Infinite Pathos and Lazeez.
Another 1A First-Year Reflection from Someone Who Thinks He Has Any Valuable Insight, But He Doesn’t
I’ve literally already seen like 10 other posts like this, so I’m going to try something different (but not really, maybe just in tone; it’s laziness if anything).
There are about twelve hours left before I start my 1B CE term at the University of Waterloo, so I’m going to do a much-needed retrospection about my 1A term and my co-op term, cooped up in an AC-less house back in Vancouver.
Who is this relevant to?
Well, if you’re going into Waterloo for electrical or computer engineering, or engineering in general, first of all, I’m sorry for your loss.
Secondly, you might want to hear what a student might have to say about it; maybe it’ll help you with your first-year experience. Regardless, this is mostly for me; to be honest.
If you’re happy with a little bit of dry humour and some unique and generic insight into a school you’re going to, just keep reading; I promise it won’t hurt that much.
Co-op: The Elephant in the Room:
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. People come to this school:
- not for its bleak campus and awful weather.
- not for the community, which is largely faculty-focused and has very little school spirit.
- not for, well, Waterloo the city (sorry Dave Jaworsky).
- not for, well, other reasons.
You’re in luck, though! What it does have is a co-op program, which gives students a chance to go on (for engineering) six co-ops, each lasting four months. This is a great transition to talk about sequences (for math) and streams (for engineering), which decide when you’ll be taking your co-ops. Stream 4 like myself are called that because our first co-op is in four months, so we take one school term. Stream 8, well, you get the point (they take two school terms, so eight months).
For ECE, you will be split into three cohorts (I’ll talk about that later); two cohorts are stream 4, one cohort is stream 8. I have some word of advice for both groups of people.
Stream 4: I hope you brush off that pathetic piece of Portable Document Format you call a resume fast, because within a couple weeks of your first days at school, job applications will open. You’ll have lots of useful (and really shitty) opportunities to have resume critiques.
Stream 8: Don’t worry that much, considering you’ll start after winter break (your 1B term) to start looking for co-ops. Make sure you don’t cheat, get decent marks, and spend some time joining design teams or something if co-op is your focus. For hardware focus, design teams are great since they’ll teach you when you have no experience.
Cohorts? Oh boy.
Hey, you don’t like somebody in your class? Well, find some ways to start liking them, because you’re with them for five more years.
Yep, a cohort is a class that you’ll share the same schedule, lectures, and anything else under the sun. The only thing you might not share are tutorials, in which the cohort is split into smaller groups.
I’m being tongue-in-cheek, considering I don’t hate anybody in my class and I am actually quite fond of most of them (considering who might be reading this), but just learn to be amicable with them. You’ll probably end up liking most people: group suffering is a great bonding experience.
Let me preface this by saying: enjoy your summer.
You don’t have to attend every class, some classes are better off skipping, but it’s totally up to you. Don’t let them waste your time.
ECE105: Speaking of suffering, this course packs only high school mechanics, but turns the dial up to 11 in complexity. Memorize and understand how to do questions, that is the most important piece of advice I can give to you. If you were in AP/IB, all of the concepts and topics will be a review, but harder questions.
ECE150: Programming basics, some OOP, linked lists, beep boop compiler go reee. Starts off slow, and it ramps up. Don’t let this one trip you up, but man, I did not find it useful showing up to the lectures. Just cram, if I’m being honest.
MATH 117: Good ol’ differentiation, integration, that kind of jazz. Again, if you took AP, the whole thing will be a review, but there’s still a jump between high school and university, but nothing compared to ECE106. Overall, not bad (one of the easier courses), but I recommend showing up to lectures if the latter half with integration is new to you.
MATH 115: I hate and suck at linear algebra. 3Blue1Brown’s “Essence of Linear Algebra” saved me, so I recommend it to anyone.
ECE190: Engineering ethics, so the name says it all. Don’t worry about this course, just do the small assignments in class, do the questions on Top Hat, and honestly, have a good time listening to David Wang. He’s an interesting guy, to say the least; a simple Google Search about Critical Mass, his band, is worth doing.
ENGL/SPCOM: Enjoy, it’s your last English class. I had a really cool teacher, so this made the class worth going to, even though my mark wasn’t as high as I wanted it to be, which is fine. I actually like English, so this was a welcome break from looking at math all day.
Overall, not that bad of a term, I ranked 60 out of 267 CE students with an 85 average. Oh, did I mention, you get ranked by the end of the term, so be sure to take that impostor syndrome demon hiding in your closet out.
Be sure to take breaks and go out for walks sometimes to the nearby plaza for some Lazeez on the Sticks at 2 AM. If you eat Campus Pizza, you might have brain worms.
My first coop?
It was fine.
I pressed some buttons, pushed some code to production, then called it a term. My team, fortunately, was really nice; I went on coffee chats with them, and they UberEats delivered me dessert and a 50 dollar Amazon gift card on my last day. More importantly, they offered to help me and were patient. For a week or so, I showed up to work and slept at my table for hours, and they didn’t immediately fire me!
Did I mention I’m the “sleeping guy” in my cohort, infamous for a hunched back and a loud snore at lectures and help sessions? I’m trying to fix that.
I liked them so much I’m probably returning again for the fall.
After work though, the cold and dark winter definitely did not motivate me at all after. Nights were long, and I was pretty sad sometimes.
Shout-out to my roommate Andy, for sticking with me for the past few months, motivating me to go to the gym and generally keeping tabs on me so I don’t die.
Also, around this time, I started writing a book. Read it, maybe, if it ever comes out. I’m around 40k words right now, but I still have a long ways to go.
Looks like I wrote this in an hour or so; not bad.
As for final thoughts, build a network of actual friends to pull you through your school term together.
Waterloo isn’t that bad, and it isn’t that good. It’s just… well, there. And it’s your mistake for picking it, so make the most out of it with people you like.
In the meantime, just enjoy your time here. Join a club, a design team, or just reach out to people!
Reach out to me, or don’t; it’s really up to you. I run this little quaint site at https://sobercoder.me/.