As many of us say goodbye to yet another semester and dread the upcoming exam time, the cubicles in the silent study spaces of the library will be filled with students who have yet to experience writing an exam on the rickety tables in the RAWC. The Medium sat down with some first-year students to learn more about their experience with their first semester at UTM, and their plans for the upcoming year.

“My experience this semester has actually been really good. Some courses were easier than I expected, but then some were harder than I expected,” says Emelie Anderson, a first-year student in the life sciences stream. “Overall, I’ve seen myself become more independent with how I’m studying. I study on my own and with friends. Academically up ‘til now, I haven’t seen too much of a change since high school.”

Anderson, who moved to Canada from Sweden recently, shares the changes in social structures she has seen. It’s been very interesting to learn about different cultures and I’ve definitely seen social changes within myself. But I’m very happy to say that I have met very nice people here. Everyone is trying to achieve their goals and is ready to help other people and everyone is really helpful when it comes to school.”

Although Anderson says that “in the beginning it was a bit difficult,” she has been “happy to see so many smart people that go to this school, and it’s so great to sit down and be able to have intelligent conversations about so many things that are going on in the world right now.”

Sharing her exam review strategies, Anderson says, “I know procrastination exists and I try to avoid it, so I try to make a realistic study schedule.” She adds, “Instead of setting daily study goals that I know are unrealistic or I’m realistically not capable of achieving, which may result in me ultimately giving up, I put in less than I think Im capable to achieve in a day. And so because it’s a short list and it’s so realistic that when I cross a task off I feel accomplished, and if I do more, I feel good about myself.”

After Anderson finishes her review for the day, she says, “I know it’s important to relax, I try to reboot my mind so that the next day I can work hard again—it’s important to enjoy yourself too.” One of her favourite subjects is biology, and although Anderson plans to major in it, she says, “I did take a utmONE course about happiness. It’s based on philosophy and history and although I’ve always been very science-oriented, and I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the humanities, this has turned out to be one of my most interesting courses and has opened my mind to this other style of thinking and questioning.”

Anderson hopes to pursue research positions offered through the Research Opportunity Program (ROP) at UTM next semester.

Tiahjade Shamchuk, a first-year student in the social sciences stream, says she’s contemplating a major in “linguistics and political science […]. My main focus is on politics and the language courses I’m taking.”

Shamchuk came to UTM because she “wanted to distance myself from home, but not go too far away. I live one-to-two hours away from here depending on traffic and how I get here, so it’s not bad.”

Although her overall experience was good, Shamchuk says, “First semester was a roller coaster. I hated courses I thought I’d love, loved things I thought I’d hate, and I guess I’d say that it wasn’t what I expected, but also was what I expected at the same time, because I came in to UTM not knowing what to expect. So I kept my mind open to everything.”

Discussing any changes in her learning strategies that she may have noticed, Shamchuk says, “I’m lucky to not be taking any math or science courses currently, so I’ve been able to try and teach myself in some of my courses—if I found the professor’s teaching style too different from how I learn—from using the textbook.”

She adds, “In the beginning of the semester I spent most of my time trying to learn directly from my professors, but in some courses, that wasn’t possible for me. So now I take what I can from them, and then look up other resources online to help me.” Shamchuk also mentions how she enjoys creating study notes and study guides, but she adds, “Whether or not I actually use them to study off of later on, it does help me while I’m making them.”
Discussing her exam review plans, Shamchuk says, “I only have two exams and they’re spread far apart, so I’m going to take my time studying and try to spread it out.” She also mentions, “Instead of spending three days studying six hours straight per day, I’m going to try to take a week with just two-to-three hours a day. That way, I won’t get as stressed out.”

Planning for next semester, Shamchuk plans start making her “study guides right after classes start, because the sooner I start the more I can remember, and it won’t take up so much time if I spread it out.”

Interested in politics and linguistics, Shamchuk hopes to be a translator in the future for various national and international government organizations.

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