Reflections Upon First Term: Adjusting to Waterloo

Daniel McCormick -
Posted on: January 20, 2018

This fall, I finished my first term of Waterloo ECE. There were many ups and downs on the roller coaster of a term. However, what’s more important than the ups and downs is learning along the way.

One such lesson was that friends are never all that hard to find. Going into Waterloo is an alarming prospect, especially when you know one person in your program and he’s a second year.  It sounds truly intimidating, and you’d think that a school like Waterloo would be full of geniuses who you’d simply never compare to.  As it turns out, the average person at Waterloo is fairly… average. They aren’t necessarily smarter than you are; however, an awful lot might work far harder than you do. Regardless, making friends is a daunting prospect. Luckily, they tend to appear in your life. Because of having all your classes in common with people, you can easily make friends. Unfortunately, in computer engineering they mixed stream 4s and stream 8s, so you won’t see half your friends (well, two thirds) again until fourth year. Ah, well.

Another lesson was cooking. Cooking seems quite easy when your parents do it, but it’s a lot harder when you must do it yourself and have no idea what spices they use. Each trip to the grocery store is going to take the better part of an hour, if not more, so it’s a major commitment for each trip. Luckily, both recipes I knew weren’t too hard to cook, but another problem is that all the food near campus is expensive. Unless you know your bus routes, you can enjoy paying $17/kg for ground beef from Sobeys. Luckily, with some time and a pile of spices, you can often make at least a few meals of your choice. You also eventually learn your bus routes and end up buying your food for half the price of the most local, convenient store.

The final main lesson was time management. People did say that exams were worth a lot, but unless you take time to think, you might not realize that your exams are worth, at the bare minimum, the same as the rest of your course. This means spending an hour challenging that fraction of a mark. On the other hand, the pride you get from getting 100 instead of 96 on a quiz worth around 1.5% of your final mark makes the hour and a half you spend waiting worth that 0.06% boost.  Honestly, the professors are overall quite reasonable, though some are stricter and others less so. Perhaps spend that hour studying for the final instead of challenging over something worth comparatively minuscule isn’t worth it but, then again, that perfect quiz mark is a matter of pride. Let every person be captain of their hour, eh?

While of course other lessons were learned along the way (such finding the right restaurant, going from CPH to STC without going outside, sleeping during exams, discovering that people actually do sleep in MC comfy), a lot of university so far isn’t as much learning as it is rolling with it. Maybe later it’ll make sense.