East Asian Studies and History at University of Western Ontario
Mae (Year 4)
What did you wish you knew before going to your university? What made you choose this institution over all others? What are advantages and disadvantages of your institution or campus? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your university.
Being from Toronto I chose Western University, especially over U of T because 1) I wanted to move away and be independent, which has taught me life skills I wouldn't have gotten otherwise and 2) I want to become a teacher and Western University is one of the few with a teachers college. Before going to University, it would have been good to know and understand that course choices are not everything. There are many paths to get to where you want to go and where you want to go will even change. Of course it's important to take courses and do well in them, but they are not everything. You can always change programs and get course requirements in other ways and it's never too late to do so. I think it is important to work hard but don't put so much stress on yourself believing that you have to be perfect now because things can and will change and you can always go back if you've missed something.
What did you wish you knew before choosing your specific program? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your program? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your program of study.
I wish I had looked into the program a bit more such as what courses does it require and what skills will it give me in the future. When talking to the university, they will try to make the university and program of interest sound as appealing as possible, but remember to be realistic and look for the faults in it as well in order to make a sound decision. My program teaches language and communication skills through differing cultures and provides an understanding of these different cultures. This allows me to better communicate and understand others, which is essential in a teaching profession, but at the same time does not sharpen other skills such as mathematics. Depending on what you want to do in the future, pick a program that will give you not only the knowledge for that profession but also the skills needed.
What was your favourite university experience?
Clubs have been my best experience at university as it is where I have met most of my friends, but has also shaped a major part of my life. Besides going out and having fun, being a part of a group brings a sense of belonging and gives you the opportunity to show who you are. It gave me the chance to step up and become an exec member and also brought me to the decision to study abroad for my third year.
What was your least favourite university experience?
Dealing with administration. There will always be issues whether it's course enrollment, academic advising, career planning etc. Oftentimes for me, my issues were passed to many different people and never got solved, and so it is very on you to make sure messages get across and things get done. Administration is there to help you but are very frustrating to deal with sometimes and makes very simple requests extremely difficult to do.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
My program requires many many essays and written assignments. Unlike other programs where there are a lot of tests requiring memorization and a deep understanding, my program requires you to memorize, have a deep understanding, and also objectively argue a possibly extremely subjective topic. In this case, with multiple assignments and essays, it is extremely important to manage your time well and to not leave things to the last minute because it will be impossible to do and get a good grade.
If you were able to take electives, what was your favourite elective? If you were not able to take electives, what was your favourite course and why?
I love my Japanese language course because it was very interactive and fun, although also very difficult. I had great professors and the class was taught to help people learn in different ways. I also loved my history of modern China class because of my professor. He posted readings each week giving me the freedom to do them plus the quiz associated on my own time (which works well for me but perhaps not for everyone)
University is very different from high school and many students think that it will be much harder and that you need to prepare yourself now getting the right courses and grades to enrol but the truth is, that may not be the case. Depending on your program it will be easier or harder than high school. My workload is the same or less than high school but the grading is harder so I have to present better quality work. My course load is standard whereas other programs may be full of courses and tutorials. It all depends and changed based on what you want to go. For high school students, I would keep my options open by taking a variety of courses and do your best. Don't worry too much about your average (for example, don't feel you need to have a 98 average for a engineering program or you can't enter it) because you can always change programs. You can enroll in a university and change into the program you want or out of the program as well.
University is different for everyone and extremely different from high school as it is more independent. But at the same time there is a lot of freedom that can come with university and I think it's where you really find yourself. There are so many options, clubs, facilities, and programs to choose from and utilize so you should make the most of it.