Approximately 365 days ago, Zaeem Amjad and Ruiying Jia were about to begin their journey at UofT Engineering. While their year may have had its ups and downs, there were a lot of valuable lessons learned. Now, as they prepare themselves for their second year, they take a moment to share their take on some of the do’s and don’ts of SkuleTM.
ZAEEEM: Everyone is well-aware of the challenges that come with studying at a university as a local or international student. Up until this point, I am pretty sure your family and friends have mentally prepared you for the worst and scared you enough. Here are some not-so-cliché advices to guide you to completing first year without regrets.
1. Make UofT a way of life
Congratulations on making it into UofT engineering to begin with! Now that you are here, a good place to start is understanding the role university will play in the upcoming four (or more) years of your life. Unlike high school, university is more
time-consuming than a fulltime job. Get into the mindset that you are here to build experiences and friendships that you will cherish for a long time to come. This is why most upper year students always tell you to “join clubs that interest you”. By joining clubs, not only are you going to have extracurriculars to write on your résumé but you will make lasting friendships and have some crazy and
memorable experiences along the way.
2. Don’t worry about marks more than you have to
Building on the previous advice, you are here to experience a way of life. This includes the stress that comes with exams, assignments and the notorious marks. But, that does not mean you have to stress over them day and night. Give priority to your studies over most other things but do not forget that there are other reasons for attending university as well.
3. Start discovering your identity
Now that you are about to start a new chapter of your life, one of the challenges you will face is answering the question of “who you are”. In the upcoming years, your friends and surroundings will define and solidify your identity. At this point, you can become anyone or anything you want to be. Make the most out of your time and try to get involved in meaningful hobbies outside of university to define who you want to be known as.
4. Try new things!
This might sound cliché but it really is not. As you experience new things in your first year of university, do not be scared to step out of your comfort zone and experiment
with something different, as long as it conforms with your personal beliefs. It could be something as weird as changing your dressing style, to something very important like not procrastinating for tests like you did in high school. After all, we are students, and we learn best from our mistakes.
RUIYING: First and foremost, I would like to congratulate you on your acceptance to the University of Toronto Engineering! This is a great milestone in your life and the start of your engineering career. Hopefully, now that I have managed to survive first year engineering, ‘survived’ being the key word, I can give you some well informed tips based on my own experience.
1. How do I approach my professors?
This answer, essentially, boils down to four words. Do not be afraid. From my own experience, every professor that I have ever encountered has been pretty consistent across the board. There are some professors that stand out more than others, but the university does a pretty good
job in appointing instructors to courses that they actually like to teach or is within their realm of research. The best way to approach your professors is during their office hours or right after their lecture. Within their own busy schedule, they teach multiple lectures a day, and will not know who you are if you do not make yourself known in the first place. This does not mean that professors see you as ‘just a number’. On the contrary, they are quite good at recognizing who is in their class. However, making the extra effort will help you stand out. Be curious about their lecture or work, and engage in their class. That way, if you approach them later during the semester, whether it be for help or for a future research position, it will not be such a daunting task.
2. Go to all of your classes
It’s the beginning of the year and you are probably in the mindset where you will attend all your lectures and tutorials and maintain a full Tophat participation score in your Engineering Strategies and Practices course. But, as the months pass by, you wake up in your bed at home or on residence and you realize that it is already 9:13 am and you already have a participation score of 38%. You may think to yourself “Hey, maybe it’s not such a big deal if I sleep in again one more time”. Trust me when I say that every percent matters, and that it hurts a lot more in knowing that a 69% could have been a solid 70%, if you had just had the willpower to go to one or two more classes. However, this is not to promote just going to class because of the extra marks, but also to go because you are here to learn and do well in school. When you miss class, you miss the chance to understand important material clearly, and with the professor in reach. As mentioned in a research paper on college attendance written by Marcus Credé (et al.), there is a strong correlation between how often you attend your lectures and your GPA. It is not a secret that engineering has a notoriously high tuition, so please, just attend your lectures.
3. I am a commuter, what is the best time to commute to school or home, and where can I rest between breaks?
In the morning, there really is not a best time to commute to school, but going home, based on my personal experience, I would recommend leaving before 4pm or after 7pm. For the breaks in between classes, your own discipline’s common room would be the best place to start. However, if you really like to play Smash Bros., there is always somebody in the Sandford Fleming ECE common room who you can join. It might also be helpful to note that they have the cheapest sodas on campus. If you are more of an intellect and want to spend your time studying, some great quiet study places are Gerstein, Robarts or the second floor of Wallberg. General rule of thumb is that the higher up a campus building you go, the quieter it is. If you are the type of person who likes a bit of white noise, a good place to go is Bahen, your own common room, the Medical Sciences building or, my personal favourite, the small lecture rooms in the basement of Bahen. I like going there to quietly do my own work while a Masters or PhD lecture is going on.