Every year, we ask girls from universities across the country to give us their best tips for living, studying, and partying on and off campus.

International Development major Maddie Webber is an RUOA Floor Rep, a member of the residence choir, and spends her summers helping build houses in Mexico. In her spare time, she’s an old soul who knits, crafts, and loves to take photographs. 

Best thing about your program:
The best thing about my program is the prospective openness it offers. It’s quite a general degree; you learn about the way the world works on both small and large scales, and also where the world is headed… if something so unpredictable can be moderately forecast. But it can also be very specific. In the later years of the program, you can narrow your focus. Because international development is such an all-encompassing program, there are many subdivisions of development that may spark a particular interest. My older sister, who recently graduated with a similar degree from Dalhousie, chose an environmentalist-feminist hybrid path. As for me, I think I’m leaning more towards a socialist perspective. Regardless of your choice, the program makes you more aware and politically present in the ever-changing world. 

Biggest challenge in your program
The biggest challenge of this program is hearing, reading, and understanding global strife from the comfort (or possibly discomfort) of your lecture room chair. Professors will unveil layers of injustice and insufficiency, and all you want to do is get to the centre of it all, and “save the world.” But from the shelter of your temperature-controlled lecture hall, this isn’t always possible. And that can be mildly frustrating.

Favourite non-academic activity:
I wish there were 12 more hours in a day to do the non-academic things I love. I’m a bit of an old soul, possibly better suited to an older time, as I love to knit, craft, and read. I’ve knit enough scarves to clothe a small village… or at least enough to keep you warm through the bleak Ottawa winter. I love photography as well. I’m quite amateur, but I love to compile little photo journals to document events and happenings. I think it’s important to have a hobby to which you can seek refuge when school is burning you out.

One really amazing memory from first year:
As I’m sure is the case for every student, it’s a near impossibility to choose a single highlight from first year. I think what was most amazing was the friendship I made with my roommate. It can be patience-trying to live in a 4mX4m room with another person, but I think we’re part of the statistic of roommates becoming friends for life. She’s more than a statistic, though. She’s a largely influential part of my life, a friend, a sister, and a role model.

What do you love about your school?: 
What I love most about University of Ottawa is the city. Ottawa offers the comfort of any small town, but the urbanity that bigger cities boast. I’ve also noticed that it’s very clean with many rural and natural escapes. Gatineau is a quick bus ride across the Ottawa River, where you can spend Saturday hiking the beautiful trails. It’s especially gorgeous around Thanksgiving, when the leaves are turning and school isn’t stressful or distracting yet.

What would you love to change about your school?
If I had to nit-pick, I would say that U of O doesn’t have enough green space on campus. That has been a prevalent topic in years past, and it continues to be of importance as generations come and go through the 1-km long campus. Because the campus is in the heart of the city (just a hop and a skip to the Byward Market), adding green space would be close to impossible. There are rumours that the new Social Sciences building has a rooftop garden. I guess we’ll see in September!


Class: I loved “Anthropologie Sociale et Culturelle” (Social and Cultural Anthropology) with Natasha Gagne. It was both compelling and interesting, and very universal in nature. It made me think in ways in which I had never thought before. The projects were also great! We had to do an observation study where you pick a public location and observe unspoken social antics, trends, and hierarchies. The class definitely made me more socially conscious.

Place to study: I haven’t found my study niche yet. I tried out Morisset Library in first semester, but, come exam time, people camp out to find a table. The 5th floor is especially chaotic, which doesn’t exactly offer you a study conducive environment. I’ve also given coffee shops on campus a fair run, but my caffeine addiction and student budget don’t get along after a night of studying. I much prefer the confines of my room. Coffee and tea are free, study breaks are more enjoyable, and napping isn’t frowned upon.

Place to eat: Before coming to Ottawa, I had heard that the shawarmas are unparalleled. I avidly searched for the best shawarma in the downtown vicinity, and found myself more than content with Marroush MTL shawarmas, on Rideau Street. The people are especially wonderful, and extra hot sauce comes at no charge… if you smile. If your parents are visiting, drag them to Play in the Byward Market. And have them pay. They have exquisite food and wine pairings, with olive oil drizzled popcorn in between courses to cleanse your palette. Their charcuterie is phenomenal.

Green space on campus: As mentioned, U of O’s green space is quite minimal. That being said, the lawn in front of Tabaret Hall is quite nice. Bring your work, a picnic blanket, and a Frisbee, and you’re guaranteed to have a nice afternoon of outside studying.

Off-campus hideaway: My roommate and I both had Tuesdays off last semester, so we spent each Tuesday roaming around Ottawa looking for a little hideaway to call our own. We came across the Mayflower Pub and Restaurant on the East side of Elgin Street– an old nautical-themed restaurant that has the best bowl of hot chocolate in town. It’s fairly slow in the afternoons, so they don’t mind if you bring your work and camp out.

Any other tips for newbies?
Be yourself. It’s the most generic advice you’ll ever get, but there is a reason this phrase is so common – because it’s so true. Even if you’re a Broadway-loving, academically inclined, knitting old soul like myself, you’ll find your niche and a group of supportive friends. You don’t have to conceal your definitive little quirks. You’re an individual, and the people that are meant to be your friends will find your quirks alluring and charming. Dr. Seuss crafted the genius phrase, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Listen to Theodor Seuss Geisel – he’s right.