Finding your fit at university

What to do (and not do) to make the most out of your undergrad experience

How did I find my fit at university? Well, Monday is arm day, Tuesday is leg day, Wednesday is cardio . . . just kidding (like, really kidding).

I’m actually not talking about getting fit but about finding the best fit for you at university: in other words, how you can enjoy your time at school the most. 

When I started at Waterloo, my main focus was on adjusting to university life. I didn’t really plan to sign up for any of Waterloo's clubs or activities — I just wanted to get used to going to class and getting my assignments done on time. However, my plans changed when I stumbled across the clubs fair. I think I signed up for about 15 clubs on the spot (there’s so many cool clubs!) and was quickly overwhelmed by emails about club meetings. 

Even though I had signed up for so many things, I didn’t really end up sticking to any of them because there was just too much going on. So, when the next term coincided with the beginning of a new year, I made a New Year’s resolution: sign up for exactly one club per term, and stick with it. 

That resolution has served me well. Some activities I haven’t stuck with, but the majority of them I’m still involved with today, and they’ve helped shape my university experience. 

Although I’m going to talk a lot about ways to find the right clubs for you, finding your fit at university is definitely not limited to just clubs. In my first and second year, I did Ultimate Frisbee and dodgeball intramurals, which helped me find other people who liked similar sports.

Additionally, I met some of my best friends through residence. So, if you’re living in residence, be open to meeting people around you! If you leave your door open when you’re in the room (even just for the first week or so), people will likely stop by to talk to you.

Plus, each faculty has a society (e.g., Math has Math Society = MathSoc; Science has Science Society = SciSoc … you get the picture!). This is where you can meet other people who are just as passionate about your faculty as you are. These societies are similar to the “student government” of the faculty — doing budgeting, running events, etc. You can take on a pretty heavy-duty role in these societies if you want to commit a lot of time to them, but there are also lighter volunteer roles that can help you meet people without having to commit so much. 

Nathan at the Campus Response office.

Nathan, the AHS Ambassador, met most of his close friends through Waterloo's Campus Response Team (CRT).

The Campus Response Team provides support to the campus by helping out in emergency situations. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities like this available at Waterloo, and there’s even a volunteer fair at the beginning of each term to help you find something you might like to do.

So, it’s pretty clear that there’s lots to do at Waterloo! There is plenty available for you to find like-minded people, no matter what your interests are. My favourite part of Waterloo are the clubs, so read on for some do’s and don’ts when it comes to finding the perfect club for you.

When you join an academic club, think about joining another club as well.

DON’T feel limited to résumé-boosting activities

When I first started school, I signed up for a lot of academic clubs. Don’t get me wrong, these clubs are great, and you can meet a lot of interesting people; however, they tend to require a lot of mental energy and are often not the most relaxing clubs to join. 

So, when you join an academic club, think about joining another club as well, perhaps something low commitment that you think would be fun to try. Also, don’t feel like academic clubs are the only clubs that help build a good résumé. Basically, anything that shows commitment looks good to an employer. Plus, lots of non-academic clubs can give you really good professional skills! For example, a theatre club will teach you the art of public speaking, while an improv club will help you learn how to think on your feet. 

Game of Quiddich on the field.

Join Waterloo's Quidditch team for fun.

DO try something new (and it rhymes!)

Clubs are a great way to learn about a new passion or develop a new skill. If you want to try something more creative, you could check out something like the Knitting Club, where you can learn to knit and chat with other people interested in the same.

If you want something more athletic, you could try dragon boating or maybe join a dance club. There’s really something for everyone — head to the clubs fair at beginning of term to explore Waterloo's clubs.  

Photo of knit blanket.

The blanket that we made in Knitting Club last term.

DON’T overwhelm yourself

As I said, I think I signed up for 15 clubs at that first clubs fair. All 15 seemed interesting to me, but it was impossible to attend 15 club meetings a week. Because of this, I only attended meetings here and there and didn’t get the full experience from any of them. That’s why I’d recommend just picking one or two new things to try, and then next term you can try more. 

Remember that you’re never stuck with a club.

If you go to a club meeting and really don’t enjoy it, don’t feel like you’re obligated to go back. Instead, find something you’ll really enjoy so that you can bring true positive energy to the club meetings — not only for your sake but also for everyone else in the club. 

Clare with a friend, taking a selfie.

DO step out of your comfort zone

Of course, you don’t have to do this. But trying something that you wouldn’t typically try — perhaps something like theatre or game design — could not only help you discover a passion you never knew you had but will also introduce you to people you wouldn’t typically meet. 

As much as I love the Faculty of Mathematics, my favourite part of club meetings is that I get to meet people from each of Waterloo's faculties. I’ve made friends through clubs that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise — and that’s the main reason I keep signing up for new clubs year after year! 

I’ve made friends through clubs that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.

At the end of the day, clubs are a great way to meet new people, develop new skills, and take a break from studying. Clubs have really enriched my academic experience. Athletic clubs have motivated me to work out, creative clubs have helped me develop new skills, and academic clubs have added context to what I learn in classrooms. 

There are also purely social clubs — like the cheese club and book club — that are really all about talking to people and enjoying time together, discussing common interests. I also enjoy clubs like Meditation Club that can be a welcome breather in a busy week.

When you’re joining clubs for the first time, whatever you really want to try, try! You never know, you might discover your new favourite thing.