My First Term at Waterloo

As we’re approaching the end of the term, I’ve been looking back a lot on my experience here as a 1A student. I feel like everyone has had a vastly different experience and some people may be feeling a bit like they’ve been beaten down by the jump to university, so I wanted to share what my experience has been like. 

Before moving here, I didn’t really acknowledge that I’d be going away. Like, we’d be shopping for my dorm, but I felt like it was ages away. But slowly, I started getting symptoms of stress as an influx of migraines hit me the last couple days before September 1st (and let me tell you, packing with a massive migraine was HELL). On the drive over from the GTA, I felt fine just joking around with my mom, until I started recognizing Waterloo around me. My gut dropped and my knee couldn’t stop bouncing. I felt like I was going to burst into tears at any moment. But I didn’t, and that’s simply because there was no time. Rushing all my belongings up two floors, unpacking as we went, and doing so with two of my roommates moving in at the same time was hectic and stressful – I had no time to think. Even after when my family and I went out to lunch, I wasn’t thinking about what was happening. 

My brother and father left earlier in the day while my mom stayed back to run some errands with me. She ended up staying till 6pm, where we ended up holding each other tightly and sobbing in the middle of my freshly unpacked room. After she left, she called me half an hour later and I started crying again. It was rough. I’m very close with her and being apart from her was, and still is, a massive stress for me. 

That night, I found myself holed up in my room, making notes for a class that the professor had already opened on Learn. Fun first night, huh? Then, I ended up passing out from exhaustion and stress. 

My second day here I stayed holed up in my room. My roommates and I weren’t talking, and they both were hanging out with friends. I met up with some of my high school friends, but ultimately spent the day sad and alone in my room. 

The following days proceeded with orientation events and a lot of business. I did end up meeting up with a group of people who are in my major, which was a good intro to the class. We wandered around looking for our classes (definitely recommend that) and chatting, going together to check-in for orientation. As the rest of orientation followed, I felt somewhat disappointed with everything. I felt disconnected from all the activities, as if I was watching myself do them from outside my body. While the events were cool and fun, I couldn’t help but think about my best friend, who was at a different university, and how everything would mean more if she was there with me. Even earning my hard hat had a sadness dampening it (and that means a lot, since my pale ass was broiling in that heatwave). 

However, around this time, I ended up getting closer with my roommate, Elle. She and I stuck together when our don took us on a tour, and we ended up talking until 11 pm in our kitchen, spilling so much lore to each other. 

Then, the first day of classes – and holy hell was I terrified. Luckily, when I met up with my peers earlier that week, I met a girl named Tina who asked if I wanted to walk to class with her that first day. We ended up sitting in class next to a girl named Kim, and we all made jokes and talked together for the rest of the day. At this point, university is feeling like a silly little summer camp to me (which IS NOT the perspective to take) but my brain was being a little bit loopy. I’m still feeling sad around this time, and somewhat isolated, but getting closer with these people really brought me out of my shell. 

That following weekend, my parents came and visited. And lemme tell you, it was WEIRD. I felt like I had two personalities – one for home, one for here – and I couldn’t figure out who I needed to be in that moment. Turns out I didn’t pick right, because after they left my mom texted me and said I felt distant. But she was so right. I hadn’t figured out the balance yet.

The next week, I started putting more of myself into everything. It’s not that I hadn’t been doing that already, but so much of me had been diminished by anxiety, loneliness, sadness, and stress. By now, I was more accustomed to my environment, had gotten close with my roommates Elle and Tabitha, and my peers Kim and Tina. Also, the actual schoolwork seemed a lot like the IB program which I took in high school, so I was feeling a lot more comfortable. So, I talked with my parents more, started answering texts again, and started taking care of my health more. And that’s where everything ends, all happy and perfect…

I’m a liar, there’s so much more. But I’ll only give you the highlights.

So, in class, imposter syndrome starts to kick in. Everybody seems so smart and I feel like I’m behind, no matter what I do. While my motivation hangs in for a while, it starts to slip whenever I feel like I’m not doing so well. Thus, my focus in chemistry (Oh my God, I hate chemistry) stops altogether and I throw myself into extracurriculars and… TikTok. 

Midterm season hits and everything is stressful. Heading back home, I procrastinated too much over reading week and my return to Waterloo opened my eyes to how much work I had to do. Well, grinding out work for about 4 days gets you somewhere… but not everywhere. With my average to above average grades (depending on the subject), my will to care is fully gone and I’m just glad I’ve passed with fairly good grades. According to Bob, I’m on track to graduate (if you know, you know)!

Halloween hits and I head to my first frat party. Checking that off my bucket list, I can confidently say that is never something I will subject myself to again. Frat shoes are real guys, that’s all I’ll say. Maybe even frat clothes…

Anyways, at this point I’m accustomed to everything. I’m familiar with the campus and uptown, my classes, and my home. I can confidently call it my home now because I’ve decided that home is where I am comfortable, and happily enough, I’m comfortable here. 

Approaching exams, I’m still terrified. I feel like I’ll pass, but I’m dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s anyways. I’ve come a long way since my first day here, and I’m really proud of how many things I’ve managed to accomplish. It may not be much to you, or maybe it’s a lot to you, but at the end of the day it’s done and complete, and I’m happy.

I’m not saying this is a formula for success (I’m definitely not saying that, hope you skip/skipped the anxiety). I’m also not saying this is what everyone’s term looked like. A lot of you may have struggled and a lot of you may be thriving. But I’m hoping that somebody sees something that they felt or are currently feeling in this article, because I think we should all acknowledge that none of us are doing this alone. Everybody here is just faking it. We’re all just doing what we’re doing for the first time ever. And that’s not unique to university. It’s a common theme of life. The thing to remember is that you’re not alone, and there will always be someone to help you out. You’ll find your people somewhere. I was just lucky enough to find mine here…

…well, actually I feel like my best friend would punch me in the face if I didn’t mention the fact that she’s also one of my people and I didn’t meet her here. But you know what I mean. You can find your people everywhere. So, I hope that as us first years enter 1B and the rest of y’all move forward in your studies or co-op, everything falls a bit more into place for you. 

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