At the end of August when my parents helped me pack my things into the trunk of the family Mazda and I began the seventeen-hour drive from my home in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to the University of Waterloo, I'll admit I was terrified. Seventeen hours is a lot of time for thinking—a lot of time to dwell on everything you're leaving behind and to worry about everything you're heading towards. No amount of road trip games or Quebecois squeaky cheese can make you forget entirely that you're setting off on your own for the first time to a place where nobody knows who you are and to a whole slew of new challenges, both in terms of academics and life experiences.
I'm not going to lie; it was hard at first. My parents helped me move into my suite in residence, and then they had to hit the road for the seventeen-hour trip back home. A few hours later, my roommates had headed out for lunch with their respective parents and I was left sitting alone in our living room, setting up the WiFi on my electronics and feeling hopelessly lost.
But around that point I received a text message from a friend I knew from a week-long workshop I had once attended, and I met up with her to pick up our orientation bags. From there, we went to get lunch and I met her roommate and some other first years her roommate had befriended, and all of a sudden this strange new campus didn't seem quite so lonely anymore.
Looking back, that is probably one of the best parts of my first semester experience: the amazing people I've met. You throw a bunch of young people from all over Canada and the world together, so many of them not knowing anyone yet having all sorts of things in common due to being in similar situations and similar programs, and just how fast they can click and connect is incredible.
In addition to the great group of friends I made in my program, getting involved with university clubs helped me meet even more interesting people. I've always loved extracurriculars, so attending clubs day and getting to pick out everything I wanted to join was practically nirvana. I had the opportunity to be on the executive of Waterloo Space Society this term as communications manager, something which was an amazing experience for a Physics and Astronomy student like myself (playing with cardboard oculus rifts, watching episodes of Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos, attending talks by people in the space industry, tweeting at Chris Hadfield... what's not to love?). I also became involved with FASS— Waterloo's amateur theatre company—as part of the scriptwriting committee, something else which was a ton of fun. Thursday writers' meetings were a highlight of my week, a two-hour study break where the group of us would do writing warm-ups, read through absurd and hilarious scenes, and discuss how to make them even more absurd and hilarious. It is incredibly cool that a scene I wrote is going to be in the final production in February, and who knows, maybe I'll even end up auditioning for a part. All and all, if the whole astrophysicist thing falls through, I can't say I'd mind being a scriptwriter.
As a University of Waterloo Schulich Leader, I also had the amazing opportunity to speak about my experiences at the annual President's Reception. Getting the chance to meet the movers and shakers of the university world was very cool; I even got to shake hands with the President!
Academically, I have also thoroughly enjoyed this semester. Physics, chemistry, calculus, linear algebra, and Arthurian Legends as an elective... I'll admit I miss biology and history, but nevertheless I can't complain about my courses one bit. I've been lucky to have had some truly amazing profs who have brightened these last few months with cheesy math puns and silly physics demonstrations, and if this semester has been any indication, these are going to be a good five years. Plus, next semester I get to take Introduction to the Universe. If the mere idea of that course fills you with as much excitement as it does me, maybe you should be studying Physics and Astronomy at Waterloo too!