Banat is a Math and Business Double Degree student in her 2B term. She is also one of the 2021 International Connection: Waterloo Ready Live Sessions hosts. Here is what she had to say about her experience at Waterloo.
Why did you choose the University of Waterloo?
I chose the University of Waterloo for the prestigious co-op experience as well as the fact that I was allowed to do two degrees that specialize in the majors I wanted to pursue – Math and Business.
When you received your offer of admission, how did you celebrate your success?
Waterloo was my last acceptance. I was adamant on not making a college decision until they responded. I was with my family in India when I received my acceptance, and I automatically announced to all my relatives that I would go to Waterloo and get two degrees!
Before you arrived, what worried you about coming?
One of my biggest concerns was making friends in a whole new country. I wasn’t coming with anyone I knew and although I had attempted making some friends on social media before arriving, I wasn’t sure if I would even meet them. Luckily, I pushed myself to attend International Orientation and bumped into at least five people I had spoken to on various Instagram and WhatsApp groups for international students.
What did you expect Canada and the University of Waterloo to be like?
I definitely expected Canada to be a welcoming environment, but I had seen enough online about Math and Computer Science at Waterloo to be scared for my first-year academics. Right on point, I struggled a lot with my first-year math classes and I came close to failing my first midterm. I knew I had to push myself way more than I had expected. To help get myself back on track, I started to reach out to my professors and attend office hours, which proved to be more helpful than any other study tool!
Was there anything that surprised you? How so?
Something that definitely surprised me was the huge dance community at Waterloo. I knew there was a competitive dance team like many other schools, but in my first few weeks I stumbled upon the UW Hip Hop club where at least 100 people had gathered to dance together. It was incredible! As a dancer myself, I was excited at the prospect of a community that made me feel right at home, even away from home. I approached the first person I saw and managed to join the ongoing class, which led me later to audition for the competitive team.
Were there any highlights to your first term at Waterloo?
The biggest highlight to my first term was meeting my friends in International Orientation, with whom I am best friends with to this day. In fact, one of them is my roommate! We spent countless nights staying up late and exploring our residence (REV), the campus, and the city. Another huge highlight was definitely joining UW Hip Hop where I made some great relationships and even got to be an exec for the club.
Did you face any challenges in your first year? If so, how did you overcome them?
One of my biggest challenges was travel between Waterloo and Laurier campuses. As a double degree student, I often have to plan out my day based on the bus schedule to make sure I have enough time to travel from my math classes at Waterloo to my business classes at Laurier. I had never used this much public transportation and unfortunately I ended up lost quite a few times before I figured it out.
What main differences have you noticed between your home culture and Canadian culture?
One of the main differences between Indian culture and Canadian culture would probably be the openness of people all over the city. It is pretty easy to ask a stranger for directions, or for suggestions on places to visit. In fact, often times student life is distinguishable, and strangers can be extremely helpful to outsider students. Although courtesy to tourists exists in India, university students are not so easily distinguished as they are here.
If you were arriving as a new international student again, what would you do differently, or the same?
One of the things I would definitely repeat is attending Orientation. It allowed me to not only make friends from the same cultural background, but Math Orientation helped me to find people in my major to rely on for academic support.
What is one piece of advice you would share with new Waterloo students?
My biggest advice to students would be to explore the city. Although the City of Waterloo is small and sometimes seems not as lively as major cities, there are hidden gems throughout such as Uptown, Laurel Creek, and even just small cafes and restaurants to enjoy. One of my favorite places to study or hang out is the Sweet Dreams Tea Shop, where they serve great bubble tea and allow groups to rent out board games to play together!
What has your experience of studying online been like during COVID-19?
The pandemic has presented a huge challenge to me in terms of my attachment to campus. Having spent a majority of my first year studying in Davis Centre (DC) or the Student Life Centre, it was difficult to transition to studying online in my room. I have done my best to overcome these challenges by staying close to my friends with Facetime and Zoom study calls that allow us to mimic our experience of sitting in DC group study rooms.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
Check out UW Hip Hop in action :)