Written by Diane (she/her), student
Maybe you play sports in high school, are president of a student society, or work a part-time job at a local restaurant. Or you’re working really hard in high school to get into the university of your dreams and you don’t have much time for other things.
Either way, you know that when you get to university you want to meet new people, do fun things between classes, and wouldn’t mind earning a bit of money along the way. Start exploring your Waterloo life by getting involved on campus!
Not sure where to start? Follow @uwaterloolife on Instagram to see how Waterloo students get involved and find their community. Every Wednesday, a new student shares their Waterloo life through a series of stories. You can also learn about upcoming events and things to do each week in the weekly Wat2Do series — there’s something for every student! Keep reading to learn more about where you can build connections with other students.
Student societies are similar to student council or student leadership team in high school. They host events, support students, and advocate for the student body. Here on campus, we have the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) that's here for all undergrad students. We also have faculty societies, like the Arts Student Union (ASU), and program societies such as the Biology Undergraduate Student Society (BUGS).
They’re usually all looking for volunteers to help at events, which is a great way to get a feel for who these societies are. Most of them also offer positions specifically for first-year students so you don’t have to wait for your upper years to participate. If you’re interested in event planning and marketing, advocacy, and the needs of students, then student societies are where you should go.
As a student that enjoyed politics in high school, I decided to give the Arts Student Union a try in first year and I've been in it ever since. Organizing events and speaking on behalf of all Arts students is such a rewarding experience!
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Clubs and intramurals
Clubs and intramurals are a great way to meet other students who have similar interests as you. Many of the clubs and teams you were part of in high school probably exist at university, meaning the transition to a new team should be pretty easy.
With more than 250 clubs on campus and more than 10 intramural leagues, there's probably one that interests you.
If not, you’re always welcome to start your own club too. Waterloo has some unique options — like clubs about cheese or nail polish, and facilities like beach volleyball courts — that give you the chance to try something new.
A current student, Kaitlyn, shares, "playing intramurals with friends is my favourite way to stay active on campus." Whether you try a new sport or choose one you’ve been playing for a while, you're sure to have a good time on an intramural team.
If you’re someone who is super organized, being a team captain or on the executive committee for a club is a fun way to flex your leadership skills. Because you can join intramurals on your own or as a team, and can join a club as an executive or as a member, it’s totally up to you to craft the experience you want.
For Ontario high school students, getting your community involvement hours is a low hassle way to gain experience and give back to the community. There’s no reason you can’t keep up with volunteering in university, too.
Volunteering allows you to explore your passions, develop employable skills, connect with people, and for certain programs, it might even be a requirement.
In Waterloo, there are always groups both on and off campus looking for support. Off campus, there are nursing homes, animal shelters, and food banks that are always in need of a helping hand (meaning they’ll typically work around your schedule)!
On campus, volunteers are always needed for special events like open houses and tours and for student groups, like the International Peer Community. Some of these commitments might just be for a day or two and others might be for the whole term, giving you a chance to decide how much time you want to give.
Sydney, a student in the French Teaching Specialization program, teaches at a local high school and gives tours of the Faculty of Arts. In sharing her experiences, she says "volunteering in high schools has allowed me to better understand how classrooms and school environments are evolving, as well as give back to the community I grew up in. Talking to prospective students about how great Waterloo is always reminds me that I made the right decision coming here."
No matter where or how you volunteer, it’s sure to be a rewarding experience for yourself and others.
Workshops are a great stepping-stone for getting involved. They can help build your leadership skills or manage your study time so you can fit involvement into your schedule.
You might even be able to get trained as a paid workshop facilitator. Plus, they all look great on your résumé! The Student Success Office (SSO) and Campus Wellness at Waterloo all offer a selection of workshops each term.
Some workshops are a series, meaning you can complete them all to receive recognition that you’ve accumulated a set of skills (extra certification for your résumé!). Other workshops are offered online so you can do them when it’s convenient.
I am a fan of the Student Leadership Program workshops because I’m able to complete them at my own pace throughout my degree.
I can choose which subjects are most relevant to me, like doing the Global Intelligence workshop before going on exchange, or the Planning and Running an Effective Team Meeting workshop when I moved into a committee chair position.
While all of these opportunities might sound interesting to you, it’s important to not overdo it. You’re a student first, so maybe choose just one or two things to try out at a time until you find the right fit for you.
Working on campus is a fun way to make some money. There are tons of options that will be a natural transition from past experiences, like working as a lifeguard at the campus pool, refereeing an intramural sport game, or getting a job at the same fast food restaurant where you worked in high school.
Campus jobs are really accessible, meaning you don’t have to commute to work, and can even run home on your lunch break.
For example, as a residence ambassador, you can work from your own room or building, without having to go outside, or as a library assistant you can sort books between study sessions.
One of the unique things about on campus jobs is how accommodating they are of class schedules and exams. I work as a student ambassador, giving campus tours and answering questions.
My supervisor always makes sure we get the day before and the day of our midterms and exams off, so we have time to study and get in the right mindset. Working with other awesome students is a bonus, too!
University is about more than academics, so make sure you spend some of your time beyond the four walls of a classroom. Whatever your interests, there are so many ways you can live your best life on campus — discover your passions, build your skills, connect with new people, and make the most out of your time at Waterloo. Remember, it doesn'tt matter how you are involved, it only matters that you are involved!