September 29, 2008

This is what it means to say Mount Allison University

Hello,
My name is Geoff and I’m a first year student at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. I am originally from Lennoxville, Quebec but have since moved all around the US and Canada, and most recently moved from Boston, Massachusetts. It's a long time coming, but I'm glad I'm finally here.

You may be wondering what the point of this blog is and why I’m writing it, so I’m going to tell you: the people working over at the admissions' office were looking for current students to blog about life at MTA, and I decided to give it a shot. They know that people look at the site, see the programs and statistics and more facts about the school than you want to know. There are some people that decide they want to go to a small liberal arts school...and they see that Mount A was most recently ‘the best Undergraduate University in Canada’ (which you can’t miss on the admissions’ website), and decide to come...no questions asked. But most people I know came here because they got a feeling for the atmosphere of campus and that they could not only be challenged, but that they could enjoy living here...and enjoying the 152 hours a week you aren’t in class. I know that I didn't accept Mount Allison's offer of admission until I knew that I could be productive and happy outside of class. That’s where I come in.

I’m here to tell you what it’s like week in week out at Mount A, to give you a perspective on the school that you can’t get from a brochure. (In case you were wondering the picture at the top isn't from the brochure...I took it...it actually is that beautiful here.) Everybody has their own experiences but I’m here to tell you mine. As a I’ve been here a few weeks now so I have a bit of catching up to do.

Like many of you may feel, I was anxious to leave home and be on my own. There is something thrilling and somewhat frightening about the experience of first going out into the world on your own without the parental safety net. Not to say that I wasn’t more than ready to leave, but there’s nothing like leaving home for the first time.

For about your first week here there are no classes...you are only responsible for moving in, eating, sleeping, and meeting people. This is the best time for it, as there are hundreds of other people who are feeling the same nervousness, and want to find friends just as much as you. Take advantage of it and you’ll be better off. There are hundreds of people and you won’t become best friends with everybody you meet, but being open to talking allows you to see the variety of personalities and to find people with similar interests. Along with official orientation activities there are parties, and unlike living at home, nobody here is going to tell you what to do or how to behave. At university you make your own choices, but you're also more responsible for yourself than ever before.


After a while there is a "SACtivities" Fair (SAC stands for Student Administrative Council, student government at Mount A) where just about every group on campus has a booth set up and you can find out about all the different clubs you can get involved in. There's over 100, and there's probably some you haven't heard of, so if you go you might just find something new you can get involved in. I found out about Oxfam, the Sackville Film Festival and the International Relations group on campus. Even if you weren't very involved in high school this is a chance to have fun and meet people who are interested in the same things as you...and it doesn't hurt to have some extracurricular activities on your resume. Believe it or not, there are also some clubs that are productive and fun, take Leadership for example, we took a day to do team-building exercises to get to know our group and throughout the semester we'll be working on a volunteer project of our choosing. This is me at the leadership retreat attempting to hop on a rope...take note of how badly I failed at it.

geoff at mount allisonThe second week classes start, you probably won’t get a lot of work the first week but you’ll be told all the requirements of class. Unlike high school you won’t fail if you don’t go to class. Your parents won’t get a call and you won’t get detention. For most classes you’ll be given a syllabus saying exactly what is happening in class every day and what you’ll be responsible for knowing come midterms and final exams. The main difference between high school and university is that there is nobody there to hold your hand or spoon feed you. You can come to class or not, you can read the book, or not...the only person it will affect is you.

By the third week there are some small assignments, and by now you’ll have a feel for how the class is going to be taught and how much work is expected for each class. Depending on your specific classes you’ll have bi-weekly assignments, quizzes, and longer written assignments. If you are going into arts you are going to do a lot of reading and writing. Semesters are short compared to high school, so your teacher may start talking about mid-terms. In some classes there are a few ‘mid-term tests’, but for many there are maybe two or three assignments and two exams that make up the vast majority of your final mark. Don’t panic, everybody else is worried too. There are only a few hours of class a week, so there the amount of material covered is manageable, but because nobody is checking to see if you did the reading or the practice problems. You have to make yourself practice and study.

Speaking of being responsible and getting things done...I haven’t been doing either lately. Out of five things on my list I did two...seeing the Dark Knight and free pizza were obstacles to getting anything done. It’s really easy to get side-tracked when you live in residence...you’re surrounded by friends, and it can be hard to turn down a midnight movie that twenty people you know are going to, or going to a surprise birthday party for a friend...even when you planned on getting an outline and some studying for midterms done. Instead of the steady stream of “things due tomorrow” in high school you have “things I should do by next week” here. I had fun...but it's Monday night and I already regret my laziness.

geoff at mount allisonWell that about wraps it up. If you have anything to say or to ask feel free to leave a comment. I'll be back every week to give you an update on life at Mount Allison. Take care for now.