Students at Orientation

A Note to My First-Year Self

Samina Makhanbetazhiyeva
Samina Makhanbetazhiyeva
Samina Makhanbetazhiyeva
Specialist in Digital Enterprise Management
Class of 2022

Getting an offer of admission to U of T Mississauga has been one of the most exciting moments in my life. However, it is just the first step into the post-secondary journey. Are you a newly admitted student to UTM? Then read on!

My first-year experience has been very fulfilling and I’m excited to share the things that I do not regret trying along with a couple of things I wish I tried doing in my first year.

Best. Party. Ever.

1. Attending University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union (UTMSU) Frosh and Orientation Week (O-week)

Attending frosh and other orientation events at the beginning of the academic year is what helped me make friends with many people that I’m still in touch with to this day. UTMSU frosh was a great way to have a lot of fun before the school year starts and experience the university party scene. This is an aspect that I know a lot of high school students look forward too.

Make friends and learn more about your campus!

2. Signing up for a utmLAUNCH course

utmLAUNCH is a free course that has taught me several study techniques and the different resources offered on campus. Not only did I get a chance to become familiar with what the campus has to offer, but I also had the opportunity to meet an upper-year mentor and become friends with the fellow first-year students in the same program as me.

If you can, spend at least your first year in Residence.

3. Living on residence

Living on campus gave me another opportunity to familiarize myself with campus resources, but also to get to know people from all over the world. Sleeping in and leaving my room for class five minutes before the lecture was a huge benefit to living in residence.  The campus community itself is so supportive; making it truly feel like a second home, especially for international students. This is a perfect opportunity to get to know people, the city and the country.

Taking a break from breakdancing.

4. Getting involved with clubs & academic societies

Want to make friends who have the same interests as you do? Make sure to join clubs! UTM has over 140 recognized student groups on campus. I personally joined Numonic, a competitive hip-hop dance team, UTM TV, a student-run broadcast & media production club, and IMI Business Association (IBA), a business-focused academic society. These clubs allowed me to meet like-minded individuals and gain more experience in those specific topics.  If you join early on, you also get an opportunity to run for a leadership position in your upper years (great experience for your resume and you get to serve the student body).

Gain experience, grow your network, improve skills, and make money!

5. Applying for work-study positions on campus

UTM offers a work-study program, which allows students to have a paid part-time job on campus with different departments. I’m glad I applied at the end of my first year because it has allowed me to gain more experience in my field of study and start building my resume early on. I was able to work with the Career Centre, International Education Centre and currently I’m working with the Student Recruitment & Admissions.

Now while I’m glad I was able to seize certain opportunities to make the most out of my first year, there are also couple things I wish I tried or learned in my first year:

  1. Being the first to start a conversation makes it so much simpler to make friends. Since every peer of yours is new, he/she/they is nervous in the new environment too. So be the one to initiate the first step. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
  2. Make a better use of on-campus resources and student benefits. I used to think that I can handle everything myself, but little did I know that asking for help can make everything easier. Plus, they’re included in your tuition. 
  3. Engage and participate more in classes. Not only will your learning experience become better, but you might also get better participation marks if you stand out to professors.
  4. Attend office hours. Professors and teaching assistants (TAs) genuinely want to help students succeed. Don’t be afraid to visit them or ask for help - they don’t bite!
  5. Make study plans for effective studying and better time-management ahead of time. 

Overall, I’m very satisfied with my first-year experience. It has been a lot of fun and full of discoveries. This feedback is all that I would tell my first-year self in order to set myself up for success and make the most out of my university experience. I hope you found this post helpful, and I wish your post-secondary experience at UTM will be as exciting!