My name is Christina Lee, a first-year Chemical Engineering student who was blessed with the opportunity to attend the First Year Integration Conference 2017. Signing up for FYIC 2017 was kind of on a whim, during a really stressful time in my first semester of university. The event was described a “leadership conference at the University of Ottawa”, but really what I read was “free trip to Ottawa with friends” so I signed up immediately. I mean, I did always love student conferences because usually the most outgoing students are collected into one event. But I also prepared myself for a boring, strict 3-day schedule. To my pleasant surprise, not only did the organizers of FYIC do an amazing job of making sure delegates enjoyed the beautiful city of Ottawa, the sessions truly shifted my views on university life.
In short, FYIC was like getting to experience O-week all over again. Obnoxiously fun chants, meeting super friendly engineering students, ridiculous school mascots (our Tool being the coolest, of course) and fun activities like skating on the Rideau canal and bowling! All that plus it took place at the heart of downtown Ottawa, with incredibly useful sessions like “tactical communication”, “constructive criticism”, “public speaking 101” and more. These sessions prompted me to step back from my busy schedule to reflect on how to approach the good, bad and the ugly of university tactically.
First-year delegates participate in one of many sessions throughout the weekend
Perhaps because I’m currently on co-op, I found it was an extremely valuable opportunity for me to plan what I want the rest of my time at University of Waterloo to be like. Looking back, my first 4 months at Waterloo was a constant series of referendums between sleep/getting involved at school/mental sanity, and school work. And almost always, I chose school work. That’s probably why my biggest take away from FYIC is my new set of priorities. Academics is still important to me and I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon but making the most out of university no longer looks like a 4.0 GPA. I plan to take advantage of the huge inventory of resources the school offers, to explore my strengths and weaknesses. The keynote speaker professor Hanan Anis pointed that not enough students realize just how expensive machine shops, software, clubs, and teams can be outside of the university institution! Our tuition is like a super expensive membership to all these cool resources adults can’t easily access – not making use of them would be such a waste.
Professor Anis gives the keynote speech at FYIC 2017
Professor Anis compared university to a safe sandbox: your failures, especially when experimenting with interests and hobbies, are not permanent and quite frankly menial compared to the amazing discoveries you will make about yourself in the process. Anis told us that the students that really excel in fully immersing themselves in the university experience are those who are not afraid to look a little stupid sometimes. When the audience asked the student panel – 5 very involved upper year students – what their biggest regret in university is, every single one of them said: not getting involved sooner. If all it takes is sacrificing a few marks and occasionally being the clueless one in the group to graduate as an entirely upgraded version of who I am, then I say: sign me up! At the end of the day, I may have looked a little stupid but I’ll find out what I really enjoy (or don’t). In my opinion, I think that’s a pretty good trade off.
I’m sharing my mini epiphany with you as a challenge. If you haven’t already, I think it’s worth your time to step back and project months, years into your future. If you were to graduate right now, what would your biggest regret be? Maybe with a little sacrifice and courage we can all make the most out of our university experience.
This year I had the honor of attending a First Year Integration Conference hosted by the Engineering Student Societies' Council of Ontario (ESSCO). This organization serves to train EngSoc executives and connect engineering societies across Ontario to facilitate the exchange of ideas, experiences and promote collaboration between schools. FYIC hosts first year students enrolled in engineering programs across Ontario with the goal of encouraging them to get more involved in student advocacy.
From the first day, I was pressured to sit with individuals from different schools in order to network and make develop friendships which in turn makes conferences like these an exciting experience. Despite a few awkward encounters at first, this turned out to be a great decision. FYIC turned out to be the best experience I had at the University of Waterloo thus far.
After 2 days of sessions, networking and extravagant dinners, most students (including myself) left the conference feeling nostalgic and yearning to experience something similar soon. Personally, I was impressed by the involvement of some students in their respective Engineering Societies, their approachability and their willing to let loose and have fun.
The Waterloo crew (ft. McMaster & Windsor) showing off their engineering swag
Throughout FYIC, I attended various sessions touching upon student advocacy, tactical communication and professional development. The session Public Speaking 101 was the one of the final events of the First-Year Integration Conference and in my opinion it was the most engaging. The speaker addressed various issues that people face when speaking to an audience such as: approaching a disengaged crowd, making succinct yet informative statements and leaving a memorable impression. After his 15-minute presentation, he opened the floor to students allowing them to make mock speeches. The goal was to help students cultivate better communication skills by receiving constructive feedback from peers. I ended up performing a 3-minute spiel about a topic near and dear to my heart, tomato ketchup. The talk was well received and it offered me an opportunity to learn about the strengths and weakness of my presentation style, feedback that could pay dividends in future endeavours.
Another thing that really stuck with me is the pride the students had in their respective engineering programs. Many of the conference’s attendees wore engineering coveralls filled with patches traded for and earned over the years. Just seeing the various patches, the accomplishments and memories associated with each one further motivates me to get more involved in my own engineering society.
Coveralls aren't the only things we bring to conferences! Meet the mini-Tool (aka "Junior")
For the upcoming school term, I plan to fulfill my duties as the Director of EngHack and Director of paintball. Following that, I plan to run for an EngSoc executive position in the winter term. One of my main takeaways from this experience is the drive to play a larger role in student advocacy and make Waterloo Engineering a memorable experience for all students.
My name is Nidhi, and I’m a student at the University of Waterloo entering 1B Environmental Engineering this spring. During my co-op term, I got a chance to attend the First Year Integration Conference (aka FYIC) in February. FYIC 2017 lived up to my expectations. It was extremely welcoming, I learned a ton, and I met a lot of great people. I only have good things to say about this conference, and if you’re reading this and haven’t been to one yet, I totally recommend you do. The conference started off with skating on the canal and attending Winterlude, which itself was a great networking event. Here is where I met many of the wonderful faces I spent the rest of the weekend with.
Delegates enjoying the festivities of Winterlude!
The next day we attended breakfast and went to sessions at the University of Ottawa. The sessions included topics such as Diversity in Engineering, Fake It Till You Make It, and Tactical Communications. The session that stuck out to me the most was Diversity in Engineering, where we went through issues that are normally overlooked in everyday life. I gained a lot of insight from this session - an interactive panel of upper year students was even included. The sessions at the conference were interesting, and they made learning a little more fun than usual. Being able to meet so many different kinds of people was a whole other aspect on its own, as I learned a lot from them too. After the sessions we attended a banquet, and then went bowling. Both were great (with really good food too).
Overall, I completely recommend applying for conferences. You learn just as much (if not more) outside of sessions, making the whole weekend one amazing experience. FYIC was a great time, and I will definitely be applying to more conferences in the future.
Hey! My name is Kevin and I'm on my first co-op term in Systems. I decided to apply for FYIC during my 1A term in order to get involved and meet more people outside of my program.
I participated in a lot of clubs in high school. When I got to university, I decided to focus more on school for my first term. While I don’t regret that decision, I definitely want to transition back into participating in more extra-curriculars. I saw FYIC as the perfect opportunity to do that. For me, conferences are one of the best ways to change your mindset because of the environment you get immersed in. I expected to be surrounded by tons of like-minded individuals that want to get involved in their respective delegations.
The actual conference exceeded my expectations. Everyone was incredibly friendly. Even if I wasn’t doing it all the time, knowing that I could easily strike up a conversation with anyone in the room made me feel comfortable. I think that’s where the magic of FYIC lies. You’re with with approximately 100 people that you’ve never met before, yet you feel safe to express who you are without being judged. Hearing from students at different universities gave me a broader perspective on how different programs are structured and some unique programs I never heard of before (Carleton Aerospace sounds so cool)!
Most of our time at the conference was spent at sessions. These consisted of presentations on different engineering organizations and important issues such as diversity in engineering and communication. To be honest, the sessions on organizations such as PEO and OSPE were boring at times, but I’m glad I attended them because I learned a lot about the engineering designation and support programs that are available.
I really liked this conference! Most of the Waterloo students stuck together. I think this is partly because this was only one day and there wasn’t much time to get to know many people. I wish the conference was longer so some meaningful relationships with students at other schools could be formed. I also wish there were more hands-on activities. Sitting in on sessions back-to-back for the majority of a day can be draining (like lectures at school), so an activity where delegates had to get up and move would be a great change of pace.
Family photo on our last night together!
I definitely want to get more involved with EngSoc in the future. I’d feel guilty for getting to experience FYIC without giving back to the community at Waterloo. For anyone reading this blog post who wants something to kickstart their involvement, consider applying for an upcoming conference; I know I will be.