The U of O is the best damn university in the country

When I applied to university in my Grade 12 year, the University of Ottawa didn’t make the cut. I anxiously sent off applications to the University of British Columbia, McGill, University of Toronto, Western, Queen’s—schools across the country I had deemed “the best” after my research, which was heavily based on the annual university rankings compiled by Maclean’s. The U of O’s low overall ranking kept me from seriously considering it as a place to do the first of what I hoped would be many degrees.

Despite my acceptances across the board, I chose to hang around high school and complete a one-year victory lap, and when I reapplied to schools the following year, I did only so to the U of O. I don’t remember why exactly the second time around I was so sure about the University of Ottawa, but I remember it having more to do with Ottawa than the university itself.

Ottawa was far enough away from home to guarantee I would never run into another person from high school again, but close enough that a trip home wouldn’t break the bank. The city was substantially larger and more youthful than the small, retirement home of a town I grew up in. And for a kid who was, at the time, dead set on moving to 24 Sussex Drive, the idea of being steps away from the majestic Parliament Buildings was enticing.

It took three full years on this campus before any sense of appreciation, school pride, and genuine love for the University of Ottawa kicked in, and it was born out my time at the Fulcrum—a place where I find myself constantly surrounded by stories about the amazing things U of O students and faculty accomplish in the realm of academia, arts, athletics, student activism, and the simple everyday bustle of student life.

Maclean’s may rank us next to last out of the country’s research-intensive schools, but after a few years of writing for and editing our news section, I’ve learned that the U of O is home to a number of research chairs and the recipient of millions of dollars in grants each year. We have hundreds of professors and graduate students conducting interesting studies in their fields, and we demonstrate a commitment to furthering the advancement of research by hosting national and international academic conferences.

The news section has also opened up my eyes to the intricate administrative framework that keeps our school functioning. We have an elected student federation that works with other elected students, paid employees, volunteers, student-run services, and the administration to make the U of O a better place for students through various projects, campaigns, and events.

Perusing the arts section tuned me in to the artistic achievements of U of O students past and present, on and off campus—because, contrary to popular belief, arts and culture do exist in Ottawa. Every other week our “Spotlight on” column highlights the city’s up-and-coming musical and visual artists, and the “Thryllabus” has saved me from boredom many a weekend with films, theatre productions, concerts, and art exhibitions to explore and appreciate.

Although I used to dread proofreading the sports section when I first started working here, I quickly learned that the U of O has a lot to brag about when it comes to our Gees. We have an amazing set of varsity teams, with almost all of them consistently placing in the top half of their leagues at the end of the regular seasons. We have 18 competitive clubs who routinely perform admirably in national competitions despite their limited access to funding. Both the coaches and athletes work incredibly hard to spark our seemingly sleeping school spirit.

Most valuable to fuelling my love of this school was running the opinions section last year. From the grass roots level to the kids who work on Hill, the U of O is a politically active campus booming with students passionate about their beliefs—and actively doing something to further them. Although we may not be a particularly close-knit campus always working toward a common goal, I’ve come to discover and appreciate the many close-knit communities at the U of O who work tirelessly to promote what they stand for.

And so five years later, I couldn’t be more proud of the degree I got last spring. The university I once begrudgingly accepted a spot in is now the university I hope to spend years at, teaching supply and demand to a bunch of snoozing first years. I consider the U of O as much of a home as I do Ottawa, and I can only hope you all—whether it’s your first day or fifth year, whether this was your first or last choice of school—go out and find your piece of home away from home here.

—Mercedes Mueller