What I wish I knew in first year

Your first year is all about learning to adjust!

As a Residence Don, I try to provide my community of students with the necessary resources they need to be successful in their first year. There are several services on campus that go underused and so many interesting things that have yet to be explored by students well past their first year! I am guilty of this myself, as I wasn’t introduced to many of these resources until later in my undergrad. While I can’t go back in time, it’s now my responsibility to ensure that my students are aware of the many opportunities available to them around campus.

To help with this, I provided my students with a list of all the things I wish I knew in first year:

I wish I knew there was free tutoring in residence for first-year courses

Several courses offer evening sessions hosted by upper year tutors to assist first year students with their coursework and test prep, and they’re offered right in residence making them super convenient!

I wish I knew there was an on-campus AND off-campus shuttle

This is an extremely valuable resource offered to all students at Waterloo, and yet it’s extremely underused!

This is the perfect solution when you want to avoid walking home late at night or avoid the chill of cold winter evenings.

Two students at laptop


ML diner menuCheck out the homestyle menu at the Modern Languages Diner!

I wish I knew I don’t have to ask to go to the washroom in my classes

I was pretty excited about this one.

I wish I knew about all the great food services on campus.

I didn't learn about the Modern Languages Diner until 3rd year, which meant I missed out on years of great milkshakes and burgers. The Bombshelter Pub not only offers great options for lunch and dinner, but also offers early bird breakfast everyday! I also recently found out that after midnight, the 24/7 International Newstand in the Student Life Centre offers a 25% discount on its pick-up-and-go sushi and poke bowls.


I wish I knew about all the hidden study spots on campus.

For late risers like me, it’s a challenging ordeal to find study space in the main libraries on campus. But in my years of searching, I’ve discovered hidden gems such as the libraries in the University Colleges, the basement of the Quantum-Nano Centre, the quiet study room in Mathematics 3 and bookable study rooms in the Student Life Centre.

Campus map

I wish I knew about all the great services offered by the Federation of Students.

The Bike Centre, the Glow Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity, the Campus Response Team and the Feds Student Food Bank are just 5 of the 12 student-run services operated by Feds.

I wish I knew I don't have to be a pro athlete to join intramurals.

There are many sports you can join even if you just want to be active and have fun!

Intramural volleyball teamThis was my casual intramural volleyball team!


I wish I knew that it's okay to make mistakes in first year

You have plenty of time to learn and grow from them!

I wish I knew about all the academic support available to help me be successful

Academic advisors and professors are a great resource when it comes to planning your degree and seeking academic advice, while AccessAbility Services will provide individual support to ensure you are set up to succeed. We even offer the Student Success Office, which is an entire office literally dedicated towards student success!

Looking for more study spaces on campus? Check out Cai’s guide to student lounges on campus!