To my First-year self…

Imagine, on your first day as a student at Wilfrid Laurier University, you had the opportunity to sit down with an older, wiser you. Sure, they may be sporting a seemingly ridiculous amount of purple. Sure, they may reek of beer and ambivalence. But what, Features Editor Colleen Connolly wants to know, might they say?

Graphic by Stephanie Truong.

The Self and the Social

Live in the moment. Believe it or not, this bumper-sticker cliché has a lot of substance to it. In the moment is the only place that you are alive and right now, if nothing else, is a time to live.

It’s okay to miss your friends and family, to miss the place you came from; the minimal responsibility and comforting familiarity that was abundant there (and you won’t be alone in this). Carry that with you, but do carry on.

Don’t hold too tightly to the past, or to the future for that matter. And by this I am referring to the expectations you may have created for the next few years of your life. Whether inspired by the words of an older sibling or the scenes of a coming of age film, they are part of another’s reality, not your own. Your university experience will be what you make of it, so make it yours.

“Please stop being afraid,” said fifth-year student Kirsti Karjala. “You’re nervous because you’re in a brand new setting. You don’t know anyone, you don’t know if you’re going to like the food, the classes, the profs, the bed. Just stop being scared, and harness all of that nervous energy and do something good.

Get involved in something — anything. It doesn’t matter if your friends are doing it or not; you will make new friends, I guarantee it. Don’t worry about not liking something. If you find out you don’t, you can move onto something better. More importantly, don’t let anyone drag you away from doing something you love.”

That’s the great thing about university; you are able to live according to your own agenda and completely be yourself, as soon as you figure out who that self is. And that’s all part of the experience. “Don’t let your ghosts from high school haunt you at university,” added Karjala, “you can recreate yourself here, and be whoever you want to be.”

Unlike high school, you no longer have to bear the weight of some stereotype or status that another has assigned to you. And stripped of that you may find yourself making friends with people you didn’t expect.

“This is a new environment where a shitty social hierarchy is not in place, so get to know people,” said fourth-year student Justin Smirlies. “Be inviting and don’t be afraid to knock on someone’s door and ask them if you want to get food or something… And actually live in your place,” he continued.

“If you have friends or a significant other at a different residence, don’t devote all your time there… you don’t want to come back halfway through the year and feel completely left out.”

Residence Life

There are many different styles of residence at Wilfrid Laurier University and they each come with their own pros and cons. They also each come with an incredibly uncomfortable leather thing posing as a mattress so grab a sheet of foam to throw on that bad boy the next time you’re home.

“Apartment style is unreal,” said third-year student Shawn Lucas. “You’ll appreciate it over dorm when you need to sprawl all your stuff out, as there is tons of room.”

“Dorm style was really fun because you could see almost anyone at literally any time of the day in like two seconds,” said fourth-year student Stephanie Truong.

Either way, prepare yourself for the cleaning responsibilities that come with living in a shared space. Whether this means having to scrub down bathroom and kitchen surfaces or simply keeping your half of the room tidy. However, you can’t control the cleanliness of everything in student living. “Bring flip flops for those showers. Yikes,” stressed Truong. You also can’t control who you’ll be placed with.

“Do not get bummed out when stuck in a same-gender residence,” fourth-year student Carly Basch said. “I was quick to judge when I found out that I would be in Conrad without realizing that I was going to find my future roommates and best friends who made my entire year at university worthwhile.

“We all want to meet people who are the opposite sex and there are tons of opportunities to do so.” However, co-ed living definitely has its perks.

“’Res-cest’ is going to happen, no matter what anyone says. Things will only get weird if you let them,” said fifth-year student Justin Fauteux. “Hey, if nothing else, it’s convenient.”

But be respectful. “If you have a roommate and you want to hook up with someone… try to see if they have a single room, or if your roommate is away. Maybe send a text,” added Basch. “Nothing is scarier than waking up in your pajamas, rolling over, and seeing your roommate spooning some random dude.”

Being clean and considerate of others are great ways to ensure that you and the people you’re living with get along, but sometimes you can’t avoid the odd conflict, reminded Smirlies.

“Some guy in my res within the first week thought it would be funny to shit in a pizza box and put it on his bathroom mate’s bed. Guy comes home happy to see pizza then saw a pile of shit. Apparently a fist fight broke out.”

Spending

No, it’s just not cool to joke around about free food when it comes to a university student.  With people clipping their nails with safety scissors and sporting grocery bags as shower caps, it’s no secret that we’re looking to save a buck. But there are some less drastic money saving tactics you might want to give a try.

“Duct tape. Most handy thing in life” said Lucas. “Fixes doors, chairs, walls, couches, anything you’ve broken and now have to pay for. Watch some Mythbusters, duct tape can hold together a car.”

“If you are in apartment style, share food costs with your roommates” advised fourth-year student Brandon Kuepfer. “Don’t have five separate sets of salt and pepper shakers.”

“Zehr’s also has a student discount every Tuesday so go shopping then” said Truong. But eating out will mostly be done by using your Onecard around campus

“Spending the money on your Onecard went one of two ways when I was in first year” said second-year Marissa Evans. “Either you ran out of money fast and had to put more on it or you had way too much left over at the end of the school year. I was the latter”

Finally, be money smart in regards to school as well. You may have to put out huge sums for the courses but this isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to your expensive textbooks.

“Do not buy your textbooks from the store. There are plenty of people selling what you need,” second-year student Michael Porfirio advised.

Drinking

It would be safe to say that much of student poverty can be blamed on drinking. Let’s face it, booze is an expensive necessity in first year. And it can be so worth it, but sometimes it can cost you more than what’s in your wallet.

“Alcohol violations are a very real thing, don’t be stupid and get kicked out of residence,” advised Truong.

“If you’re in King Street you can set up a table in the bathrooms between rooms to play beer pong or flip cup so if your Don comes by you can just shut the doors and all evidence is gone,” said fourth-year student Elizabeth DiCesare.

But you often have to be creative with your surfaces. “If you decide to use the closet door of your dorm room for beer pong, make sure you have a screwdriver handy,” said second-year student Shelby Blackley. Or you could always learn a few card games.

“Kings and Fuck the Dealer are two card drinking games that are good for just in-residence drinking nights,” said Smirlies. “Do century club at least once, but don’t piss in the sink like someone did on my floor.”

And you can always find a good time outside of Laurier’s borders without having to get kicked out of a bar because you forgot to tell your friends the name on your fake ID before they could drunkenly address you in a proclamation of unfaltering love and camaraderie in front of the bouncer.

“I managed to make friends with people living off-campus and boy, did that go a long way” said Basch. “All the partying and hanging out happened there and it was a lot easier. Dorm parties are fun, but limiting. Off-campus parties gave a nice insight to the potential areas I wanted to live in.”

Something that is not limited when it comes to booze in university, however, is time. “Drinking does not have to be reserved for Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays — that’s right, Thursday is a standard weekend night at university,” said Fauteux.

Also, who says drinking can only occur after dark? “St Patty’s and Homecoming are definitely some of the most outrageous days,” reminded Truong. “So prepare yourself for that debauchery.”

Couches on lawns, Dixie cups lining the gutters… the streets are just filled with intoxicated students on those particular holidays, so make an effort to get around town. Walking around drunk on a regular evening however, can be a little more dangerous.

“Go out, enjoy the Waterloo scene. It is a lot of fun, but be careful,” advised Lucas. “Don’t go places without people you know, Waterloo is like any other city, it has its sketch bags that’ll jump you.”

Other than that, just avoid the rookie drinking faux pas like asking boys to hold up your sequenced dress as you attempt a keg stand, or proceeding to go home with one of them and having to walk through the early class rush on campus with no pants to hide your shame.  Or, more specifically from Porfirio’s experience, “Don’t accept the Rapid Fire Tequila Shot Game when Kevin challenges you because you won’t win and you certainly won’t keep your clothes on while dancing to ‘Call Me Maybe’ at 1am.”

Studying

Yes, this year you’ll do a lot of growing and drinking and rummaging through sofa cushions in search of loose change, but you’ll also do a whole lot of studying. After all, university is a form of school. And unlike its predecessor, it actually matters academically. However, don’t stress. You’re at the precipice of the real world, but you haven’t yet taken the leap. Hang out for a while, you don’t have to have what you want to do with your life all figured out just yet. In fact, sway with the breeze up there. Be as little directed as you can when choosing courses this year and take a variety of things that suit your various interests. That way, when you do figure it out, you’ll have all the prerequisites you need to work your way up to that parachute.

And take them at least moderately seriously. Being called a nerd at this stage of the game is actually a compliment. It’s not cool to fail out of school when it’s this expensive and this awesome. It’s also not cool to develop back problems because all the weight of your bag is on one shoulder during that block long walk across campus. Two strap it buddy.

In order to do well at school though you have to spend some time in the books as well as the classroom.

“Studying really depends on how you study,” said Lucas. “If you like it quiet; library, underneath Peters building, closed classrooms, etc. If you don’t mind studying with people; 2-4 lounge, concourse, classrooms with friends, outside, terrace, dining hall, etc.”

Studying doesn’t have to take place primarily at school either. “There are a bunch of cute, quiet places to get studying done off campus,” said Basch. “Explore new coffee places such as Coffee Culture and The Huether Hotel. It’s a calm environment and offers a nice place to get work done.”

“Never study in your room. You’ll get nothing done” cautioned Smirlies. “Sometimes residences have study rooms, those aren’t bad. In the end it doesn’t matter where it is, just as long as you do study once in a while.”

Who says you have to do it all alone either? Academics can be a social outlet as well if you’re willing to reach out to people in your class for notes and group study sessions.

“Utilize the power of study groups more often. They help a lot for exams” said Porfirio. “Having others around to explain really helps and allows your brain to grasp topics better,” added Lucas. However, socializing in the classroom doesn’t always work out in your favour according to Profirio’s last piece of self advice. “Finally, don’t waste your time on that brunette in your Psych class. She has a boyfriend but she won’t tell you for another three weeks.”

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