I love Waterloo in September. Old friends reunite; lovers embrace after 4 months apart, and new students eye each other nervously. Everywhere you look, 18 year olds are trying to look as cool as they possibly can with their parents trailing behind them.
If this is your first time in Waterloo – welcome! Laurier has a wonderful community atmosphere; with a little initiative you’ll feel at home in no time. But it you really want to feel “at home”, I suggest you get acquainted with the rest of Waterloo as well.
I came to Waterloo 4 years ago, eager to get involved in the community. I was from a small refinery town in Alberta, where “arts” and “culture” were non-existent. In Sherwood Park, cleaning up after a bush party made you an “environmentalist”. Owning more than one Nickelback CD made you “culturally elite”. Listening to the CBC made you a communist. I was a fish out of water in Sherwood Park, and desperately wanted to fall in love with my new city.
Luckily, there are a lot of things in Waterloo to love. There are parks and libraries and museums and Ultimate Frisbee teams and art galleries and used bookstores and fairs and farmer’s markets and coffee houses and families and senior’s centres and cute kids with chocolate on their face. Being involved at Laurier is important, but being involved in the Waterloo community will enrich your life considerably.
My first tip: Go for walks. Go alone, go with a new friend, go with the attractive person that you spilled ketchup on in the cafeteria. Don’t be fooled by the ugliness of the University and Weber intersection. There are many lovely places to walk around town. Check out Victoria Park, or the woodsy area across from the Blockbuster on University Ave.
Walking through a residential area can also be a wonderful experience. Whenever I’m ridiculously busy, I like to walk amongst brick houses. I watch little kids dash across their yards, Popsicles and skipping ropes in hand. I wave at them, and they wave back. I buy lemonade from their stands, and say complimentary things about their pets. Children will remind you that there are more important things in life than your exam next Friday.
Another great way to get involved in Waterloo is through community service. Helping other people will help you meet new people, discover new skills, and give you a break from your academics. So you got a “C” on your term paper. So you just broke up with your high school sweetheart (not that it will happen to you, of course). So your phone bill is late and you don’t have any clean socks and you’re getting a weird rash under your armpit. The kid that you read with once a week will still be delighted to see you!
If you’re interested in a long-term volunteer position, look into the Community Volunteer Action Committee. There is also a club on campus called Circle K. Circle K offers opportunities for service, leadership, friendship, and fun to students who have a busy schedule but still want to get involved.
It is possible to spend your university career traveling from campus to Phil’s to campus again. I urge you to be adventurous, and explore life off campus as well. Waterloo is your home for the next eight months. Why not make the most of it?