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Education graduand helps students navigate university life

June 25, 2021
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By Allen M. Quinn

Like many first-year students, Emerly Liu arrived at SFU knowing next to no-one. Feeling excited but anxious to meet new friends, she came up with a plan to find the people who would help her navigate university life. So successful was this strategy that she has now developed a guide to getting involved for all SFU students.  

When you first enter university, getting involved in activities and clubs in your first year can be the last thing on one’s mind. Between picking classes, finding a place to live, studying to maintain good grades, and finding time to work and socialize, it can be daunting to consider getting involved.

In a situation familiar to many new students, Liu experienced initial nerves over the idea of moving to a new, unfamiliar city and meeting new people.

Growing up on Vancouver Island, she heard about SFU through family, and the Professional Development Program (PDP) offered by the Faculty of Education from her teachers. She decided after graduation to relocate to the Lower Mainland and pursue her dreams of being an elementary school teacher.

“I grew up in a small city surrounded by familiarity, so moving to Vancouver and attending SFU seemed daunting to me,” says Liu. “I was eager but worried about making new friends and finding people who could help me navigate university life.”

Welcome Day, an annual SFU orientation event for all new undergraduate students was the catalyst she needed. Attending it resulted in her making new friends, connecting with an Education peer mentor, and kickstarted her mission to get engaged in the student community, making the most out of every opportunity SFU and the Faculty of Education had to offer during her time as an undergrad.

“My first year was fun and lively, and full of opportunity and community. I made it my mission to get involved in everything the Faculty of Education had to offer,” says Liu. “From corresponding with my Peer Mentor to attending Welcome Day to joining the Education Student Association (ESA), I made many connections in my first year that led me to pursue other roles in the Faculty.”

After her first year, Liu deepened her involvement in the SFU community, in particular, student leadership and student politics from Student Outreach Coordinator to President of the ESA to the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) representative. These opportunities allowed her to facilitate dialogue, develop a student guide, lead a team in organizing student events, engage with Education faculty, staff, and students, and sit on Faculty Council and various committees to provide student perspectives on student-related issues.

It was during her time as the SFSS Education Representative where she designed a guide for students with resources and material on how to get involved in the SFU Education community and equip students and prospective teachers with information and resources they need to work with children and youth.

 “I’m not sure how I began doing these roles,” says Liu. “I just know that one thing led to another. It’s people who drive me. Seeing other people take leadership inspired and motivated me to do more and greatly contributed to both my personal and professional development.” 

In addition to participating in student politics and leadership, Liu set her sights on giving back and providing support to future first year students who were in the same shoes she was once in, as a peer mentor.

“My peer mentors and the peer mentorship program coordinators did an amazing job supporting and guiding me in my first year and inspired me to do the same for incoming students. I enjoyed my time as a peer mentor very much. In the past three years, I have had the pleasure to work with many compassionate individuals and organize social events for many curious and kind first-year students. I learned that every new student has different anxieties about transitioning to SFU and experience different stressors throughout their first year. I am glad that I had the opportunity to alleviate some of their stress and support their well-being by answering their questions and referring them to SFU resources and services.”

These experiences not only fostered professional and personal growth, but it allowed Liu to build meaningful relationships among students, faculty and the SFU community which enriched her university experience.

As she sets to graduate this month and enter the Professional Development Program this fall, her advice for new students is to check out her guide and:

“Get involved and attend events! They will enhance your first-year experience and can lead to many great opportunities in your future. If you don’t have the capacity to join a club or volunteer during your first year, just remember that it’s never too late to do so.

Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need anything! ESA, your peer mentors, your academic advisors, and your professors are the pillars of your support system.”