Sherry (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.
I visited Western before applying to post-secondary programs, and upon speaking to department representatives and exploring campus, I loved how welcoming and friendly the university was. Western is strong in their academics, but also doesn’t have a reputation of fostering a cutthroat environment amongst its students, which definitely played a role in my decision. I was also interested in the upper-year module choices as some combinations were unique to Western and not offered at other institutions. On campus, there's also an extensive range of support services for students. I highly recommend first years to sign up for a LAMP mentor, as they can help guide you throughout the year by providing course resources, and advice to help avoid some of the most common pitfalls.
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.
Medical Sciences is a big program, especially in first year. At first, it can feel overwhelming as you settle into your first lecture with hundreds of other students. I think it is important to remember that everyone around you is probably feeling as anxious or as nervous as you are. The first few classes (+ O-Week ) serve as the perfect time to expand your social circle. Something as simple as introducing yourself to the person sitting next to you can go a long way, and chances are, they’re looking for a few new friends too. It’s more enjoyable and memorable to go through the ups and downs of first year with a couple of friends by your side.
Professors and TAs are always there to help. Even though it may seem a bit intimidating at first, it is worthwhile to get to know your professors and ask any questions about the content before class, after class, or during office hours. Professors generally have extended office hours closer to exam season, and it may be useful to take advantage of those hours if you need extra help.
There isn’t a lot of elective space in first year (only one elective), but that does change in upper years. It’s important to take an elective that you genuinely think that you would be interested in, as you would likely be more motivated to study for it throughout the year. Some upper- year modules in the program have many prerequisite courses, and I would recommend identifying a couple of modules that are of interest to you before you enter your second year. That way, you can plan which courses you need to take (and when) to fulfill the prerequisites and avoid the frustration of having to overload a semester or having to take courses in summer school.
What was your favourite university experience?
I don’t have a single moment that I would define as being the best, but overall, I enjoyed meeting new people throughout the year. It was nice to bond with people with similar interests and values through classes and extracurriculars.
What was your least favourite university experience?
As mentioned in other posts, my worst experiences would probably stem from the times I relied on the London transit system to get to class on a bad weather day. Sometimes the bus schedules are unreliable in that the buses come extremely late or don’t come at all. Though this is understandable in bad weather conditions, it is frustrating nonetheless. During the winter, many buses are packed before they reach campus, so your best bet is to try to get on an earlier bus to ensure you arrive to class on time.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
For me, the hardest part about my program was the workload. I found that the content was generally manageable, but there were a lot of assignments, readings, and other tasks due at around the same time which made it overwhelming. I found that making to-do lists every day helped me stay accountable and visualize how much I was getting done every day, which encouraged me to change my strategies from time to time as needed. I also found it helpful to set a specific amount of time for each course when studying. This helped me ensure that I was spending an adequate amount of time on each course, and not neglecting certain courses until the last minute. Sometimes, I tend to lose sight of the task at hand as I am easily distracted. Studying with a friend or two helped me stay on task as they held me accountable for how I was using my time.
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 would probably be BIO1002. I remember always looking forward to attending this class as the professors were engaging in their teaching style. The professors were also very approachable and genuinely wanted the students to do well in the course. Compared to BIO1001, I personally enjoyed the topics covered in BIO1002 more as it covered interesting topics like stem cells, and epigenetics, as opposed to evolution topics in 1001.
Don’t be afraid to take risks and try to take advantage of opportunities! Your university experience is what you make of it, so try to join extracurriculars you are passionate about while you have the chance. Even if you didn’t get to join as many groups as you wanted to in your first year, it is never too late to take that next step and participate as you enter your upper years!