#AllTheRagrets: What SFU students wish they knew in their first year

What are your SFU #ragrets? 

Photo: Chris Ho / The Peak

By: Winona Young, Andrea Renney, Nicole Magas, Juztin Bello, Marco Ovies, Gabrielle McLaren, Chris Ho

What I wish I knew as a baby SFU first year is . . .


… you are going to be bad at university at first, and that’s okay 

My high school teachers and parents had pegged me as a really curious and academically-minded kid with strong writing skills. And they were right, I do like the rhythm and work of university. However, breezing through high school and all of this encouragement didn’t really prepare me for sitting in front of a nineteenth-century German essay on literary theory and thinking ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here.’ It didn’t prepare me for taking courses outside of my comfort zone and having no idea how to study for them, getting stuck on term paper prompts, or picking myself up after bad grades — which, in my delusioned brain, was a B. I convinced myself that if things didn’t come easily to me, I wasn’t meant to be here after all. Because I wasn’t used to doing it, I was operating under the false impression that there was something shameful in seeking help and had no idea how to ask.

The bravest thing I did in university was ask for help — I took a walk to a professor’s office to ask a question about a term paper, scared of what she’d say when she saw that I couldn’t figure it out on my own, and was instead greeted with kindness and offered tea. And you know what? That essay got an A. This summer I registered with the Centre for Accessible Learning to cope with an injury and I passed all of my classes. There are some things you can’t do alone and that you aren’t supposed to. — GM 


running from Quantitative Courses will only make school harder 

Look, I’ve been an SFU student for almost six years now. Something that haunts me to this day, an obstacle that I wish I had dealt with way back as a lost and confused first year, is this: you can’t run away from the courses you fear — namely, quantitative courses. Yes, it’s true. I am, based off of credits, a fourth year student, but I consider myself a sixth year because I’ve been here for that long. You would think that at some point this English major would have attempted to tackle even one quantitative course — but no. I’ve been running from these demons for years now and I’m at a point where I only need five courses to graduate — except two out of those five are unfortunately quantitative requirements and, as this is written, I still am not enrolled in a quantitative course. Conclusively, I wish I knew that quantitative courses can and will haunt you until the very end, and it’s better to deal with anxiety-inducing courses sooner rather than later so that you’re not a sixth year reluctantly quaking in your boots in a toss-away first year math course on shapes. — JB 


… the most essential skill at university is time management

When I first entered SFU I thought that the only way to do well was to attend every class, write down everything the professor said, do all of the readings, all of the homework, and all of the supplementary work as well. I thought success meant staying up all night before an exam surrounded by empty cans of Red Bull, and that if I wasn’t devoting every waking minute to studying, I wasn’t doing university right.

I soon learned that this is a recipe for a quick burn out and that, in fact, the first thing any university student should dedicate themselves to learning is time management. This involves figuring out one’s own pace and best way for studying. It sometimes involves deciding which assignments are and are not necessary to enhance understanding. Additionally, it means figuring out how best to absorb lectures. But most of all, it requires balancing time for studying and time for one’s own personal needs. Some of the most important things we learn at university aren’t on slides or in lecture notes. One of those things is learning to prioritize our time to work smarter, not harder. — NM


… joining SFSS clubs = making friends 

Joining a club makes your university experience that much richer. And let’s face it — SFU is a commuter college. Burnaby campus is a little over 50 years old, we have three sprawled campuses, and our main one is on top of a literal mountain. I originally thought there was no campus life whatsoever at SFU. So for me, it was very easy to join the Stay-Home club (wherein all you do is go to your classes and you go straight home). I remember going ‘round Clubs Days, feeling desperate to make some friends, but too anxious to actually approach any of the clubs. My first semester at SFU was a pretty lonely one. It wasn’t until my second semester that I took the plunge and joined a music club that a tutorial friend roped me into. I didn’t know anything about music, but I knew clubs = people. Somewhere along the way between SkyTrain rides home, hanging out at club events, grabbing lunch with fellow execs, etc., I made friends. Obviously there is no foolproof way to make friends. But here at SFU, I wish I had known sooner that just putting yourself out there and joining a club is a great first step for making friends. — WY


… on-campus jobs are a great way to make some $$$ and get involved!

I’m kind of cheating at this, because I actually got my on-campus job in the first month of my first semester at SFU. However, over the years I’ve spent in school, I’ve been shocked at how few students know about the endless job opportunities SFU offers. The job postings span all three campuses and all kinds of departments — the bookstore, Student Services, housing, IT Services . . . You could even get a job in your academic department, which opens up a lot of networking opportunities. There really is something for everyone, whether you’re looking for something entry-level or you’ve already got some work experience under your belt. The benefits are also plentiful: the pay is well above minimum wage, the hours are flexible because your employer knows you’re a student first, and you might even qualify for a — gasp — partial tuition waiver. If you’re okay with spending a large part of your existence at SFU, then an on-campus job is the best way to make money, get involved with the school, and maybe even make some friends. — AR


… financial aid is available; use it!

When I started university, I naively thought that I would never use the financial aid program. I’d heard all the horror stories about adults going into debt over student loans, and I swore that would never be me. I was very fortunate and privileged to not have to take out said loans. But then I applied for my first credit card, and proceeded to set a very poor example of financial management for my future child. By third year, it looked like I would need some of those loans after all. With an extremely average GPA, no outstanding community activism or extracurriculars on my resume, I was doubtful of my chances at a scholarship. Luckily, someone told me to apply for a student grant instead, and suddenly I had enough money again. The threshold for the part-time study grant is pretty attainable for anyone not working full-time, and since most people end up taking a part-time course load at least once a year, that’s a pretty good way to pad out your bank account consistently throughout your degree. And of course, now that the provincial government has eliminated interest on all BC student loans after February 19, 2019, borrowing some money isn’t too bad of an option either. Just watch out for the Canada Student Loan portion if it’s applicable to your loan; interest will still be charged on loans issued by the federal government. — CH


… talk to the people in your tutorials

Making friends in your classes is probably one of the most beneficial things that I have ever done at SFU. Not only does it make showing up to class slightly more enjoyable, but it helps you immensely if you’re ever ever are sick or “accidentally” forget to show up to class. Back in my first year, I was terrified of talking to anyone. SFU seemed so big. Since SFU had a reputation as a commuter school, I felt like everyone went for their classes and left immediately afterwards. It wasn’t until probably my second semester that I decided to actually talk to someone and make an effort to be friends. All of a sudden I liked going to classes, and having friends in said classes helped me be less anxious at the beginning of the semester. Tutorials were a lot more fun too because I would be more confident to actually participate rather than watch The Office by my lonesome self in the corner of the room. While making friends is easier said than done, I really wish I had made the effort in doing so when I first started at SFU. At the end of the day, almost everyone is waiting for someone to make the first move. So don’t worry and just go for it! — MO