Why did you choose your program? What makes it unique to you?
Having been raised in a family of social activists, I have always wanted to pursue an area of study that would allow me to give back to the various communities that I am a part of. Choosing Honors Economics at the University of Waterloo was the perfect gateway to achieving this particular goal of mine. Not only did it provide me with detailed insight on the intricate mechanisms of various economic models and structures but also shed
light on the faults that exist within these systems. I was also able to add on a Finance specialization to my major alongside two minors, Computing and Social Development Studies. The unique factor that University of Waterloo brings to their Economics program is the renowned Co-Op as well as their highly qualified staff. Although I still have a term to go till my first co-op placement; through interactions with various UW alumni, there is no doubt that work experience in the industry you are planning to pursue gives you a massive edge over other graduates. In addition to that, work terms also provide students with an exclusive lens into the practical applications of classroom concepts, which is a very rare kind of exposure for undergraduate level education.
For a UW Economics Student...
How would you describe your first year at Waterloo?
Having completed my first year at the University of Waterloo as an international student, I can safely say that it was one of the most exciting years of my life. Not only did I havethe opportunity to immerse myself in a
completely different culture, but I was also taught by a remarkable group of professors that continue to be an inspiration to me. The transition from living a sheltered life with family to operating life independently was massive, but much needed. The growth that I have experienced in a span of twelve months is unmatched to any other kind of progress I have had in life thus far. Managing my own finances, making major life decisions, self discipline with academics and just being responsible in general are few of the skills I was able to accumulate over this time duration. I went from being an extremely shy person to somebody who feels comfortable taking the lead in social situations. Starting college (especially far from home) means you have a clean slate and there is nothing to stop you from being the kind of person you have always wanted to be.
What do you think is special about Waterloo's campus life?
Campus life at Waterloo is truly what you make of it. If you take the initiative to involve
and connect yourself with students and clubs around campus, you will definitely have
little to no complaints. Although it is true that UW has a more academic culture than a
‘party school’ reputation like Queens or Western, there is definitely a little of everything
to involve yourself with, whether it be parties, amazing food, clubs, social life or academic guidance/resources. Mental health is given a lot of emphasis as well due to the rigorous nature of the programs at this particular institution. As for what I consider special about the campus life, I would say the people and food for sure. Due to the large number of international students who attend this university, you tend to learn a lot about other cultures and lifestyles. Because of the very same reason, the food you find on and off campus is very diverse. You have all sorts of restaurants,
ranging from Pakistani, Indian, Korean, Middle Eastern (shoutout to Lazeez for getting me through the first year) to authentic Canadian cuisine (aka poutineries and such). Ultimately though, the state of your social and academic life lies in your hands so don’t ever hesitate in putting yourself out there and pushing boundaries.
What is some advice you would give high school students when applying to your
Regardless of whether you are applying to University of Waterloo or elsewhere, keep in mind that most institutions have a holistic approach in the application selection process. From my experience, they would much rather prefer a well-rounded student who not only excels academically but is also involved in various extracurricular and volunteering
activities. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there. Despite my shy nature, I took the initiative of founding the Community and Social Service (CSS) Society in high school which provided students with a platform to give back to the disadvantaged segments of society (within our community) through various volunteer programs and economic empowerment initiatives. It was a huge success and we managed to make a considerable difference in the two years of us operating. Moreover, be as sincere as you possibly can in your supplementary college essays. For Waterloo applicants, we have the Admission Information Form (AIF). Make sure to list down things you are passionate about and skills you’ve attained over the years that contribute to your character and would be an asset for the university.
How would you describe the workload and work-life balance?
Personally, having been part of the International Baccalaureate program, the transition from high school to college, at least academically, was not as major as I had expected. I was lucky to have covered most of course syllabi as part of the IB curriculum which gave me a headstart (especially with transfer credits) amongst my
peers. The exemption of numerous courses is what allowed me to go forward with the two minors without extending the duration of my program. The key to achieving work-life balance is to stay on top of all your classes. That means doing your assignments as soon as you get them and going to all your classes. Consistency is key in college. I, like many other first year students, made the mistake of attempting to cover four months worth of content in just three days before finals which took a huge toll on my mental and emotional health. It is better to go to all your classes, pay attention and accumulate all those small assignment/participation marks rather than procrastinate and trying to redeem yourself solely through midterm and final weightages. The small percentages really do add up in the end. Remember to work smart and not harder. I cannot stress on how important it is for students to take care of their health. That includes one’s mental, physical, and psychological wellbeing. Grades are not
the sole deciding factor for getting into the university of your choice or acquiring your desired coop placement. Make sure to take out time for yourself. Spend time with family, friends or recuperate alone if that is what you prefer. The point is to maintain your sanity and be the most efficient version of yourself. You cannot succeed in life if
there’s no ‘you’ to begin with.
A very special thank you to our interviewee...
Fatima Yousafzai is a second-year international student pursuing Financial Economics, alongside two minors in Computing and Social Development Studies at the University of Waterloo. Her hobbies include travelling, reading, and graphic designing. She loves meeting new people and learning about their unique experiences as well as helping out whenever possible. From a young age, she has been extremely passionate about social activism and advocating for various minority groups and has taken numerous initiatives to empower these communities. Feel free to connect with her on the social media
accounts provided for further questions or to keep up with her undergraduate journey.