Tiffany (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 chose Western because I knew I wanted to maintain my social life and make friends, and Western is pretty notorious for it's crazy O-Week and other social gatherings. I've made so many good friends during my time here, and though my program (Music) can be pretty competitive, we all support each other. Obviously, Western has a long history of being a party school, but there are definitely people here that don't like to party or go out too much, so don't feel pressured to go out if you don't want to. There are lots of resources and activities on campus (we literally have a movie theatre and tickets are super cheap on Tuesdays), so use everything that is included in your tuition fees!
Western has so many resources available if you're struggling with your academics or mental health —especially for those of you living in residence — there's residence counselling so you don't have to go too far and academic counsellors for every program so that you can get extensions on assignments if your health is holding you back from completing your work. Everyone learns at their own pace, so don't be afraid to ask a professor or teaching assistant for help either.
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.
Being in music, I wish I was more prepared when I came to university - having practiced more and having prepared more pieces. Obviously every program is different, so for science or business programs you might not need to do any prep beforehand. I definitely made the mistake of buying textbooks at full price and not using the school's secondhand store. If your course uses textbooks that aren't updated every year, try to buy secondhand, e-Books, or find pdfs for free online.
Something that I really enjoy about being at Western for music are the practice rooms that are open 24/7. I'm definitely a night owl, so being able to practice at night has really benefited me because that's when I'm most motivated. Music does have a ton of work contrary to popular belief though - our lessons and ensemble practice as well as our own personal practice don't show up on our schedules so we're usually way busier than anyone thinks. Even for those of you in music, make sure you're not overworking yourself by locking yourself in a practice room for 4 hours straight. Keeping a journal is how I managed my time - I scheduled all my classes, appointments, meetings, and practice time. It's tedious for the first few weeks, but a journal was something that really helped me. Use the little time that you have before the first day of classes to figure out how to schedule your life so that you don't overwhelm yourself like I did!
What was your favourite university experience?
O-Week (Orientation Week) was definitely where most of my memories were made. Western is a bit cult-like, but the Sophs (upper-year mentors) really made me feel at home when I moved into residence. All schools have tons of activities planned for orientation week, so definitely go to as many as possible because this is where you can make friends, get advice for your upcoming year, and get free merchandise too! We had 3 concerts during my O-Week and they were so much fun, so definitely step outside of your comfort zone and go to an event that you normally wouldn't go to.
What was your least favourite university experience?
Midterms and finals were bad, especially because they were during the winter, so I was sick and really struggled to get my work in and wake up for 9am exams. Take care of yourself and if you're ever going to start taking multivitamins, this would be the time to do that.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
Music is a little different from all the other programs that Western offers - our faculty is so small, the first-year MedSci students almost doubled our entire faculty population. Everyone knows everyone, so asking people for help isn't difficult. The first-year music history courses are unconventional and I definitely struggled with them the first and second semester. Office hours that profs and TAs hold are so helpful so definitely make note of their locations and hours because you'll need them at some point in the semester.
The library was one of my favourite places to study because I felt like if I wasn't studying then someone would judge me for that, but find a place on campus or off-campus that you get the most work done and use it as often as you can when studying for an exam or cranking out an essay. Learn whether or not you work well in groups because I've gotten my best studying done in groups and by myself. Also, when you're working in groups, hold people (and yourself) accountable for doing your part in the project/lab. Don't be a pushover and do all the work (or let one person do all of the work), you're paying (or your parents are paying) for your education, don't waste that money by slacking off.
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 really liked Music 1639 and 1641. They were definitely my bird courses and I got really good marks in both those courses. They're called General Integrated Musicianship courses because they help develop dictation, sight-reading, and ear-training, something I was already pretty good at before entering university. Obviously this'll be different for everyone, but if there's a certain thing you know you're good at, take that course so that you're able to have a breather sometime during a tough first-year. Don't be like me and take another essay course (History 1601, East-Asian History, really interesting but it was tough) when you don't need to and when you're really bad at essay writing. Make sure you look at breadth requirements because like the Group 1 - 3 courses in highschool, these are courses under a certain list that you have to take in order to graduate.
Take advantage of every single thing you pay for with tuition fees - health services, the recreation centre, the bus pass. Also, if you're living in residence, do not under any circumstances let your bare feet touch the floor. Don't trust the floors. You don't need as much stuff as you think when you live in residence, hopefully you're able to go home every now and then so you can bring stuff back home and to school. Take advantage of every free thing you can get in the dining halls because meal plan overhead is CRAZY (jars for free salsa, all the butter you want, etc.). Laundry bag >>> laundry hamper, save some space and make it easier when you're doing laundry, especially if your room is a trek to the laundry room. Have fun and stay safe this year, don't do anything that you aren't comfortable doing (but sometimes you do have to say YOLO and just do the dumb thing).