How to be an SFU student


Buy Some Boots — Good Boots

Getting ready for the fall at SFU can be an exciting time. There’s always an electric buzz in the air (although that may be the electric hum of your credit card) when you’re buying your textbooks or shopping for back-to-school clothes. But no matter how mature and fashionable you hope to look on your first day back, the truth of the matter is that you’re going to need to dress like someone who actually goes to this school. That’s because after the first week of sunshine that seduces all first years, the weather here snatches away all your hopes and dreams and reduces you to the sweatpant-wearing umbrella-bearing student we all are inside. As a native Vancouverite, I still deny that I live in one of the rainiest cities in Canada and try to trudge up the mountain in my spring blazer and Lulu cutoffs, but the facts are the facts. If you don’t buy a decent winter jacket and boots, you’re going to regret it — especially when you’re digging your car out of a two-foot-tall snow drift in B Lot.

Accept That You’ll Never Figure Out the Online Enrollment System

In Greek mythology, the labyrinth was the elaborate maze that King Minos ordered Daedalus to construct in order to imprison the Minotaur, a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. A skillful craftsman and artificer, Daedalus built the labyrinth to be so difficult to navigate that he himself barely escaped it. SFU took a page from Daedalus’ papyros when designing their online enrollment system: unfortunately, in this version of the myth, the students are the Minotaur. Complete with a vast array of pages and links — many of which seem to lead nowhere — and an antiquated layout that hearkens back to the golden age of dial-up, the online Student Center is sure to challenge even the most patient first-year applicants. You may go through several stages in your struggle: denial, anger, bargaining, depression. But the mark of a true SFU student is advancing to that final stage: acceptance. You will never understand the online enrollment system. You’ll think that you’ve finally got the hang of it, and then you’ll click a link and realize that you just dropped all the courses you applied for. The sooner you let go and accept the hopelessness of your situation, the happier you will be.

Learn Your Acronyms, ASAP

At SFU, it’s easy to feel like you’re one of those parents whose tweens are just getting into texting. TBH, I still feel that way after three years here. You don’t understand what a TSSU is or why it’s always angry, and you get pretty disappointed when you sign up for REM and “It’s the end of the world” has a totally different meaning. You might as well be a Rosetta Stone-wielding Robert Landon if you want to solve the riddle of all these abbreviations. Well, before you get mad at somebody for trying to SASS you, it may help to take a look at what all these various acronyms actually mean. Not only will it help you navigate between classes in the WMC, the AQ, the SSB, and the RCB; before you know it, you’ll be able to rattle them off like any MBC alumni, and conversations about the SFSS’s recent elections or the collaborative efforts of SFPIRG and the FNSA will finally make sense. Kind of.

Cheer on the Clan, not the Klan

SFU loves to pretend it’s in Scotland. With our world famous pipe band, Robbie Burns day poetry reading, and kilted mascot McFogg the Dog, naming our athletics teams the Clan only seemed natural. However, we didn’t exactly prepare for the reaction from some of our more sensitive spectators. It seems like calling yourselves the Clan can be a bit of a turn-off, especially for our large contingent of American-born athletes.This is particularly important since SFU has recently become a member of the NCAA, which is the organizing body of the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. So to ensure that new members of our fan base show up in tartans and kilts instead of white robes and pointy hats, perhaps remind your friends that we’re not clansmen, but members of the SFU Clan.

Hate UBC Blindly

If you go to SFU, you have to hate UBC. You do not have a say in the matter. It’s like you clicked the “I agree to the terms and conditions” button without actually reading them: once you begin your post-secondary education here, you are obligated to despise UBC with every fibre of your body. No one quite knows why. Maybe it has to do with the two schools’ long-standing athletic rivalries, which range from hockey to football to basketball. Maybe it’s about the Beedie School of Business and the Sauder School of Business, both of which rank among the best in the country. Maybe it’s simply because UBC and SFU are the two best-known and most revered post-secondary institutions in Vancouver, and that naturally breeds a sort of competitiveness. Whatever the reason, part of your contribution to the SFU community is to think of the most damaging and snicker-inducing UBC jokes you can, and recite them to anyone who will listen. It’s the least you can do to preserve this honourable tradition.

Beware of the Robert C. Brown Hall

Much has been written about SFU Burnaby’s remarkable architecture: Arthur Erickson’s concrete design is often one of the first things that people mention about our school, whether they’re praising its angular beauty or lamenting its grey scale bleakness. But whatever your opinion on SFU’s unusual aesthetic, you can’t help but question what was going through Erickson’s mind when he designed the Robert C. Brown Hall. SFU students are well aware of that familiar shiver that runs down your spine when you see those three fateful letters — “RCB” — on your class schedule. The simple fact is that the Robert C. Brown Hall bears a striking resemblance to a Victorian Era dungeon. Its hallways are thin and winding, its random staircases confusing and disorienting, and its haunting silence more than a little unsettling. Maybe Erickson deliberately designed the hall to be confusing as a means of hazing for new students; maybe he intended to give any potential ghosts intending to haunt SFU an adequately spooky wing in which to do so. Whatever the case, abandon all hope ye who enter the RBC. It very well may be the last thing you ever do.

Read The Peak

Sometimes, campus news is boring. I’ll be the first to admit it: After the eighth time the TSSU and SFU have a disagreement, or the SUB building changes its location, it’s hard to get excited. But if you’re looking to become a member of SFU’s student body, that means more than just attending classes and complaining about the weather: It means becoming involved with your community and your campus. A big part of that is staying informed, and the best way to do that — sorry, SFU News — is to read The Peak. Not to be confused with the local radio station, The Peak is the newspaper you’re holding in your hands: student-run and -operated, we publish content about SFU, local events, and subject matter that pertains to the student body. If you’re new to SFU and looking to get a leg up on your classmates, you should consider writing for us, especially if you’re looking to get into journalism or creative writing. There’s no better way to get involved in campus life than to join a club, and — just between you and me — ours is the best one.

Make the Trip to the SFU Bus Exchange

At least one day a week, it’s likely that your schedule will be packed: You’ll have had at least two lectures, a few tutorials and maybe a lab to boot. Maybe your last class finished in the West Mall Centre, and you just don’t have the energy to walk all the way back to the SFU Bus Exchange. You think to yourself, I’ll just catch it at the Transportation Centre. But this is a sign of weakness. Especially if you depend on the 145 for your trip home, it is usually worth it to take the extra walk past the AQ to the University High Street bus loop. More often than not, you’ll be able to wriggle your way into a seat, or at least be able to catch the first bus you see. Not so at the Transportation Centre: any transit dependent SFU student who’s waited at this stop will know all too well the sinking feeling that comes with seeing a 145 bus full of students barreling past. Even if you catch your bus, your chances of sitting down have significantly diminished. Don’t be the person who wasn’t willing to walk an extra five minutes to catch the bus the first time around.

Treasure your U-Pass

I think most students can agree that one of the best things about going back to school in the fall is having your U-Pass. The U-Pass is easily taken for granted, until you really start looking at its finer details. This magical ticket can transport you to all the wonders that Vancouver has to offer, and let’s face it: without it, commuting between three campuses (in three different cities) all in the same day would be next to impossible. Not only is this ticket easily nabbed at the end of each month, but it’s included in your fees for just $35! Compare that to a regular two-zone pass, which costs $124 a month. Let the lowly peasants pay the full fare while you gallivant downtown, riding your SkyTrain to glory. Heck, just ride the bus back and forth all day for free. Live it up, because once you no longer have your U-Pass, you’ll be paying full price with all the other plebeians.


Because if you don’t, Petter will be very very stern with you. But seriously, our president, Dr. Andrew Petter, is all about students getting involved with their university community. You can see his trademark all over campus: at the Thelma Finlayson Centre for Student Engagement, on the bus banners that yell at you about “Engaging the World,” or in every speech he will ever give. Despite all the joking and the “Count how many times Petter says engage” game, he does have a point. Your university experience has the potential to be the best years of your life. Join a club or a team, get involved in university politics, or get a job on campus. By doing so, not only are you participating in an activity you enjoy, but you’re making connections with other students who share the same interests.