My advice to First Year Cre-Commers

Hey everybody, long time no talk.

I hope you’re all enjoying your summer. I am, it’s super nice to sleep again and be able to relax. I’m still keeping busy with rugby, catching up with people, and my TBR pile got a little out of control during the school year. I’m finally starting to put a dent in it. I think I’ve read about 10-15 books so far, but I’m not going to talk about books today. Shocking, I know. It doesn’t happen often on this blog.

Today I want to give some advice to all the incoming CreComm students who will be starting with us at the end of August (Holy crap, it’s coming up so fast!). I planned to post this way back in June because that’s when the acceptance letters went out. What can I say? I’m on vacation. I’m enjoying my time off and I write when I want to. It’s a good time.

Anyways, we’re moving on.

I polled my classmates on Facebook to get some ideas for this post, so I will be sharing those with you and some of my own thoughts and feelings. Take what you will from this post and I wish you all the luck in the future.

Also, keep an eye on Hannah’s Geeky Corner as she has said she will be making some similar posts for first years.

Without further ado, read on, absorb, and be skeptical of everything.

Surviving First Year CreComm:

First things first.

Make sure this is something you want.

It’s a really tough program mentally and kind of physically too. (Lots of late nights and stress if you let things pile up.) Be sure that you have a strong support system that can help you through this that is outside of your school family (yes, they’ll become like family).

As Christiana Jones says, “CreComm is a swirling black hole, pulling us into the void and crushing us under the immense weight of an imploded star. Take time to remember that it’s not actually a literal black hole, even though it feels like it. There’s life outside of CreComm (this includes positives and negatives), visit it every once in a while.”

No one outside of CreComm is going to understand

It’s important to find people in your class to talk to about school and stuff because people outside the program just don’t get it. They just don’t, they’ll try, but it’s not something you can understand unless you’re living it every day. There’s a reason why the Kingshead Pub is such a popular place on Friday afternoons.

You do still need that support system outside of school though, because even though they don’t understand, they’ll still listen and be there for you.

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

(To quote Mad Eye Moody: “Constant Vigilance”)

One thing that can help is getting prepared for school early. Know the basics of your computer and your camera. They don’t really go over them in your classes and you get assignments that you’re graded on. If you have anxiety like I do, take the time to watch some YouTube tutorials while you have the time. Also, find the genius in your section and see if they can help you out with stuff. There are lots of resources you can use. Find them and make use of them. I know this is coming rather late, but get used to it. In this program, you learn from failing.

WATCH/READ THE NEWS!!!! Everybody tells you to do it and you say you’re going to, but then suddenly you’re staring down the barrel of your first news quiz and you can’t remember how to spell your own name. Get into a routine and start small, yes the comics count as small, but push yourself to go beyond that and read a few sections every day, mix it up and challenge yourself.

Also, buy a tripod. Just do it. You can rent equipment free of charge from the school and it’s great, but if you get struck by inspiration at 4 o’clock on a Friday and you need a tripod, you’re SOL. Spend $50 and buy one from Wal-Mart, trust me, it’ll save you a lot of headaches and stress.

Prioritize Yourself

Going back to anxiety and mental health, always take care of yourself. You will cry, a lot, that’s just a fact of the program. It’s all about taking it one day and one deadline at a time. Like my dad would tell me all through the year: “You don’t eat an elephant in one sitting.”

To quote Diana Chabai: “Go to sleep. Take care of yourself. Push yourself to do your best. Drink water. Learn how to take criticism and ask for more, because it will make you better.”

And she’s right, if you hit a wall with an assignment, go to bed. Go to bed and tackle it with fresh eyes the next day. You’ll be surprised at how productive you can be if you sleep. I also would think about my projects and plan them out in my head. It made the execution process a whole lot easier if I had a plan in place. Also, midnight naps are a thing and can be quite helpful if you didn’t plan very well.

Marika Laczko has some more advice on that note. “Even though you have a million things due and a lot of stuff going on, take it one day at a time. Figure out what you need to do today and do it. If it’s just reading a chapter of Zinsser, then that’s it.”

Lists will become your best friend, and get an agenda or a day planner. Seriously, it will save your life. Just don’t obsess and flip back and forth through your agenda stressing over all the stuff you have to do, it doesn’t help and it’s not fun. Take it from me, I have personal experience with this. Another tip I picked up was to use a white board to plan out your month. It gives you a big picture view, helps you focus on the pressing things, and makes it easier to prioritize you, this was the best decision I made and I’m annoyed at myself that it took me until second semester to start doing it.

Also, don’t forget to eat. Austin Grabish highly suggests packing big lunches from home. It’ll save you money and time, as Austin says “never ever go to the Tim Hortons before class unless you have 20 minutes to spare,” this is college kids and coffee, you do the math. Lines be cray.

Another good way to keep yourself on track and focused is by using the gym. Red River College has one on campus and Rob Mahon speaks from experience when he says “It will keep you alert and there will never, ever be a gym that is both free and where you are anyway again,” definitely try to take advantage of that and burn off some steam. It’s a great way to keep your endorphins up, which, coincidentally, helps alleviate stress.

Don’t be afraid to fail – but try not to.

Like I said before, this program’s tagline should basically be “you learn from failing”. Auto fails are real and happen to everybody. Just accept it and do your best to avoid them. My advice; auto fail one of your first assignments. I know it sounds crazy, but they’re not worth as much as later assignments and then the pressure is off.

If that’s not your cup of tea, take these helpful hints from Austin Grabish and Trent Burton: Highlight every single proper name and double and triple check it before you hand it in.

As Matt Alcock says: “proofreading is the difference between a decent mark and a great mark.” Basically, pay attention to the little things and you should be alright. Some insight I’ve picked up through my first year is to write to your teachers. What I mean by this is figure out their quirks and expectations and write to suit them, then work on developing your style.

  • Make Joanne cry.
  • Make James think.
  • Make Kenton laugh.
  • Make sure your grammar and tenses are 100% for Emily.
  • Make Karen uncomfortable (with good writing though, elicit emotion basically)
  • Make sure you’re technical with Kathy.

That’s sort of what I’ve figured out anyway. I could be completely wrong, but I feel I’m pretty bang on. Basically all you can do is read your handouts (I’m talking MULTIPLE times), proofread everything, have someone else look at it, and try to let it breath for a day and proofread it again before you hand it in. Is this doable? Absolutely. Is it realistic to do this for every project you’ll get? Absolutely NOT. Do your best, learn to expect Cs and don’t be afraid to talk to your teachers, the counselors, or us second years. We’ve all been through it and we’re more than happy to help. Even if you only get Cs all year, you’ll be OK. You’ll learn and grow and then eventually get a B in there somewhere.

School Supplies will help you make friends

You think I’m joking, but I’m not. If you have a stapler, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, mechanical pencil leads, and staple refills on the first day of class you will legitimately make fast friends with everyone, because most people will forget that stuff. Also most, if not all, your assignments need to be stapled together, you see where I’m going with this? Staples and staplers are gold.

Also, ALWAYS print ahead of time and keep some spare dimes on you at all times. We’ve had the print shop go out of order on us when an assignment is due (well a section did) and there were a lot of tears that day, so try to print the night before.

Make friends with the computer people

Leslie and Lora are awesome if you have issues with pretty much anything computer related. They will help you out if you fall victim to the CreComm curse, which is when one person has issues with printing and connecting with the servers. All you can do is cross your fingers that it’s not you, and if it is, find Leslie or Lora.

Get to know all the people who can help you. As I said before, there are lots of resources available to you, make use of them and you will do alright.

Savour your time here

Savannah Kelly speaks the truth when she says, “The year will go by a lot faster than you think. Savour it. Also, you’re a hack and no one will ever hire you,” the last bit is a little bit of CreComm humour, we get a little cynical sometimes, all part of the fun.

She’s right though, soak up all you can from this program, but don’t kill yourself to do it. It’s OK to need some time off. Take Cam Deamel’s advice: “The moment you start to thoroughly evaluate your self-worth is the moment you’ll start to grow the most in the program. Also, you’ll burn out in the second semester and that’s TOTALLY COOL. Talk to a second-year student and they will comfort you.”

He speaks the truth, burn out is a thing that happens to everybody. Like Dani Boily says, “Group hugs are important,” especially late into the second semester. The thing to remember is that we’re all in this together. Don’t be afraid to seek us out. You may get snapped at, fair warning, but it’s just because we’re all in the same boat, so no sudden moves. We can be like horses and spook easily so approach us with caution and never from the back.

The main thing to remember is this is college, and like Hanna Gehman says, “You’re totally allowed to wear jeans and hoodies to class everyday. Sometimes the same hoodie and jeans,” trust me, no one cares. Savour that while it lasts because before you know it you’ll be dressing like a grown up and adulting all over the place.

In the immortal words of Miss Frizzle: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

Prepare yourself for a roller coaster ride of a year and to save yourself some headaches and start thinking of ideas for:

  • Your blog
  • Two short stories
  • A personality profile
  • This I Believe
  • Science Article
  • Sports Article
  • Multiple ads
  • Your magazine
  • Your feature article for your magazine, and
  • Your IPP

Be prepared to be overwhelmed in the best way possible. Godspeed friends.

Oh, and one last thing:

Hailey Gajadhar: “Stay away from the neon green Rockstars at the Merc. They all belong to Hailey.”

You’ve been warned.

Here’s to a great year.

And as always, please read responsibly.


One thought on “My advice to First Year Cre-Commers

  1. Excellent essay and advice. Great to pass on advice to the newbies. I bet you wish someone had done that for you last year!

    Call me about the you know what…


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