Reflecting on my 1st year of uni as an elementary education student

Ayah Altalhouni - May 12th - 3 min read

Well, my first year of university is over. Now three more to go…Though in this year I’ve learnt so many new things, not just about things, but also about myself.

I didn’t really know what to expect, as I’m the eldest sibling, and I didn’t know anyone personally who's been in the education program at the UofA to give me their inside tips. I was nervous, and a bit sad at first. I was the only one out of my friend group to attend the UofA, so I was lonely as well, and didn’t have a friend with me for emotional support. I had to learn and experience everything truly on my own.

A way I deal with new experiences is I get super comfortable with the experience before I even try it in real time. Do you get what I mean? Maybe not. Well, what this looks like for me is that I’ll spend hours and days doing research on a topic through the internet, till I’m confident I know what I’m doing. Or spend 3 hours roaming campus, till I’ve memorised every shortcut and pathway, because the 2 campus tours I took were useless. So, I recommend you do the same, because I’m confident I’ll never get lost on campus now.

I also did research on the university and its history, and went deep diving through the internet for past syllabuses. I was only able to find one for 5 of my classes that semester.

Though, more on my actual academic experience, I didn’t take any classes on “how to be a teacher”. For the elementary program, as it’s a generalist degree, and there is no such thing as major/minor, I was able to take a variety of classes based on my requirements. I have to take english, math, sciences, and social science classes. There really is no right answer as to what you’re supposed to take. So the classes I took were different from other elementary ed. students. Some of us are more interested in the STEM classes, so they take those, but some are more into the humanities. I was more into the humanities, and took various history classes in my first year. One thing that was completely different from highschool on classes, is the amount of reading and writing you will do. There are so many long, and usually quite dry, readings you have to get done. Those readings then will have maybe assignments, discussions, or maybe exam questions on. I never thought I would dislike reading anything, but those readings were tough. So get ready to read, I guess.

The only “Education” classes I took were 2, and they were EDU 100, and 210. EDU 100, is your introductory class to Education, and we discuss various topics regarding education. Whether it’s the history, curriculum, socio-economic issues, and the politics surrounding education. We had some interesting discussions, and the best part of the class is your CSL placement, where you do 20 hours of volunteering at a school to make you realise Do you actually want to become a teacher? I was able to meet really sweet kids, and help them with reading time, and assignments. There was this one kid, who never learnt to read due to the pandemic, and was online since grade 1. So here I was, teaching him to read in grade 3. EDU 210, is a class involving technology, and education, but in theory. You read and work on all these assignments regarding various topics. One thing we did in that class was learn how to use “block coding” and do this lab assignment where you have to almost smash your laptop because you can’t figure out why the dumb farmer isn’t turning and collecting his corn after you wrote your code, but he still isn’t collecting his corn! Now you’re stuck on it for the next few hours, and eventually decide to skip it…I hated that assignment.

Though, on the social scene, I remained lonely. I was able to find a few people to talk to in class, but nothing outside of class. So I've been pretty lonely all year. My friends from highschool visited me once this year, and we hung out on campus, but they even felt different. I don’t know, friendships are hard to maintain in university. You find yourself putting extra work to keep that friend, and it’s very hard as you might only have one class with them. I don’t know if it’s socially awkward for me, but making friends this year was a real challenge for me. They say to join clubs, and all, but I can’t do in-person clubs (for personal reasons). I feel like if it’s your priority to make friends then you will definitely have some, but for me it wasn’t. I was more focused on myself, and wasn’t about to put the needed effort into keeping friends. Though, don’t be discouraged. I feel like you’ll make great friends, if you really want them.

Some things I learnt about myself this year is that I like bubble tea. I thought I didn’t like it, and I’ve been scared to try it again, after a bad experience with it in the past at a boba shop here in Edmonton. Though there are two Teapsy locations on campus, where I decided to give boba another shot. I did, and I guess it was just the place I went to, but I love it now. And I feel guilty for the amount of times I “treated” myself to bubble tea. (I kept telling myself I deserved it for my hard work, but my bank account was scolding me).

With this though, you’ll try and do things in your first year of university you may have not expected, and grow from it, and make whatever it is, a part of your life. No matter how big or small it is. Whether it’s riding the LRT for the first time, teaching a kid to read, or hitting 10k steps daily while on campus. Everything you do is part of the journey that will shape you forever. And a forever thing, is a worthwhile thing, and university is worthwhile for you forever.