The 10 Most Surprising Things I Learned in First Year

I remember the transition from high school to university instilling a mixture of excitement, nervousness, and anticipation in me.

Being the first of my siblings to attend university, in a sense I was the “guinea pig,” and I had no idea what to expect.

Now in my fourth year, if I were to look back, here are the top 10 most surprising things that I learned in my first year at UVic:

1. The beach is only a 15-minute walk!

I knew that, being on an island, the beach would be close and probably pretty accessible. However, I didn’t fully do my research and didn’t realize until my first couple weeks on campus that you could walk to Cadboro Bay in only 15 minutes!

Living on campus in my first year, this made for the perfect beach break when I needed a dose of nature or an icy polar bear swim.

Cadboro Bay

2. You’ll probably feel homesick, even if you don’t think you will

I always saw myself as a really independent person (and still do), so I naively figured moving away from home to live on campus at UVic would be seamless and free from any bumps in the road. After all, I’d been anxiously waiting on the freedom and possibilities that university would afford me, and my parents still lived just a couple hours north.

That wasn’t always the case. Of course I still remained a pretty independent, happy person, but I still felt the pangs of homesickness every now and then.

Throughout my first year, I learned to take advantage of FaceTime and phone calls when I really needed it, and leaned on my new friends for support when I missed home.

3. You might grow apart from old friends – and that’s okay

Moving away from many of my friends from high school meant I wouldn’t see them every day anymore. Throughout that first year as I made new friends in my classes and in residence, and as I began to grow into myself more, there were some friends from back home that I grew apart from.

Of course, this didn’t happen with all of my old friends, and some of my friends from back home are still some of the people I am closest to in my life. However, as you grow and learn and develop, your relationships may also change to reflect that, and that’s okay.

4. A Pet Cafe exists?!

Check out the cute pets at the weekly Pet Cafe! Photo by Alan King on Unsplash

The Multifaith Centre at UVic hosts tons of programs and workshops related to spiritual health and wellbeing for the university community to participate in, ranging from yoga and meditation to board game nights to the pet cafe!

The pet cafe is a chance to take a breather from studying and spend some time with animals: This has been a highlight for many students at UVic for when you’re missing your pets from home.

5. Course unions = opportunities to meet likeminded people and make friends

I had no idea that most departments would have their own course unions, which is essentially a type of student-run club that supports students taking classes in each department.

Course unions host super fun events related to their area of study, and are a perfect opportunity to meet people in your program or take on a student leadership opportunity.

6. Your professors want to talk to you!

Ever heard of office hours? No?

Office hours are a designated weekly time where your professor or lab instructor will be in their office and available to answer questions about assignment, or simply have a conversation about course material with you.

Most first year students, myself included, are usually reluctant to attend office hours but believe me when I say it is worth stopping in.

Beyond helping you with understand coursework and class material, attending office hours will help you develop professional relationships with your professors that can come in handy later on if you need a reference, are thinking of completing an honours program, or if you’re applying to a graduate program down the road.

7. You might make some of your best friends from one random decision

I randomly joined an ultimate frisbee intramural team on a whim in my first year, having never played before, and to my surprise some of the people I met on that team are still some of my best friends (one is even my roommate) today. I still say that that random decision was one of the best choices I made in my first year.

8. Ring Road is a one way… I repeat, a one way!

Only looking one way before crossing the road on campus takes some getting used to for sure. And if you’re driving or cycling, make sure you’re going the right way or you might get some weird looks and some honking horns at you!

The one-way Ring Road on the UVic campus. Photo by University of Victoria

9. The ugliest buildings have the best study spots

While this one is debatable, I found that the oldest, ugliest buildings often had the best hidden study spots compared to some of the newer and fancier buildings. Check out the upper floors of Clearihue in the evenings and you may even find a whole classroom free for your next group study sesh.

10. Nervous? Chances are everyone else is, too

Just remember, the transition to university is new and scary for everyone. Everyone else is in the same boat as you, and likely going through the same things. Put yourself out there even if it’s a little uncomfortable– most people will be more than happy to make a new friend.

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