28 Apr 2022

The First Semester at Canadian Universities : Experiences of the Class of 2021

The Class of 2021 recently finished their first semester at university. Very generously they have shared their experiences with us.  Read here to find out how the Class of 2021 navigated their first semester at Canadian-based universities.

Jessica Taylor

Hello, I’m Jessica Taylor and I am a Psychology major at McGill University. I think the transition from high school to university was a difficult one, particularly when moving to a different country. The lived experience of moving away from friends and family, as well as experiencing somewhere very different than where I grew up was more challenging than I thought it would be, and I had to become a lot more independent in this process. Therefore, I would say that the hardest part of studying at McGill wasn’t to do with the university itself but missing people back home and missing Hong Kong itself. Making new friends has helped with this process a lot, and I think it’s important to try to stay in contact with those you are close to as much as possible. Also, I think the challenges that come with Covid cannot be understated. When I wasn’t sure when I could travel again, the feeling of missing home was made more difficult.

I would advise students planning and applying to universities to put a lot of weight on the location of the university and the people living there as a deciding factor to which university they choose, as this affects your university experience almost more than the reputation of the university. I have enjoyed my time at McGill even more because I have been able to explore Montreal and experience seasons change.

Luceta Wut
Hi, I’m Luceta Wut, and I’m a student at the University of Toronto, studying Kinesiology and Physical Education. Transitioning from high school to university was no easy feat, it included tons of readings and online modules to be completed before class, as well as having an unstructured and more flexible schedule with long lectures. Due to all my classes being online, it was challenging to meet new people and classmates, but it is not impossible. It takes a lot of courage and effort to reach out to fellow classmates and get to know them virtually, but that pays off in the end. Another challenge was being in a class of 200+ people and being put into breakout rooms with new colleagues and professors, which can leave you feeling intimidated. However, you can still make the most out of this by actively engaging in conversations through turning on your camera and microphone.

My greatest experience in first year was making new friends (even though it’s only been 2) that share similar interests and a passion for sports like me. I also enjoyed living independently in a dormitory away from home and learning how to better manage my time with the increased workload. Although I’ve enjoyed experiencing the new culture in Toronto, I still find it challenging to navigate around a new country whilst missing home cooked meals and the familiarity of home.

If I were to give only one piece of advice, it would be to READ THE SYLLABUS!!!! (courtesy of my personal health professor) Nonetheless, some important tips I have to offer are to start your readings and assignments early and don’t let tasks pile up, always make an effort to connect with new and old friends, and to choose something you’re passionate about to study. Lastly, “kinesis is good, stasis is bad.” (also courtesy to my personal health professor)

Rochelle Wong

My name is Rochelle and I’m in my first year at University of British Columbia (UBC), hoping to major in either Psychology or English.  My best experience at UBC so far has been being able to be more in charge of my own learning: I’m able to choose my own courses, which means I genuinely enjoy all my classes, and getting to make my own timetable means I have total freedom in deciding when I want to be in class and when I want to have down time.

However, a challenge I faced was in the more independent as well as less structured style of learning environment. It threw me off to not have precise syllabus points to base my notes on, and for each class’s exam style to differ depending on the professor. But I’m glad it’s allowed me to focus less on exam technique and more on actual learning.

A piece of advice I’d give for choosing universities is that while you might consider their rankings, the suitability of a course to you is equally as important, because that’s what determines how well you’ll learn and how much you’ll enjoy it.


Bryson Lo
Hello, my name is Bryson, and am currently a first-year computer science student at the University of Toronto. One of the biggest challenges I found myself facing when transitioning from high school to university was time management. While IB gives you many deadlines for tasks and assignments, forcing you to have some work done along the way, the university takes on a more hands-free approach and allows you to organize your own time, often resulting in last-minute all-nighters for unlucky procrastinators like myself.

However, the University of Toronto is not all doom and gloom, you will likely meet many fun and interesting new people from around the world, through which you will be able to learn about their drastically different backgrounds while also connecting with them over your similar high school experiences. Finally, in terms of my university experience so far, if Canada becomes your destination, I think it will be likely that many of you will feel homesick, missing the HK food, the above zero celsius winters, and the wonderful convenience of the MTR. One last piece of advice would be to not stress about getting into your favourite university because doing so is not going to get you in. Best of luck with exams and your future university applications!