I’m about to start my final year at Dalhousie University. Looking back now, I can see how naïve I was as a freshman. I thought I was prepared, but quickly realized I had a lot to learn. Here is what I wish I had known.
Adjusting to academic life
I wish I had fully understood how shocking and scary the first year can be. It was the first time I had to live by myself, away from the comforts of home. It was also the first time I had to actually start caring about homework.
Most of what we learn in university we learn outside the classroom –– required readings, assignments, essays, reports and so on. Though it depends on your program, of course. Lectures are always helpful, but self-discipline and self-motivation are paramount.
Finding clubs to join
I regret not joining many organizations, societies, groups and communities. They were out there; I just didn’t know.
I wish I knew you could volunteer as an editor at Fathom, Dal’s creative writing journal, and Verso, Dal’s journal for academic essays. I volunteered at Fathom in my second and third years, but I wish I had done it in my first-year as well. It was an amazing experience. Not only did I get to meet and interact with people who shared similar interests with me, but I also learned several essential skills about writing and editing. I can’t wait to volunteer again this year. I also regret not joining Verso back then, when my workload was more manageable.
Other opportunities I missed include writing for this very paper. The Dalhousie Gazette, Dal’s campus newspaper, where any student can be a contributor. I wish I had known that as a freshman. I only found out about it at the end of my third year. I think I stumbled upon it by accident. Had I done some research when I first started at Dal, I would’ve found it sooner and contributed more.
Do research and find clubs that align with your interest.
Know your courses and facilities
Had I done more research about the courses offered at Dal, as well as the policies that determine which I could enroll in, I would’ve made different choices.
For instance, I didn’t know I could take a 2000-level class in my first year –– when, in fact, one only needs to meet the requirements listed on the course’s page. Study the Academic Timetable thoroughly. There are hundreds of fascinating classes offered at Dal every year.
Did you know you could enroll in the University of King’s College’s courses as a Dal student (and vice-versa)? Since 1923, King’s has maintained a joint faculties with Dalhousie. As a result, many services from both universities are offered to students at either school. As a Dal student, one can study at the King’s library, buy books and materials from their bookstore and even hang out at some of their lounges. I wish I had known that back then. I wish I had known about the King’s Galley and the Wardroom. Located in the basement of the Arts and Administration building, the Galley is a café during the day that becomes the Wardroom bar at night. It’s the perfect place to relax after writing that stressful essay — and to grab a quick bite.
Finally, I want to talk about the Dalplex. I knew it existed in my first year, of course, but I wish I had known more about it. I didn’t know it had a swimming pool, for example, until the end of my second year. They have dozens of sports and facilities available, so do the research. I bet you’ll find something you like.
Do your research
As you can see, it all boils down to this: I wish I had done more research into campus life in my first year. Perhaps I was too overwhelmed by the enormous change that had come into my life. Perhaps I was struggling to keep up with schoolwork. Either way, I didn’t do enough research to discover everything Dalhousie (and King’s) has to offer. And don’t get me started about all the things Halifax has to offer.
There’s always something happening at either the Studley, Sexton or Carleton campus. Look for updates on upcoming events on Dalhousie’s website and follow Dal After Dark on social media. Stop to read the posters spread throughout the university.
Four years go by faster than you think. Make every day count by knowing everything available to you as a Dal or King’s student and a Halifax resident.