Education

A day in the life of a Thompson Rivers University student

Fourth-year natural resource sciences student Alexa Wiebe looks back on her days of studying at Thompson Rivers University. Intimate lectures, on-campus study sessions and a relaxing evening fill her schedule.
Thompson Rivers University
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As told to Andrea Yu

Morning routine

My earliest lecture starts at 8:30am, so I usually wake up around 6:30 or 7am to get ready. I live about a 10-minute drive from campus—right by the Thompson River—in a basement apartment with a roommate.

I’m a fourth-year natural resource sciences student. Many of my morning lectures are in Old Main, which has recently been updated. It’s one of the original buildings, back when TRU was Cariboo College.

I usually sit with three or four friends; we all have the same schedules. The lectures last about 50 to 75 minutes and only have about 40 to 50 people in them. The class sizes at TRU are small, which makes it feel less like the professor is “performing” to an audience and more like they’re talking to you personally.

Before I began studying here, I didn’t know what to expect from the professors; I had heard they were good but didn’t know what that meant—or how that was different from other universities and their faculty.

But my professors have all been super passionate and welcoming. I had one professor learn who everyone was by taking a photo of each student holding their names on a piece of paper so they could study it, and I had another offer their phone number so we could reach them if we ever needed anything.

After a morning lecture, I’ll usually have an hour break where I’ll go to a coffee shop to get a bite to eat or study with my friends. There are so many places on campus to sit around and soak up the sun, which lets you recharge without having to leave campus.

From there, I’ll head to a lab in the Ken Lepin Science Building, which lasts about two or three hours. One of my favourite labs was looking at water samples from a local lake through a microscope, and there have been a couple of cool opportunities to practise with real field equipment—like when we dissected a fish. Two or three times a year, we’ll go out in the field and do an outdoor activity for a lab, or sometimes it’ll be an overnight trip.

When my lab is done, I’m ready for lunch. I like to pack something from home, but sometimes I’ll treat myself to one of the food trucks on campus. There are many fast and cheap options if you’re in a rush or healthier meals if you have the time.

Afternoon and evening

After lunch, I might have another lecture or lab. Otherwise, I’ll be studying somewhere on campus. I like the Brown Family House of Learning because it has big tables and a collaborative feel. The Old Library Administration and Research Annex (OLARA) also has some pretty good study areas, which can be better if you’re looking for a quieter and more private vibe.

When I’m ready for a study break, I like to go for a walk outside on campus. There’s a nice area between Old Main and the Library with a walking path next to some huge pine trees. There’s actually a family of deer that lives on campus. They’re known as the TRU deer, and I always see them around; they’re so sweet.

After a study session, I’ll head back to the Brown Family House of Learning for a seminar. They’re longer, about two hours, with a group of 20 to 30 students. The more intimate setting makes it easier to speak up, bounce around ideas and talk about what we’ve learned. The professors are good about facilitating the conversations, so everyone has a chance to contribute.

My day usually ends around 6 or 7pm. Sometimes there are sports games on campus that my friends and I will stay and watch; otherwise, I’ll head home to have dinner and unwind. I enjoy going for walks, and there’s a great trail that winds around the river just a few minutes from my house. I like to prioritize working out, and I have a local gym I like to go to. Occasionally, my friends and I will head downtown and go to one of our favourite bars.

Opportunities outside of the classroom

Besides the on-campus learning, I’ve had other opportunities to put what I’ve learned into practice and perspective. Kamloops is diverse, both environmentally and socially, and has the BC Wildlife Park. I like to volunteer there in my free time.

I also worked closely with a couple of my professors on different research opportunities. In 2021, I was a research assistant on a project that studied movement patterns of juvenile rattlesnakes. This past summer, I led my own research on Western painted turtles for my honour’s thesis, and that helped me feel like what I’ve been learning has had a purpose.

When you’re in the classroom, it can be hard to see how it all translates. But having the opportunity to get the hands-on experience has helped me clarify my future goals and ultimately inspired me to continue onto a master’s program after I graduate.

My professors connected me with these opportunities; I didn’t know that undergrad research could be so accessible or attainable. Especially as a fourth-year student, it’s nice knowing I don’t have to start at square one when I graduate. I already have the experience employers are looking for and more confidence in my skills and abilities.

Despite having a busy schedule, I love spending time on campus, and I’m grateful for all the hands-on research I’ve been part of. My time at TRU has opened up my options for the future and helped prepare me for whatever comes next.

For more information on Thompson Rivers University, click here.