WEEK 4: She’s Why I’m Here!

T-minus one week to orientation. I’m so excited! My mom’s been making jokes about me bouncing off the walls to anybody that’ll listen – my dad, and the rest of my family. Even though I try to act super casual about it whenever someone brings it up, I am pretty much incapable of denying it.

Going to university is a huge step for any student – there’s a lot of change that goes on whether or not you’re living in residence. Campus tours can really help to minimize the completely bewildered feeling that frosh can have, and they’re fun! You get an introduction to the campus environment, both in location and in community. I signed up for one a long time ago, even before I would be graduating high school, but that was the only one I’ve ever done. Should I have signed up again? Absolutely. I thought I already knew everything that I needed to know for my first year of university, but I’m swiftly beginning to realize that with only a week until orientation, I don’t. (Major tip: sign up for the tours!)

Now that going to Ryerson is a reality, I’ve realized that it took me like, five years to figure out how to navigate Kerr Hall on my own. Seriously! You can turn a corner and feel like you’re walking down the same hall you just left, which can be really confusing to, in your first year of high school, trying to find a lab that’s in a room that you don’t know the number of. It was my mom’s, and I’d been there a couple of times with her, but I guess I just hadn’t paid close enough attention. “Do you know how to get there?” she had asked, half an hour prior. “Yeah,” I said, vaguely remembering a hallway but not how many there were. It was a lie. Room numbers notwithstanding, there are ways to tell if you’re in Kerr Hall North, South, East, or West, but had I known that at the time? No.

Of course, now that I’m older, I have a better sense of direction so when she asks me if I know how to get to her lab, all I need to do is ask, “Which one?”

#flowerandgardenfestival, we’re coming for you. #epcot #wdw ???

A photo posted by ruby aguayo ? (@rubydotca) on

My mom’s Dr. Kathryn Woodcock, and she’s pretty cool. She’s an associate professor in the School of Occupational and Public Heath, but she specializes in human factors engineering. One of her favourite places to be is Orlando, which is basically the epicenter of the themed entertainment industry – theme parks, to be more specific. When I was a kid, we went to Orlando for my very first trip to Disney, and that’s when I decided that that was what I wanted to do. At the time, I wanted to be an engineer. Much later, I realized that I would rather do the more creative stuff, but I still wanted to work in theme park design. Really, I have her to thank for everything, because if she hadn’t told me that I could be the one designing my favourite ride, I don’t know where I would be right now.

I don’t think I’m ever going to end up taking one of her courses, but not because I’m actively avoiding it! She used to teach ergonomics, which is a course that she had interior design students in, but she stopped teaching it a long time ago. I do think it would be interesting to have her as a professor – I’m used to asking her questions when there’s something I don’t understand, which I know I wouldn’t want to do if I was in her class. She always says that the point of the assignment isn’t the final product, but the process you take in order to get to that final product. I don’t think I would ever be able to bring up her coursework at home without feeling like I’m skipping parts of the process somehow. On the other hand – completely open office hours? That would be pretty nice.

It’s not like I’m never going to see her on campus! Her office is right across the hall from the cafeteria in Jorgensen, and if there’s something exciting for lunch she’ll text me about it. She even did it when we were in Florida. I could not make that up.

I’m pretty lucky that she’s a professor, because if I ever have questions (or if I get lost in Kerr Hall), I have someone that I can ask for help from. It’s not something that a lot of freshmen have immediately going into first year, and as much as I can’t wait to get going, I still have a lot of things to do before school starts. She’s really helping to ease the transition – and to remind me that I need to take my French placement test.

Since she has a perspective that I don’t have, I decided to ask her one important question that I’m sure we are all wondering the answer to.

Q: What advice do you have for first year students?

A: Expect big differences from high school. There is a transition from teaching to learning, and you play a more active role in every course you take. Challenge yourself to make each lecture relevant. I am sure that is easier in Social Work, Theatre, Political Science, or Interior Design Studio than in Calculus I. However at the very least, tie what you are learning into what you already know. Try to spot the building blocks. I remember that a lot of what I learned in first and second year didn’t “gel” until I got to third year and started taking the professional electives that defined the unique program I was in.

Focus on learning and the marks will follow. Try to make sense of what assignments are there for. Academic assignments are not like job assignments: the end product is almost never the point. Don’t rely on asking the prof to clarify the assignment like you might have done in high school. Usually, clarifying it for yourself IS the point of the assignment, and producing the end product is just the proof that you accomplished that clarification. By all means, talk it out, with classmates, teaching assistant (“TA”), and even the prof, but take the lead, express your ideas and solicit feedback. Don’t expect to be given a recipe to simply execute for an A+.

Avoid asking profs questions that begin with “do we have to…?” Don’t communicate to a prof that you’re looking to get through the course with less work. You know how much time I spend evenings, weekends, and summers preparing course material and answering questions. I’d like to think the students value it, not that they want to get out of it!

Expect group work in many courses. Your group mates are not obstacles to getting the mark you deserve: working with others is part of what employers want you to learn, so effectively working with others is part of the mark you deserve.

As much as you want to impress your profs, remember that the people you really need to impress are your classmates. Your profs might give you a reference for grad school, or perhaps for your first job after graduation, but your classmates will be in your field over your 40 year career. Positive group-work experiences with you could be the key to them hiring you later, or putting in a word with their boss.

Keep the faith, especially in first year. You picked your program for a reason, for the program as a whole. One term is one-eighth of the program. Don’t let one term turn you off.

You will not enjoy every assignment, or even every course. If you can’t enjoy it, just focus on surviving it, and getting past it. Consider it a wily adversary and find a way to take it down. There’s only one thing worse than a course you don’t enjoy, and that’s dropping or failing it and having to take it again!

See you guys at O-Week! Make sure to follow me on snapchat and twitter for all the frosh fun!

Snapchat: rubydotca
Instagram: rubydotca
Twitter: ruby_aguayo

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