Coming into university, many of us tend to get too caught up with the mentality that “only marks matter”. We come in day in and day out for our classes, then run home right away or to the library because we have lots of studying to do. Then gradually the year continues and maybe in the back of our mind we feel a sense of isolation, which is natural coming out of high school, a place where you know everyone and classes are small.
University can definitely be intimidating at times, especially for those of us trying to get those 4.0’s for a Master’s or Medical school. But there is much more to university than just the books. The not so secret, secret to having a fulfilling university experience is getting involved, self-actualizing and trying new things! Getting involved will expose you to a tremendous amount of experiences that you otherwise may never have tried, opinions and options you never thought of and people of all ethnicities, personalities and strengths.
Often students think that there is nothing to get involved in on campus, but I assure you there are lots of opportunities! There are first year students to mentor, high school students to guide, sports teams to try out for, presentations to make, people to help with English, professor’s labs to get into and board games to play, just to name a few!
Getting involved on campus:
For any interest that you may have, there are other people that feel the same way as you do. At UTSC, there are organizations like: Management and Economics Student Association, Brainwave (a board game club), Quidditch, intramural and varsity sports, music ensemble and singing groups just to name a few! These can be found on https://ulife.utoronto.ca/. If perhaps on the rare occasion that you can’t find a club, well that’s no problem… make one! Go to Ulife (works for all three U of T campuses), fill out some forms and VOILA, you’re an official recognized campus group!
Step 1: Gather a group of friends. Step 2: Spread the word. Step 3: Have lots of fun!
Another tool to help with your learning outside the lecture hall is the Co-Curricular Record (CCR). This official record keeps track of your involvement opportunities at U of T. Explore activities that you can partake in that will help you build skills for the future! It’s FREE and available to all U of T students. Find it here: http://uoft.me/ccr
Getting involved off campus:
There are lots of outreach opportunities facilitated through U of T that encourage you to engage in off campus opportunities. A good example of this is the Imani Academic Mentorship Program, which is a tutoring program Scarborough students are involved in. UTSC leaders head to elementary and high school sites to assist with homework and help youth explore post-secondary options. I have personally experienced how rewarding the Imani Academic Mentorship Program is- the students really look up to you and your words resonate with them. U of T programs are always accepting new members and volunteers in!
Start exploring your local community.
If you’re at UTM, Student Life has programs available: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/student-life/community-and-civic-engagement
UTSC students, look here with the Department of Student Life: http://uoft.me/communityvolunteer
For those at St. George, the Centre for Community Partnerships, can help you out: http://uoft.me/ccp
Getting into research labs:
A lot of people feel a great deal of anxiety when thinking about talking to a professor or sending out emails to them! However, getting into a lab is not as hard as you might think. Most students get positions as research volunteers simply by asking their professors if they have any positions available (me included!). If you are genuinely interested in their research, they will be able to see it when you ask them questions or ask to be in their lab. So find a professor whose research you are sincerely interested in and go talk to them about it. You have to take the first step. Show them you are interested and ask them if there is any way to get involved. Who knows? It might even lead to doing a supervised research course with that lab!
I can go on in listing a million reasons and ways to get plugged into campus life. Perhaps the most beneficial reason to get involved in different campus groups and organizations is not only to learn new things but also to helps us to discover ourselves. So go on… get involved today and reveal the leader in you!
WRITTEN BY: Fallon Hayes, Leadership Development Facilitator, UTSC
Fallon Hayes is a 4th year Molecular Biology and Neuroscience student at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. For the 2015-16 academic year, she serves as a Leadership Development Facilitator in the Department of Student Life. Her dream is to travel the world- most recently she did a tour of Europe (favourite country being Austria!). In her spare time, Fallon is involved in the Imani Academic Mentorship Program, biological sciences research and is on the lacrosse team. You can reach Fallon at email@example.com.