As a first year engineering student, it’s fair to assume that there are a lot of traditions I have not yet experienced. This past weekend though I checked something off my to do list and went to an engineering conference. For those of you who, like me, have never been to any kind of conference, let alone an engineering conference, you probably have no idea what takes place at these events.
I was expecting some workshops and networking, maybe some fun night events and a little drinking (I’m nineteen, don’t worry). What I forgot is that engineers never do anything just a little. When we do something, it’s all or nothing, and this conference was just the same.
This year the First Year Integration Conference (FYIC) was hosted by Ryerson in downtown Toronto. Waterloo, thanks to its two societies, was able to send twelve eager young delegates to do their best representing our school. Accompanying us to the conference were our extraordinary VP Externals and the VP Communications for ESSCO.
Events started off Friday night when all the delegates from fourteen school across Ontario (plus McGill) trekked to Ryerson to listen to the keynote speaker, Drew Dudley, a man so famous he has even given talks to the CEO of McDonald’s. His theme was all about being a leader in everyday life and what it truly means to be a leader at all. The talk was incredibly interesting, but I think the main takeaway was that leadership is a state of thinking, not a thing that you have to earn through job success or titles. I think that most of the delegates walked out of that talk feeling like we wished we had taken more notes, or any notes at all. I think DJ Khaled might consider Drew’s ideas pretty great keys to success.
The rest of the night involved finger food and getting to know the other delegates at a very hip bar that was rented for our use, with all the pop on tap you could want. On our return to the hotel, we were introduced to the tradition of coveralls and patches. I must say, I had no idea the patch trade was so intense and I will most definitely be more prepared for next time. A word of advice: if you ever find yourself at an Eng event with students from other schools, you should make sure to bring all the most interesting badges from Novelties. Unfortunately, after a certain point most people have plain Waterloo patches and it takes something a little flashier to get a trade.
Waking up the next day was really easy because of the reasonable hour everyone went to bed at the night before. For most of Saturday we had group sessions with the other delegates on how to be involved in our schools and in our EngSoc, the purpose of PEO and OPSE (both organizations which you should definitely join as students right now, especially OPSE because you can get mad deals on everything from hockey games to insurance), engineering traditions like Lady Godiva’s Hymn and mascots, how to write and give a good speech, crisis management, and the list goes on. We also learned about ESSCO, or Engineering Student Societies’ Council of Ontario, and how to get involved with them.
It was a very packed day; needless to say we were all very ready to take a break and relax, but we’re engineers and we like to be classy above all else so instead we got ready for a fancy gala and dinner back at the hotel. The Gala was tons of fun, with a photo booth and an amazing dinner. We followed up the Gala with a trip to Laser Quest, something I don’t frequent, but even I improved by the time we left and everyone had a great time. Back at the hotel we stayed up talking and hanging out together. It was a great opportunity to really get to know the other delegates and talk about non-engineering things for a change.
Sunday dawned bright and way too early, but we were all excited to go to the last sessions and some of us got to sit in on Plenary, a meeting in which the VPXs and the ESSCO executives to discuss future events and motions pertaining to schools across the province. After a final talk about what to do after FYIC, we all said goodbye and went our separate ways.
If any of you are considering attending an engineering conference in the future, don’t hesitate, just apply. I had no idea what to expect, and if I’m being honest I thought it would be a lot of lectures and the people there would be really intimidating. Nothing could be farther from the truth: all of the sessions we had were incredibly useful and informative and the people were more than just open and friendly, they actively wanted to make friends with you no matter what. I met some amazing people and most importantly, I learned a few more verses of Lady Godiva.