First-day jitters and joy: Meet 5 people starting a new chapter this year

A grid of five portraits of McMaster community members

McMaster community members (clockwise from top left) Reem Tehfe, Toluwalase Dayo-Olaide, Rodrigo Narro Pérez, Isabella Ollivierre and Dave Cano share how they are feeling as they begin a new chapter of their lives this academic year.

The start of a new school year brings with it the promise of new beginnings and the growth that comes with new challenges.

For five McMaster community members, this fall marks a new chapter in their lives — from starting university to beginning a graduate degree, to teaching as an assistant professor for the first time.

Here are how these five community members are tackling the exciting changes ahead of them:

A person wearing a backpack seated at an outdoor table
Isabella Ollivierre is a first-year student in the Faculty of Social Sciences. (Photo by Maureen Lawlor)
Isabella Ollivierre on starting her first year of university:

I’m feeling good. I was initially worried that it was going to be too hard but the classes seem interesting. All of my professors seem very nice and very passionate about what they’re teaching so it’s definitely going to be something I’m looking forward to.

I’m in the Faculty of Social Sciences and I’m going to be trying to stream into the department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. I’m really looking forward to like advancing my psychology knowledge because I’m very passionate about psychology.

On advice she is going to try to follow:  

My sister is in her fourth year at McMaster and has said a lot to me about making sure that I have a good routine and that I keep up with my readings. Just as long as I don’t fall behind then I’ll be good!

A professor teaching at the front of a classroom
Faculty of Science Assistant Professor and Latin American Network of McMaster University (LANMU) co-founder Rodrigo Narro Pérez teaching LATAM 2A03: Introduction to Latin American and Latinx Studies. (Photo by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University)
Rodrigo Narro Pérez on beginning a new role as an assistant professor

I am very excited to teach a couple of courses that are new, some that are old but overall, really excited for this new opportunity.

I will say I did get the jitters as I was preparing my lecture. It was a bit of a reminder that everyone feels nervous before the first day.

I think for my first year as assistant professor I’ll be learning a lot professionally, but also reimagining or innovating some courses I have taught before. And then I have new ones, like a fourth-year course on glacial sedimentology. I’m really excited to tackle that and innovate it and make it my own.

His advice for students:

I think the best advice that I didn’t listen to — but I wish I had — was don’t compare yourself to your friends or to your peers. It’s fine to have some friendly competition, but the only person that you should be comparing yourself to is yourself. Don’t bother asking other people’s grades — it’s only a disservice to you. So, just be yourself because there’s only one of you.

Reem Tehfe sitting on concrete steps leaning back on one arm
Reem Tehfe is starting the final year of the Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours) Program. (Photo by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University)
Reem Tehfe on starting the final year of her undergraduate degree

I’m feeling very nervous, but super excited. There’s a lot of uncertainty with graduating, but I guess it’s still exciting to think that you are still figuring yourself out and that this experience will make me who I am.

I’m so happy that I get to have another year that’s fully in person because of how COVID affected my first two years. I am happy having a year where I’m going to be with my housemates, who I love. And I know I’m going to get the chance to experience more of Hamilton, more of McMaster and more of this community. That’s something I’m really looking forward to.

Her advice for someone starting out at university:

I would definitely recommend getting involved in community early so you can figure out what you enjoy most. And to explore the community outside of campus — whether that be seeing Hamilton’s waterfalls or hiking somewhere like Dundas Peak. Live in the moment and enjoy your time because it passes by so fast — it sounds corny but it’s true!

A student seated at a table with an open laptop in front of him. He is smiling at the camera.
Toluwalase Dayo-Olaide graduated from the Faculty of Science in June. This fall, he is starting the Master of Biomedical Innovation (MBI) program in the Faculty of Health Sciences. (Photo by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University)
Toluwalase Dayo-Olaide on taking on a new challenge as a graduate student

I decided to do the Master of Biomedical Innovation program because it is a blend of two things I am passionate about: One is science, and the biomedical sector in general, and the other is business. I have always been surrounded by business. My mom had a business. My dad had a business. And so, living with them I have been influenced to always have an entrepreneurial mindset.

I’m super excited to meet new people. Obviously, it’s a higher degree and so it’s going to be more intense. So, I’m not exactly looking forward to the stress, but I am looking forward to getting back into the rigour of being in academics.

And the clinical placements and clinical immersion is going to be super fun. We’re also going to be working with experts in the field and having them as mentors and advisors on our projects. I’m looking forward to that.

His advice for other students taking on new challenges:

Live in the moment. It’s easy to go into autopilot mode when you are facing a series of deadlines, tests, assignments and final exams. You can get lost in the flow and the water can sweep you away. And you don’t really get to experience university because you’re not letting yourself live in the moment. So, take time for yourself and try to live in the moment.

A man in a suit jacket seated on a bench smiling at the camera
Director of Sustainability Dave Cano is marking the start of his first full academic year at McMaster, having started at the university in March. (Photo by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University)
Dave Cano on engaging with students in his new role as director of sustainability

I’m feeling very excited about the opportunity to do a lot of different projects with our students, staff, faculty and the overall community.

There’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy when the academic year starts. And this being my first full academic year, I’m looking forward to pushing the boundaries and making sure that we’re all working together towards our Sustainability Strategy. We have a lot of brilliant people on campus that are going to help us achieve so many great things and I’m really looking forward to working with everyone.

It’s always amazing the passion students bring to the table and being able to really work with them. And to provide more opportunities to put in to practice what they learn in the classroom. We’re going to do a lot of very interesting things around waste management and active transportation. We are going to push forward innovative ways to reduce what we send to the landfill, look at how to increase our composting habits and look at how we reuse furniture and technology.

His advice for students hoping to make change:

Don’t be afraid to take risks and take on challenges and speak up. I think the worst thing we can do is not speak our minds. Ask questions and go for things that you really want to happen. Because if we don’t speak up for ourselves, nobody is going to do it.

Related Stories