Joy (Year 2)
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.
Before going to university, I wish I had built up stronger time management skills and studying methods. I found that the pace that courses ran at during first year was generally faster than what I was used to in high school with the addition of a heavier workload. As a full course load is usually five to six courses, it may be difficult to balance and prioritize assignment deadlines while also squeezing in time to study for assessments. I also had difficulty during semester one with my studying methods as I found that how I previously studied did not work as well for me with the increase in quantity of information learned in first year courses. Finding effective study methods that work for you is crucial and can assist you in balancing the time you spend studying/working on assignments. In terms of the advantages and disadvantages of this institution, although the course load tends to be on the heavier side, there is still room for electives where you have the option of taking lighter courses to balance out your schedule or engage in other interests you may have. There are also a variety of clubs and activities that actively run on campus, so there is always a way to get involved and meet new people. The main reason why I chose the University of Waterloo over other institutions that I applied for was because of the amazing co-op program offered at Waterloo. The co-op program gives you the opportunity to explore and familiarize yourself with the process of entering the workforce during your undergraduate studies. This gives you head start to obtaining hands on experience in a field that you may be interested in entering after you complete your schooling, and allows you to network and connect with individuals who you may continue to collaborate with even after the end of a co-op term. As previously mentioned, there are so many ways to get involved on campus and wonderful, dedicated individuals (student ambassadors, professors, advisors etc.) to help you integrate yourself into whatever may seem unfamiliar during your first year. These all played an overall role in my decision to come to Waterloo.
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.
Before choosing my program, I wish I had prepared myself more for written assignments. Although the sciences such as chemistry and biology make up a good portion of the first year courses you take in Health Studies, there are also a few courses that require research and critical thinking methods to write up reports. These assignments not only challenge you to familiarize yourself with scholarly writing which you may have not been exposed to in high school, but also tests your ability to extract necessary information from these articles. I found this difficult at the beginning as these articles are more difficult to understand and have a different intended audience than popular sources. However, over the course of the year, extracting information for written assignments really enhances your critical thinking skills and application/approach to solve given problems. A disadvantage of this program would be that you are not given as many electives early on in your undergraduate career, so you may have to choose between additional courses you want to complete as an elective. However, as you move up through the years, there is much more free elective space so this makes up for the lack of in earlier years. The Health Studies program is a good undergraduate program for those who want to pursue a career in the field of health care as it provides a balance of sciences and social sciences, allowing you to gain a more holistic view on health and the many factors that affect it. This program has many options for specializations such as health research, informatics and the pre-clinical specialization. This provides a broader range of career paths for those entering this program and provides equal and adequate preparation for each through mandatory courses offered.
What was your favourite university experience?
Overall, my best university experience in first year was orientation week and the two weeks following. The faculty planning and additional activities allowed me to meet and interact with new people who I continued on to be friends with throughout first year. The orientation leaders created an environment for incoming first years to feel welcome and involved and integrate themselves into their new faculty. The first two weeks of classes allowed me to meet other wonderful individuals from classmates to professors and was a really great way to start off and lead into the rest of the school year.
What was your least favourite university experience?
My worst university experience had to be when the university closed down towards the end of second semester due to COVID-19. It was difficult to finish off the year on campus early and say goodbye to friends, professors and staff. The month of online classes that followed up until exams also challenged my time management and work ethic while at home. However the year leading up to the early return home was very memorable and the good experiences far outweigh the bad ones.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
The hardest part about my program during first year was finding a balance between studying for my science courses, while completing research for written assignments. It was definitely difficult to manage at the beginning as I found myself left with little time to study after completing written assignments. However, as the year progressed, I began to create a timetable and designate certain days to certain courses based on deadlines, whether it be for studying or completing assignments. On designated days, I would only work on the courses I had assigned to that day so I could focus on those rather than juggling everything at the same time. This definitely improved my ability to keep up with notes, readings and additional assignments and boosted my work ethic during second semester. It is important to find a method that works for you as how you learn is extremely important in university.
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?
My favourite course during first year had to be HLTH 101 (course code). This course was the first part in "Introduction to Health'' and went over topics that covered social, biological and other aspects of an individual's health, and how factors external to them could cause ill health even in the absence of biomedical causes. This course provides relevant information in a variety of areas and covers topics that you will see in other courses during first year. From how the definitions of health have evolved overtime, to infection and disease, this course covers it all and allows you to learn about all aspects of health, setting the big picture for other courses you will take throughout the first year.
Overall, Health Studies at the University of Waterloo is an amazing program with dedicated and helpful students, professors and TA's. The variety of courses offered prepares individuals who may want to pursue a career in health care. The university itself also provides many opportunities to get involved and meet new people, and there are many support lines and individuals to reach out to to talk about academics, mental health and other opportunities. Feel free to email me if you are looking into Health Studies or have any other specific questions about courses or student life :)!