“Dear Natalie, I’m a new student from out of province who’s really worried about everything. Classes, friends, dorms – I’m worried I’ll be doing something wrong. Can you help a lost first-year?”
Two years ago, I was in your position. I was flying in from Ottawa alone, meeting an aunt I had met only a handful of times before. I was worried I wasn’t going to have any friends, I would fail my classes, and gain 20 pounds all at the same time. Nearly every first-year has the same worries at some point. But for me, and most first-years, none came true.
Here’s the thing to remember when you’re moving your stuff into your dorm: everyone else is the exact same position. I’ve gotten a quite a few emails about this, so I’ll try to answer everyone’s questions.
Yes, UBC is very popular with Lower Mainland students and some people in your dorm will know each other, but that doesn’t mean that they’re best friends and you’ll never be invited anywhere. Plus, you will have people from out of province and out of country on your floor. If you hate your roommate, I’m sorry. That sucks since you’ll probably be living with them. You can put in a room change form, but from what I hear, unless you have someone to switch with, it may be a lengthy process. Your RA (Residence Advisor) will be there to help if things get out of hand.
On the topic of RAs, just remind yourself they aren’t there to punish you, they’re there so the huge group of first-years who just left home and now have control over their own life don’t kill each other or themselves. You’re going to do some dumb things, and sometimes an RA is just someone who has the sense to go “Really? Do you really want to climb up the side of Salish? No, don’t do that.”
RAs see some strange things, and they are totally unfazed by things like walking into the floor lounge to find a resident drunkenly eating microwave mac and cheese watching a French nature show alone in the dark at 3 a.m. I mean, not that I would know, specifically.
There are a few things they can’t overlook, and they will go over this with you on your first floor meeting, but generally it’s the basic “Four Ds”: drugs, drinking games, disruption, and douchebaggery. Keep your head clear and you’ll be fine. That being said, at least two people were evicted from my house first year, so those rules aren’t just there for decoration.
Look around your floor when you move in; in many cases, these are your friends now. During the first few weeks everyone is really nice and you want to be best friends with them all. Then, everyone stops trying so hard and you fall into groups. And sometimes that doesn’t happen – or your group breaks up – or you just don’t like anyone. That’s fine. You can become friends with people in your classes (this is easier if you’re in a program like Arts One or CAP) or clubs.
Clubs Days are fast approaching, which is a great time to find a group of people you can get involved with. Or, skip the hassle and sign up for the best group on campus (I make cookies on occasion).
Friends aren’t hard to make, but you’ll need to put yourself out there. People aren’t going to line up outside your door.
Classes are hard to give advice for, since every student is different. Some thrive in the independent work environment, some hate it. My advice is to actually do your readings. Nothing’s harder than trying to do all your readings before your final. It’s a tough line to walk, especially if you hate studying. Which I, for one, do.
Profs and TAs vary as much as the students do, and it’s sometimes hard to match your pace with the prof’s. For example, there’s one TA in my department who is a great teacher, but for the life of me, I cannot work with. So I double check that he’s not in the classes I register for, and it’s a non-issue. If you’re terribly worried about your profs, talk to them about the class. Most are willing to talk through issues students have or can try to transfer you to another section if that’s what is best. Rate My Prof is also a useful resource, but take every review with a grain of salt.
Be aware of the distance between the normal student and prof, especially if you’re in lectures of 100+. They aren’t going to know your name, they aren’t going to talk to you in the halls, and chances are you won’t even have a conversation with them the whole term, unless you go to office hours. Your TAs are usually a better bet for this kind of stuff.
Lots of people take a very wide range of classes, so if you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s okay. You can always talk to academic advising if you feel the need to plan the next four years of your life now.
First year can be tough, but it’s necessary (obviously) and you can tough it out. Second year is waiting with all the joys of “Oh god, where am I going to live?” and “How do I even declare my major?” UBC may be stupidly big and full of concrete, confusing buildings (looking at you, Buchanan) but it’s also beautiful and super fun.
Enjoy your time here because for what we’re paying for it, we all deserve an amazing four (or five or six) years here.