to involve your community assistant (otherwise known as your CA) in the matter. Depending on room availability, he or she  can assist a room switch if necessary.

What do I do if I don’t speak French?

So, you’ve decided to go to the University of Ottawa, but you can barely remember if a cat is a chien or a chat. Never fear, anglophones! Yes, the U of O is proudly bilingual, but students are not required to be proficient in both languages. The ability to converse in French is certainly an asset; however, it is possible to work and live on campus without being bilingual. As a U of O student, you are entitled to conduct all of your school-related business in whichever language you are most comfortable using. Forget your fears and forge on in your tongue of choice.

 What do I do if I get sick?

The first time you get sick as a university student is always a real eye-opener. Unless your parents live in the Greater Ottawa Area, chances are you’re going to have to take your own temperature, feed yourself soup, and clean up your own vomit. If you need to see a doctor, call the U of O Health Services (100 Marie-Curie Pvt.) at (613) 564-3950 to schedule an appointment. If you cannot wait to see someone, you can go to the walk-in clinic, located at the same address. Be sure to bring a textbook with you, as you will likely be waiting for quite some time before you see a doctor. Also, don’t forget your health card!

What do I do if I feel homesick?

Homesickness is like shit. It happens, and it happens to everyone. Your best bet to beat the blues is to get out and get involved. You may want to hole yourself up in your dorm room, surrounded by pictures of loved ones, sobbing as you clutch your baby blanket, but you must resist this temptation. Do not become one of the many first-year students who make the grave mistake of returning to their hometowns every single weekend. You’re here to get an education and to have the time of your life, so actively seek out new friends instead of clinging to your past. Explore Ottawa, participate in your 101 Week activities, and acquaint yourself with campus. Don’t be ashamed to cry it out if you need to and no, the occasional call home to mom and dad does not make you a loser. For more tips on beating homesickness, check out our full-length article online at Thefulcrum.ca.

What do I do if I need help on campus?

Scattered across the U of O campus are steel poles, each adorned with a speaker, a blue light, and a large red button. A simple press of this button will transfer you to Protection Services, who will assist you when you’re in trouble. In  case of an emergency, you can always call the Ottawa Police. Make sure to update your cellphone directory by adding the numbers for Protection Services ((613) 562-5411) and the Ottawa Police Department ((613) 230-6211).

Another important phone number to have is Foot Patrol. Foot Patrol is a team of volunteers who will accompany students as they walk anywhere at night (within a 45-minute distance from campus). Foot Patrol sends its volunteers out in teams of two and the pairs are usually co-ed. You can reach Foot Patrol at (613) 562-5800, extension 4517 during the day and 7433 at night.

What do I do if I hate my program? 

The decision to switch your program is not one you should take lightly. If you are planning to leave one faculty for another, you will essentially be reapplying to the university; however, you should be in a program that you find challenging yet rewarding. If you know the next four years of your life will be miserable in your current field of study, then perhaps a change will be worth the effort.

Before you make any drastic decisions, be sure to make an appointment with an academic advisor (phone numbers vary by faculty, but can be found on the university’s website). He or she will help you look at the situation from all angles and come to the right conclusion.

What do I do if I feel stressed out?

Stress is a near-constant part of the lives of university students. Balancing the work of a full course load, a social life, a part-time job, and extracurricular activities leaves little time for relaxation. But no one can function properly or efficiently without taking the occasional break. Make use of your free gym membership and hit one of the U of O’s two gymnasiums (located at 125 University Pvt. and 801 King Edward Ave.). You can also try watching one episode of a mindless TV show—Jersey Shore, anyone?—or going for coffee with a friend.

Some university students find that stress causes their mental health to suffer. If you feel like you’re drowning, depressed, or seriously overwhelmed, it might be time to make an appointment with a counsellor at the Counselling and Coaching Service (100 Marie-Curie Pvt.) by calling (613)  562-5200. He or she can help you learn to prioritize your tasks, juggle your work load, and succeed under pressure.

-Kristyn Filip