Student Life and Getting Involved at McMaster
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Written By Gary Liu
Tell us a bit about your program at McMaster:
I’m currently in a Life Science specialization called Biochemistry, Biomedical Research Specialization, which if you didn’t know (because I sure didn’t coming into it), deals with the chemical interactions between molecules in your body like DNA and proteins.
So far, it has been a great experience, since the professors are all extremely kind, understanding and unfathomably passionate about what they teach. Often times, they can’t stop themselves from relating course content to actual applications they’ve experiences throughout their career in academia.
There is also a lot of emphasis on communication and developing skills centered around teamwork, which to me was a surprise. Looking back on it however, I can see that research does involve a lot of collaboration and was not as much of an isolated career as I previously mistook it for.
Overall, I’d recommend it to anyone interested in Life Sciences, but I’ve also heard great things about other year 2 specializations.
What is the student life like?
Coming from the perspective of a high school student, I would say post-secondary education leaves a lot of choices in your hands. More so than before, what you choose to do in your spare time is a question you ask only to yourself, and the best part about it is that there is no right answer. I’ve crossed paths with so many individuals that want to prioritize hobbies that I didn’t even know existed. All this was to say that student life is whatever you make it out to be, the hardest part about it is aligning your actions with that ideal.
How were your experiences living in residence during first year?
Living on residence as a first year is something I’d strongly recommend to anyone, since residence is more than just a place to live and you can often find connections you wouldn’t find anywhere else without a lot of personal initiative. A big aspect about being in University is that schedules will rarely align and having residence as a centralized area during the evening and night times without worrying about a commute towards home is extremely helpful. McMaster and a couple of other institutions also try to group like students together based off of interests and other factors, and it not only helps to create relationships outside of the classroom but is also a rare opportunity to meet people from outside your faculty/department.
Again, I’d like to just reiterate that residence is an experience more than housing, so if its financially feasible, it helps extraordinarily with the transition since you’re surrounded by other first years.
What have your experiences as a don been like?
When I first applied to be a don, it was essentially on a whim. I just thought it would be a pretty casual job that really just involved helping first years transition into university. Yet as the year goes on, my gratitude grows for working with such an amazing residence team and having the pleasure of seeing students become accustomed to their new lifestyle at university. I would definitely say that being a don gives back to you in equal parts for the effort you put into your relationship with students. As such, it can be taxing and strenuous near the beginning of the year, when you often have to reach out to your students, as are the shifts extending until 2 am that happen throughout the year. But this has also gave me confidence in approaching social interactions with new people, and a sense of belonging that extends into making McMaster feel like a home away from home.
Extracurriculars and How to Get Involved:
Outside of being a don, I’m currently in the McMaster Concert Band as well as participating in a charity organization chapter here called WASTI. Both of these are extensions of extracurriculars I was a part of in high school, and I would recommend starting out from there if you’re feeling scared. Branching out into other clubs/volunteering opportunities/committees becomes a lot easier once you have a foot in the door.
It may seem intimidating to join university-level clubs at first, but its really not that much different than what you experienced in high school. While university appears like a large and daunting, remember its really just a large collection of many smaller communities.
Any other tips/recommendations for future students?
Don’t be scared of things!
I know this sounds extremely general and it may not have any real meaning to you right now, but let me explain. There are insane amounts of opportunity and resources that can help you in any and all aspects of your life, but the hardest part of it is having the confidence to ask and put yourself out there.
Confused in class?
Visit your professor outside of class time or ask after the lecture.
Don’t know what to expect from a program?
Ask an upper year for insight. (feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!)
Scared of feeling lonely?
Just talk to someone.
People at university are friendlier than you think.
And any time you think you’re ‘not good enough’ to apply to something, know that everyone else is thinking the same thing and the only difference between you and the person who got the position was their willingness to try.
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