How to Survive Uottawa, or Any Other Canadian Universities - A Quick Guide for Those Who Are About to Enter, or Is Considering Undergraduate Educations in Canada Part III - where to find learning resources, and how to pick new courses and deal with housing
Table of Contents
Introduction p. 2
Picking courses for the future, and housing p. 2
Resources for studies p. 4
Conclusion p. 6
Welcome to the third and final part of my guide on how to survive Ottawa. Here you will find my knowledge on picking courses and hosuing, as well as learning resources (data bases etc.) that is extremely helpful for arts students.
Picking courses for the future, and housing
After your first semester, it is time for you to consider housing for next year and selecting courses for your second year. If you decide to move out for your second year, there are a variety of websites that you could consult. I use Kijiji（https://www.kijiji.ca） and RealMaster（ https://www.realmaster.com/en ）You want to worry about housing early, like in January and February, you should decide whether or not you want to live by yourself or with a roommate. As for housing prices, a general rule of thumb is that for co-rents (with roommates), houses between $600-1000 per person per month are considered to be average. While for a single person that same price is considered cheap. Usually, most listings appear 2 months before the actual move-in date (i.e. late February) and peak about a month before the end of your semester.
As for course selection, it is important to know what kind of job you want to do with your program and hence what courses/knowledge you will need. Some courses follow prerequisites hence you might want to plan ahead in order to be prepared before taking those courses in your third or final year. Some courses might also be competitive and ask you to be of a certain grade so keep in mind that.
As a general rule, follow the recommended course sequence （https://www.uottawa.ca/course-enrolment/course-sequences） provided by your school. In uOttawa, each course is usually 3 credit points each hence 5 courses per semester will result in 30 credits per year, completed in four years.
Avoid summer school whenever possible. Unless you want to graduate early. Summer school is bad because at least in uOttawa, summer school is often condensed into a single month rather than a regular three-month course. Hence you will feel very pressured and rushed by just taking a single course. You might not learn as well since the course is so rushed, and your grade might even suffer so always beware.
Try to use electives as mark boosters. Each program should allow you to have between two to four electives. Use them to take simple courses to lighten up your load. Ask around what courses are considered simple and always make sure you get a good prof. If used wisely, your electives should boost up your CGPA while allowing you to have a lighter semester. My experience is that any first or second-year Classics tend to be very easy and simply a mark booster, but then again, I am also real nerdy about classics!
While all schools function differently, it is always wise to select your courses early. Know ahead of time（https://www2.uottawa.ca/current-students/career-experiential-learning/coop/key-dates） when you will be able to view what courses are offered and when you can start enrolling in your course. Good courses tend to fill up within 6 hours of release so it doesn’t hurt to pre-select your courses ahead of time and wait till pass-midnight and enroll your courses. The problem is sometimes a lot of people might be doing the same thing and it could crash the system, which happened to me once.
Lastly, if you have COOP, then good for you! If you do not have COOP, see if you can have your program switched into a COOP program (and ofc pick COOP if you are not yet enrolled). If you are unfamiliar with COOP, it is basically a work-study program that will extend at least 3 extra terms of work into your studies. Starting in your second year’s winter, you’ll be working in a program-related field. Your first work term will start in the summer after year the second year of study, then it’s one term of school followed by one term of work until you have completed your program.
When choosing your job, keep in mind what you wanted to do in the long run and decide what job experience you might want to have. For instance, for the past two work terms, I’ve been working as a Historical Research Assistant for Parks Canada, writing for our This Week In History （https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/cseh-twih） page. It is a great job in terms of the number of things I’ve learned, both about how the government works and about historical knowledge. But as I am more leaning towards international relations and global history (as opposed to Canadian history), I’ve decided to leave this job for it might not benefit me in the long run. Still, the experience and knowledge I’ve gained are very valuable.
Keep in mind that if you are doing COOP, you will inevitably have to take summer schools. You might want to pre-plan your course sequence as some of the required courses might not be available in the summer, and in general summer schools tend to offer less variety of courses.
Resources for studies
University Library（https://biblio.uottawa.ca/en）: your university library will always be your best friend and you should familiarize yourself with it as soon as possible. Learn how to smart search (i.e. search with keywords), and selective filter search. After you’ve graduated from academia you won’t be able to access those databases anymore (unless you have a work/private subscription) so take good advantage of them. A good portion of your tuition actually goes towards maintaining those databases.
Google Scholar（https://scholar.google.com/）: Not always reliable nor always guaranteed to provide you with the article you are looking for. But it is useful nonetheless. I usually start with a google search and any relevant articles that aren’t relevant can go through a second search on the uni’s library.
Chicago Quick Guideh（https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html）: A lot of students (art students especially) need to go through the process of being familiarized with style guides. One of the required courses for history students includes being able to cite correctly as a part of the passing criteria. Be familiarized with at least one style guide. History students use Chicago, English/other arts usually use MLA. While sciences (including social sciences) usually use APA.
Knight cite（https://www.calvin.edu/library/knightcite/）: While there are a lot of automatic citation machines out there, this one is the best and produces the least amount of error in my opinion. However, Knight cite is not error-proof hence is always good to go through your citations with the style guide at the end.
Library Card（https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/databases/）: Some libraries in Canada offer free database services to cardholders. I personally have one with Toronto Public Library and its databases, namely Gale, is quite useful when trying to reach a source that is only available on certain databases. Try to get one if you can and take advantage of the free services.
Librarian（https://biblio.uottawa.ca/en/research-help/ask-question）: Your librarian is trained in your field to help you find sources that are relevant for you. If you are stuck for sources (especially if you are in arts), message a librarian (or ask your prof to recommend you one) and ask he/she to help you find some relevant sources. They usually respond within a day with more than enough sources.
Requesting Scans: oftentimes during COVID, it is simply not possible to pick up a book from the library itself. Certain books have the “Scan on Demand” or “Home Delivery” option. They are incredibly useful however they could take a few days to process. Hence always start your research several months before the due date and give enough time for the librarians to prepare the books for you.
I hope the tips and experiences I have presented may be of help to you. Of course, a lot of this advice I offered is from my personal experience and since we are all different individuals with different experiences, styles, agencies, and goals, take everything I’ve said with a pinch of salt. However, if you are still unsure about your future, that is, not just about universities but about your career and life, here’s what I’ll say: get out of your comfort zones! Italian Renaissance thinker Niccolo Machiavelli once said, “men never do anything that is good except when forced to”. What he partly meant is that absent of compulsions such as laws, customs, traditions, and discipline, people tend not to be productive or industrious. What we as students need to understand is that oftentimes that compulsion does not have to come in the form of an external “push factor”, such as a deadline. But with enough training and discipline, we ourselves can be the “pull factor” that motivates us to become better, to test our limits, and to self-evaluate and self-improve. None of these things can happen if we simply stay in our comfort zone as the name itself suggests, a comfort zone provides nothing but temporary comfort. In conclusion, I wish you the best of luck in your upcoming studies and may your post-secondary experience be a joyful one!