Dobie says that while the circumstances have been challenging, it only pushed the student leaders and faculty to come up with very creative ways to ensure a positive experience for everyone.
We ask her about her duties and experience as both - a student with a full course load and the first-year student president.
Why did you choose to pursue your Optometry degree at the University of Waterloo?
I come from a small humble town near Vancouver, British Columbia and finished my undergraduate degree at a small university - the University of Fraser Valley.
The University of Waterloo certainly has a prestigious reputation as one of the best Optometry schools. It certainly was a dream to be accepted here, even if it was a little intimidating too!
How would you describe your experience of the fall-term as a first-year student?
So far, it has been great! Despite the circumstances, the School has been very welcoming. Once our classes were underway, virtual learning seemed to work so seamlessly. It has not really been a problem for me so far.
How have the faculty helped students in the adaptation to the virtual learning environment?
The faculty have been so amazing during this time. They have all provided very articulate lessons for us to engage in online. Other than having to quarantine before coming to campus, there have been no delays in our schooling.
For the first time, all first-year students are now on campus for our lab component. These are being done in smaller groups of ten due to public health restrictions. Having talked to my classmates online for months now, I am so glad to finally be together in person.
We are happy to be on campus now and continue to be a part of this wonderful community. We especially want to thank the faculty for doing everything in their power to help us learn.
This year, your September “orientation week” was held virtually. How would you describe your experience?
The second-year students teamed up with faculty to arrange for [a virtual] orientation. The second-year students along with Dr. Shamroze Khan, who facilitated the virtual events included in orientation, put in a lot of effort to ensure that all the new students felt welcomed.
I especially enjoyed one event that was meant to mimic the effect of “speed dating”. Everyone was given one minute to interact with each student and introduce yourself. I was astounded to see how an event like this could work so well over a simple Zoom call!
How have you been able to get to you know your classmates in a virtual environment?
The orientation really brought us together as a class. Since then, we have been able to meet socially at least 15 to 20 times virtually!
It definitely feels like we have built a strong sense of camaraderie, and to keep the momentum going, students have planned multiple fun events that the students could take part in - including an online Halloween costume contest called the “Eye Scream Ball” where people submitted photos of them in costumes (many of which were eye related!).
We really have a knack for coming up with very funny eye related puns. We, first year students, call ourselves the Eye-cons!
What advice do you have for future optometry students?
Among the many resources available to help student to adjust to the demanding courses in the program, the one most people find extremely helpful is the Big Sibs project.
Every first-year student is assigned a Big Sib from the second year of the program. First-year students can reach out to them at any time and ask for their expertise on any topic.
So to all new students: make sure you take the opportunity to talk to their Big Sib because they are likely to have already encountered whatever problem you may face!
Thank you to Aisa for sharing her experience!