Choosing your university program can feel like a monumental decision. What if you don’t like your major? Or what if you find a new interest along the way?
For Nathanial, the former Arts student and President of the Arts Student Union (ASU), discovering the answers to those questions is all part of the journey. It’s also a major reason why he chose to study in the Faculty of Arts.
“I was a super confused grade 12 student with too many interests,” Nathanial says. “I had trouble choosing one program that was going to define me for the next four years. Arts gave me the space to try something out and, if I didn’t like it, I could change with zero penalty.”
Over his four years at Waterloo, that freedom to explore helped him find his passion and place in the world — and triggered a light bulb moment that totally changed the course of his journey.
A fork in the road
“Something I’ve always loved, but never really considered as a major, is French. I like to joke that even after the tenth year in a row learning passé composé, I was somehow still excited for French class!”
By the end of first year, Nathanial was eager to pursue that passion. So, he made a visit to the Arts undergraduate office where his faculty advisor helped him — a self-professed “indecisive person” — change his major from Politics and Legal Studies to French Studies. “It was super easy to change what I wanted to do.”
Ever since then, the Department of French became “my academic home on campus, and I’ve loved every minute of it” — especially perfecting his accent.
Where classroom meets culture
Although he took a leap of faith, Nathanial’s willingness to follow his interests after first year led to what he calls “one of the best experiences of my life.”
The switch to French Studies became the catalyst for a study-abroad adventure in France where he immersed himself in French language and culture while learning how to live and travel on his own.
With the help of the Student Success Office (SSO) and the French department, I was able to experience firsthand all the facts, history, and vocabulary that, up until then, I had only learned in a classroom. I made friends from all over the world and will always remember my 3B term.
“With the help of the Student Success Office (SSO) and the French department, I was able to experience firsthand all the facts, history, and vocabulary that, up until then, I had only learned in a classroom. I made friends from all over the world and will always remember my 3B term.”
Staying connected (and caffeinated)
Despite changing his major, Nathanial was still interested in law and politics, and extracurriculars made it easy for him to keep pursuing those subjects outside the classroom.
His first stop? Joining the ASU where he served as a First-Year Rep, Vice President Social, and also as President. In the latter role, he advocated for Arts students and represented their interests at the faculty level.
As someone who’s lived in Kitchener his whole life, being involved in student government, mock trials, intramurals, committees, and as a Student Ambassador made it easier to forge connections while living off campus. “It’s been a great way to build friendships with people I would not have met normally.”
“If you’re just going to class in a student population of 34,000, it could be tough,” he says. “But I think Waterloo gives students the opportunity, through clubs and teams, to build their own sense of community.”
In the end, he found his true home in Arts Lecture Hall, specifically the ASU office, where “I’ve met some of my best friends, had many of my favourite moments of my undergraduate career, and, most importantly, discovered that coffee is only 50 cents.”
If you ask Nathanial, the confidence, passion, and optimism he’s been able to cultivate during his time at Waterloo all come down to staying open.
“I’ve learned that it’s okay to not know your next step, because — although it sounds a bit corny — it’s the journey that means the most. There’s a whole breadth of opportunities and experiences around every corner.”
It’s a lesson Nathanial shared in his work as a Student Ambassador, helping future students — who are “collecting every brochure from every school” just like he did — make big decisions about their future.
My experience in the Faculty of Arts has shown me that life is a constant journey of learning new ideas about the world, as well as yourself. It has challenged me to rethink what’s possible.
“My experience in the Faculty of Arts has shown me that life is a constant journey of learning new ideas about the world, as well as yourself. It has challenged me to rethink what’s possible.”
Discover what to expect during your first year in Arts
Nathanial shares his experience with switching his program five times in first year, getting involved in clubs and activities, and knowing Waterloo was right for him.