I attended the University of Waterloo’s Student Life 101 orientation program today. It was a good chance to meet some professors and students who I will be sharing the next five years of my life with. To say the least, the presenters were all extremely helpful and informative. In most ways, I feel much more at ease now that I have a better understanding of just what should happen during my time there. I’m truly looking forward to it all this September.
We departed around 8AM from Niagara Falls for Kitchener-Waterloo. On our way there, we managed to get horrendously lost in Hamilton where we were trying to switch from the 403 to highway 8. On the up side, I got a chance to have a look at another university I had been considering, McMaster. After driving seemingly aimlessly for about 10 mintues, we happened upon a sign that pointed the way. And off we went. We arrived at the University of Waterloo at around 9:45 and it took us a good 15 minutes to actually find where the first presentation was being held.
The first presentation was about making a successful transition from high school to university. We had some information about some of the different types of things that are available to do on and off campus. We were presented with some timetables of how we should build our schedules one. Finally, we got to one of my favorite topics: Procrastination. Now I’ll be honest, I procrastinate almost constantly. I’m probably one of the worst peoples for that bad habit. It’s not like the work doesn’t get done on time or anything. It’s just that I put unnecessary stress upon myself to perform under pressure. Some people say they thrive under pressure. You can probably throw me into that category as well, even though after it’s all said and done, I always plan to do my work earlier next time. And of course, I never do and the cycle repeats. I learned about some ways to prevent procrastination and it would seem I’ll need to break this tendency of mine to really succeed at Waterloo.
The next session we attended was one by some faculty members of the engineering department. There I got a taste of just who I was going to working with in my field. Some looked dorky, others didn’t, but overall, I was shocked at the number of Asians. I mean everywhere you looked in that lecture hall, you saw Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, etc faces. It was like I wasn’t in North America anymore. Sure there were Caucasians, but I’d estimate probably only 30-40%. And despite the reports, (or maybe due to them?) there was a fair number of females partaking in the engineering program. Makes me somewhat happier to know it won’t be just one huge sausage fest… Actually generally speaking, there were quite a few more females than I expected around the campus. For some reason I was led to believe that there was going to be like a 10-1 ratio of guys to girls. (shudders at thought) In reality, I’d say it’s much closer to even than you’d think.
Anyways, where was I? Oh yes, engineering presentation. Well you see, this is where I started getting somewhat worried. The head of first year studies in engineering (this may sound like an insignificant amount of students, but you’ll be surprised to note that there are over 1000 students entering engineering at Waterloo this September) mentioned that almost all the students in that lecture hall had 80%+ averages coming out of high school. At least half of them would fall below 80% at the University of Waterloo. He was saying how he believed this is one of the best, if not the best, engineering programs in the world and they achieved that by action, not by talking about it. So he said, it would be predictable that some would not be able to keep up satisfactorily. Now remember, I need to keep an 80% average in my first year for that scholarship of mine to be renewed.
I know I’m behind compared to most of the Ontario students when it comes to mathematics and sciences. I can only rely on the fact that I tend to pick things up quickly and my love of self learning. I haven’t yet hit a wall in high school where I just could not understand a concept. And that scares me. High school now that I look back wasn’t all that important, well the first two years at least. If I had of had that sort of difficulty in grade 10 or 11, I could’ve worked it through without much detriment to the overall state of things. At the university level, if that were to befall me, I’m honestly not sure what I would do. I have never encountered something that I absolutely could not understand. If I do come up to that mental obstacle, it could be very difficult for me to both accept and solve. Now don’t take this as bragging I beg you. I’m merely pointing out the fact that I’m afraid to face something like this at such a crucial time. Concepts will invariably get more difficult and challenging and I will try me best to understand them. But I’m assuming there will be a time when I simply will not be able to go any further. Otherwise, why do we have only one Einstein, one Newton?
I’ll tell you a little secret. Due to reasons I shall not reveal, I was able to find out some marks for random students in engineering at the University of Waterloo. The averages ranged anywhere from the high 60s to the mid to high 80s. No 90s to speak of whatsoever, much less high 90s. Most of the marks were centered around the low 70s which does not speak well for me. Calculus marks were especially abysmal, with the majority of the marks below 70 ranging down to low 50s. That my friends is a fail. No more 50% passes like we had in high school. These people were failing credits left and right. I can only shudder at the thought. Well, I can only try my best and I realize that I will have to revamp my study habits and life habits in general to succeed. It will be the biggest challenge I have ever faced, but I hope to come out of it scarred but alive.
While I have lived away from my parents for about 6 weeks on end during last summer in Quebec, I have not truly required much independence. I had a set schedule then, work, eat, relax, sleep. Rinse and repeat. I knew what I had to do and I did it. This will be different. Not only do I have to live on my own (and hopefully not die from malnutrition…) I will also have to motivate myself to study and do well. I’ll need some initiative to get my ass off a chair to actually go and do something without someone telling me to. I realize I’ll really need to develop my independence and some skills that I lack, such as interviews. I’ll be blunt, I hate interviews. They’re an accepted and widely used tool in this world I’m entering and I’ll have to know how to deal with them and more. It would seem that I’m not exactly the most confident person when it comes to talking with strangers and large audiences. I’m hoping the numerous presentations I’ll have to make as an engineering student will help with that. It doesn’t help that I’m in Stream-4 which means I only have 4 months of studies before I go off on my first work term in co-op. Basically I’ll arrive at school and two weeks in I’ll have to start applying to jobs. Should be a heck of a lot of fun.
So what am I going to do to make this all a little easier for me? Well, I intend to require as little catch up as possible on the courses. I’m going to start breaking out the algebra and calculus books I’ve got stashed away somewhere here in the basement. It’s now or never to actually start work on them. I don’t want to live off of 4 hours of sleep each night trying to figure out obscene concepts.
Anyways, I had a lot to say there, but university is an important thing at this point in my life. It only seems natural that it takes its allotted space in my blog.