• The Mentorship Spot

Getting Involved in University

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Matthew Parkin


Hi, I’m Matt and I’ve just finished my second year of economics at Western. I lived in residence the past two years, as a student in first year and as an orientation leader in second year. As an orientation leader, I had the opportunity to sit on our building’s residence council and plan a bunch of events, which was a pretty cool experience. I’ve also been giving residence tours to give back and pay it forward to future students who may be interested in Western. When I decided on coming to Western, I didn’t remember anything about my tours besides the feeling of a welcoming community which I felt from all of the tour guides, and I wanted to give that feeling to prospective students as well.


What extracurriculars are you involved with?


I’ve been involved with my residence building for the past two years, organizing lots of events as VP Programming. I’ve also been involved with Swimming with a Mission, which is a non-profit organization which works to provide affordable and accessible swimming lessons to participants with special needs in the London community. Additionally, I’ve been involved with the University Students’ Council at Western in a few different positions.


Why did you decide to join each of these?


Coming into residence, I didn’t know a whole lot of people but then I started to make friends in residence who continued to be my closest friends, even to this day. I wanted to get a chance to meet people and I figured that helping to plan events in my building would be a really convenient opportunity to meet this goal. For Swimming with a Mission, I had been a Lifeguard and Swim Instructor in high school, and I was looking for a way to stick with that path without needing to commit 10–15 hours per week. Swimming with a Mission was a great way for me to remain involved in the aquatic community with a commitment of only a few hours per week. With the University Students’ Council, I wanted to meet new people — I had been involved with councils and clubs in high school and I wanted to continue doing that. I think it’s a great way to network on campus and meet new friends as well.


Why so many extracurriculars?


I wanted to meet people. I feel like a big part of university is getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things, and that was something I really wanted to do in terms of making the most of my university experience outside of class. Yes, I’m here to study and get my degree, but I also feel like the things I’ll remember are the club events and friends that I’ve been involved with, so I wanted to make sure that extracurriculars stay a large part of my life. I’m still not sure what I want to do after university either, and this is a good way to explore some areas of interest, meeting people from all walks of life who all have different experiences.


Were you ever worried about becoming overwhelmed with all your participation?


There were times when things got pretty busy, but it hasn’t been too much of an issue. It’s been great to use it as a learning tool to develop my time management skills because when I came out of high school, I thought my time management skills were pretty good and I found out pretty quickly in university that that was not the case. It was a good learning experience to be able to try new things and effectively manage multiple conflicting priorities. It’s a big adjustment for many people to be able to find a good work-life balance, but it’s totally worth it, even if you’re struggling with it, to try to persevere and learn new things because you’ll grow as an individual as a result of that challenge.


How do you manage your time in order to do well in class and be so involved?


I’m a big fan of google calendar. I use it a lot and I colour code it to schedule almost every minute of every day. That helps me to plan backwards from a test date, to allot a certain number of hours for the test, and then plan which extracurriculars and social time I can fit in. For example, if I have an event I want to attend on a Friday night and I have an exam on Saturday, I can still go to the Friday event if I appropriately plan my time days or weeks in advance. In university, there is the distinct advantage of being given your due dates for all assignments, midterms, and exams right at the beginning of the semester. So, even in September, you’ll know what your busiest weeks will be in October and/or November and can plan accordingly.


What’s something you’re really glad you gained from your extracurriculars, and what’s something you may go back and change?


I’m really glad that I’ve had the opportunity to work with different people with different mindsets from mine. I’m now able to realize that people think about different situations in different ways and that my opinion on things is not the only one and isn’t necessarily right. Being able to work together with other people with different mindsets to reach common goals has really helped me to be able to work better in group projects and other extracurricular environments. My teamwork abilities have definitely improved substantially by being involved in different extracurriculars.


If I could change something, I would’ve reached out to upper year students and began networking sooner than I did. I didn’t really start doing this until the end of first year, but if I had started earlier, I would’ve been able to develop those relationships further and I would’ve been able to meet more people. The reality is that networking and connections are important. Learning about other people’s experiences and trying new things can be very valuable — you can learn about the clubs they’re involved in or even what they did in high school. It’s fascinating how people have such different experiences from one another. Hearing the views of upper year students really helps me, and people love talking about themselves! So, when I’m reaching out to other people, I realize that they’ll gladly talk to me about things they’re passionate about, and that can help if you have specific questions about a program, extracurricular, or even just want to pick their brain about something they’ve done. Consider reaching out to upper year students via our mentorship program! Sign up at bit.ly/tms_signups


What’s some advice for someone looking to get involved but who doesn’t want to sacrifice academics, happiness, sleep, etc.?


Prioritization is everything. Try to find your passion or if you’re not sure what that is, try new things and figure out what you’re passionate about. Being able to give time to trying new things is an amazing thing to do because if you find something that you’re passionate about, you’ll actually want to make the time to do it, whereas it may be more strenuous to find time for something you’re not passionate about. Realistically, if you’re passionate about an extracurricular you’re involved in, you’ll be perfectly fine sacrificing 1–2 hours of sleep or you’ll be more motivated to be more efficient with your studying. The line “I don’t have time for that” just means that it’s not a priority for you, and that’s okay! But I think you should put the time in to finding something that you do want to prioritize, as it’ll continue to motivate you and will leave you with some good experiences and memories. Your extracurriculars can also serve as your social time and be a break from schoolwork. Try doing club events with your friends and treat that as your socializing and club time, further condensing your day!


How do you recommend finding clubs which I’ll be interested in?


There really are opportunities for everyone. For example, at Western, there are over 200 clubs which you can join. It’s worth it to take 30–45 minutes during Clubs Week, which happens at the beginning of September, to walk through these booths and sign up for a few clubs. If you have a list of 10 which you’re interested in, maybe try three, and then if you don’t like them, revisit your list next year and pick a different three. Joining clubs can get expensive and time-consuming if you pick too many, so I do recommend that you try to stick to 2–3 which you think you’ll really like before you try to add on more. If you’re looking into clubs prior to entering university, each university has a website dedicated to clubs (Western’s is http://westernusc.ca/clubs/) so you can take some time to peruse the clubs of the universities you’re interested in.


If you have any questions or want to discuss anything with me, feel free to email me at mparkin6@uwo.ca.


Interviewed and Transcribed By Rachel Snelgrove


Thanks for reading this article! If you liked it, consider checking out the other articles on our page and stay tuned for new ones weekly! Did you know we also pair high school students with uni students in their desired program for advice and mentorship? Check out our sign-up page to register as a mentor or mentee today!

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