Ruhi Suvarna

Ruhi is an Honours Arts student in her 2A term. She was 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?

While I was applying for universities in high school, I researched the University of Waterloo and found out that their Psychology program is one of the most commended in Ontario. The research opportunities and the variety of specialized Psychology classes offered made me want to be a student here. As an aspiring Developmental Psychologist, the University of Waterloo is offering me all the tools I need to succeed.

When you received your offer of admission, how did you celebrate your success?

I remember receiving the offer in the school library and I was sitting with my friend who also had Waterloo as his first choice. I opened up the email and immediately told him and then called my mother who almost started crying on the phone. For the rest of the day, I had a smile plastered on my face.

Before you arrived, what worried you about coming?

Before coming, I was worried about making friends and finding my own friendship circle because virtual school does not give a lot of opportunity to make close friendships or even meet people. The summer before I came to Waterloo, I researched all the clubs and activities that the university offers and shortlisted two that I thought fit my personality. Then I enrolled and interviewed for those two clubs and ended up making friends from all programs and years.

Ruhi and her roommate.A photo from the day my roommate and I moved into Residence. We lived in UWP and we knew each other from high school so it was nice having a friend to transition to university with.


What did you expect Canada and the University of Waterloo to be like?

I expected Canadaian winters to be harsh and I definitely experienced that my first winter here - with a couple of snow days. I also expected to see a moose, but unfortunately I have not yet. I was sad to learn that moose sightings are uncommon in Southern Ontario.

After coming to Waterloo, I realized I underestimated how many geese were here and how courageous they really are. As well, I expected the University to be intimidating and scary, but after a month I learned that was not the case, I was not alone in feeling this way, and people were always there to lend a helping hand. 

Was there anything that surprised you? How so?

Something that pleasantly surprised me about the University of Waterloo was the amount that professors are willing to help you. In high school, my teachers always gave me the impression that professors could not care less about your situation, which definitely was not my experience. During my first year, there were a couple of times where I was stuck on an assignment, needed an extension, or clarification, and the professors were more than happy to help anywhere they could.

Were there any highlights to your first term at Waterloo?

A highlight for my first term at Waterloo was auditioning for Fashion for Change. This club is a charity organization that raises money through performance shows and I auditioned to be a model. This was something very much out of my comfort zone, but my intention in coming to university was to try new things and this club gave me that opportunity. I absolutely loved it and I am proud of myself for taking that brave step. Is there a youtube video I can share? 

Did you face any challenges in your first year? If so, how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge for me in my first year was having to adapt to virtual learning. I am a hands-on learner and it became difficult to only learn through reading lecture slides or the textbooks. This in turn also affected my motivation because each morning I would wake up to the same room, same desk, same routine and it made me procrastinate a lot. By second term, I overcame that hurdle

What main differences have you noticed between your home culture and Canadian culture?

In my home culture traditional roles are still prominent and generally expected, so I was overwhelming pleased after coming here and seeing the amount of equality that Canada has. Seeing the pride parade made me so happy and the fluidity of gender roles made me believe that I can achieve anything that I have been told differently in the past.

What were your experiences like when you returned home?

People were curious to know in what ways I have changed and if I had forgotten my cultures entirely. I think I had changed for the better, I became a lot more open-minded, independent, and understanding. However, I did not forget or think any less of my cultures but I was able to see ways in which my cultures needed growth. India is very close to my heart and so is Nigeria, moving to Canada has made me appreciate both the cultures I come from even more. 

Ruhi on a picnic.My friend, who also lived on the same floor as me in residence, and I decided to take advantage of the good weather and we had a study picnic date in Waterloo Park. 

If you were arriving as a new international student again, what would you do differently, or the same?

I think that I would encourage myself to be a little more confident. The first time I came here, I was very shy and focused on school primarily. Whereas now, if I could do it again, I would enrol myself into sporting clubs that I had doubted I had the abilities to join and I would balance create more of a balance between school and my personal life.

What is one piece of advice you would share with new Waterloo students?

I would tell them to get involved in the communities that they are interested in. For example, I knew I wanted to dance in some sort of way, so I got involved in a club that gave me that opportunity. I'm happy that I did because I'm now able to be part of a community that is supportive and fun. It is very easy to feel isolated and alone in a new environment, but when you take steps to help you find your people it makes the transition worth going through.

What has your experience of studying online been like during COVID-19?

I have mixed emotions about studying online because I did enjoy the amount of flexibility that it gave me, but it was hard to be motivated to complete readings and assignments in a timely manner. By second term I knew I needed to overcome that hurdle, so I created a schedule that aligned all my course deadlines and I also organized a couple of study sessions on Zoom with some online friends that I made.


Is there anything else you'd like to share with us? 

I would like to say that it is normal to feel like you are not cut out for your program once you see a couple of bad grades, but do not let them discourage you from being successful. There will be times where you feel like you are failing, but it is important to know that you are not alone and that there will always be options for you to make it up.