life lessons

Back To School-Advice to University Frosh

Starting university is pretty daunting, especially the first year. You have this to do list that stretches on for ages, you’ll be meeting a lot of new people, adjusting to a new place, and having to get back to studying.

If you’re a frosh, and just panicked slightly from reading that last sentence, take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay, you will survive your first week, first month, and first year at university.

Now, since you took that deep breath, here are my tips on how to survive your first year on campus!

  1. Enjoy every moment of frosh week. Do all the activities, eat all the free food, and go down a jello slide or two. You will treasure these memories for the rest of your life, and make some amazing friends. Us older students are always jealous we can’t do it over again every year.
  2. Use your meal hall or food swipes. Even though I can guarantee that by the end of the first few months you’ll be sick of campus food, use your swipes. Take the unlimited food (and chocolate milk) for granted while you can.
  3. Get a feel for the campus and the town or city you’re living in when you arrive. Knowing where things are will make you feel all the more confident.
  4. Try to not skip classes, and don’t be that person who just shows up for finals. You might not want to go to that early class, but your marks will thank you for showing up later on.
  5. Get involved on campus. There are so many clubs and activities you can join, and chances are that there’s a night where they showcase all these organizations on campus. Plus, first year is a great time to get involved since you’ll have a bit more free time.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you need to change courses, your scholarship money got messed up, or anything else, ask for help when you need it. It’ll save you headaches later on, and there are people on campus whose job is to help guide you through any problems. 
  7. Try to get along with your roommate(s), and people in your building. Unless you’re stuck in a terrible situation, you’ll make friends really fast that way. Plus, they might save you later on by letting you use their printer for a last minute essay.
  8. Get some school spirit. Even if you’re not the biggest sports fan, you can still be proud of your school. Help out with the student union, get a positive residence rivalry going on, or pop by the rink to watch your team play hockey. It’s really easy to show your support for your campus.
  9. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I know how difficult it can be to push yourself when you’re in a completely new environment, but it’ll teach you a lot of valuable life lessons. I know I’ve met some great people at university just by saying hello, and found what I’m passionate about by trying something new.
  10. Stay in touch with friends and family back home. If you live across the country from them like me, having their support is fantastic for getting through homesickness. Plus, long chats with family and friends always make you feel better.
  11. If you’re unhappy with your program, what you’re studying, or university in general, that’s okay. First year is a learning experience, and if it teaches you that you like something else or that you don’t like university, that’s great. You can always change classes or programs, no matter what the university website says.

What do you guys wish you’d done differently first year, or what do you wish you’d known? Leave them down in the comments below!


How To Survive a Gap Year: Learning a New Language

So these are my ways I’ve tried/used to learn or improve my language skills the last year, as the kickoff to the series of posts of How To Survive a Gap Year.

1) Take a class or course.

Find a local place or company that teaches classes for the language you want to learn. You can also look for tutors, or take a university course, but compared to local places those two options tend to be more expensive. In order to learn a language well through a course or class, you need to be willing to put in the effort to getting to the class and (most likely) doing assignments or tests. However, an upside to doing a class from a business or university is it’s more likely to get recognized by future employers or for future credit at a university.

2) Immersion

To use this method, it usually involves travelling or living in a place where the language you want to learn is spoken. You have to learn by interacting with people and learning the language as you go. It can be really hard at first to get the hang of not only new vocabulary, but also strange localized accents. However, once you catch on to language in the immersion method, you’ll have rather smooth sailing. Benefits to this method include being able to see new places, learn about new cultures and traditions, and getting very good at using more than verbal communication. The downside is, to travel or go through an organization that offers immersion is usually on the pricier side because you might be travelling halfway across the world.

3) Friends

Learning a language with a friend that a) already know it or b) wants to learn with you it always a great experience. Not only will it solidify your relationship from many hours learning verbs or rolling R’s, but will also allow you to pool time and knowledge to learn faster. However, that being said, learning with a friend can be dangerous because it’s not hard to end up distracted or doing silly things instead of learning.

4) Websites/Online Learning/Software

There are definitely many programs and websites (FREE and paid) that are excellent for learning a new language. The upsides to learning online are that you can learn whenever you conveniently have time, and in a technologically advancing world, be able to access it anywhere. Personally, I have a harder time learning online because of all the other distractions on my laptop, but if you have the motivation or learning online is easier than this could be the method for you.

Some sites/programs I recommend to help learn a language:

  • Duolingo: Free, has lots of languages, multiple platforms, lots of different types of exercises
  • Rosetta Stone: The classic, lots of different exercises, kinda pricey, you’ll need to install software
  • Google Translate: It’s not the best, but gets the job done (useful for chatting with foreign friends)
  • Reverso: Like google translate, but also has a dictionary. And if you need spellcheck/grammar check for english or french texts (they’re very thorough)

5) Advice, in General

Remember, learning a language is like learning anything else. You have to have the motivation and dedication to learn a whole new set of sounds for naming the exact same object (and sometimes even another alphabet!). Practice is really the key to cement vocabulary and verbs in your mind. Also, NEVER be afraid to test out language skills with somebody, even a stranger, who knows the language better than you. I’ve learnt way more by talking to people who know more about a language than sitting in a classroom.

In any case, I hope these methods (and some advice) help you out on your next language learning adventure. Good luck, bonne chance, and buena suerte in your learning.