Wow it’s been a while! It’s crazy how fast time goes when you’re writing papers 😉
Today I went to my last class of my first year. Sorry what?! That’s right, there are just 6 exams and 14 days between me and the end of my first year. Unbelievable! Honestly, I know that’s a pretty cliché topic to write about but I definitely learnt some things from first year that I figured I share with you guys in just a quick post (before I drown in exams).
Don’t go to class if you aren’t going to engage
In my opinion, there are three types of students when it comes to class attendance. The ones who don’t go at all, the ones who go and play on their phones/computer and chat with friends, and the ones who go and actually pay attention to what the prof is saying. To be straight up here, I have been all three of these students at some point in the year. But something I’ve learned is that I would rather skip class than go and fool around. Why waste my time sitting in a lecture hall flipping through Facebook? I’m not learning anything and if that’s the case, I’d rather be sleeping. Just being in the room doesn’t mean you’re learning. If you’re taking the time out of your day to show up (and you should be), commit to it fully. Listen, process and absorb what the prof is lecturing on. Take notes, ask questions if need be and take advantage of the education you’re paying thousands of dollars for.
It’s easy to get involved if you’re willing to step out of your “comfort zone”
I mentioned in another post that I had sent out a ton of emails looking for a volunteer placement. Not being involved first semester was literally painful because I spent all of high school juggling all kinds of clubs and commitments and I love being busy. But this is the thing. There are so many opportunities in university if you’re willing to try new things. I’m actually typing this while I’m on shift waiting for a call to come in at Foot Patrol, the campus accompaniment service I volunteer with. I’ve spent the last couple months teaching English to Syrian refugee kids and it’s consistently been the highlight of my week. I was a (sporadic) member of a Bible study, the floor rep for my floor in residence, a player on a dodgeball team and when I had time I practiced with my school’s competitive lifeguard team. Are any of those activities I did in high school? Aside from Bible study, nope. But once I started putting myself out there, opportunities popped up everywhere I looked. Getting involved has made my first year richer; I’ve gotten to meet people in all years and all programs, having conversations with all kinds of unique people.
Some of my best memories of this year have come from someone saying “Hey does anyone want to…” and then just going and doing whatever it is. Go for a walk at midnight with your friends. Show up to an event you know nothing about and participate in it. Visit a museum. Go into the little coffee shops and the strange little purple thrift shops. Buy a fish, build a fort, sleep in a tipi, have a snowball fight, sit and talk to a stranger. I don’t know what it is it but do it! Studying is important but sometimes it can wait; learn to say yes to the random, crazy, (safe), adventures that pop up.
Take a risk.
This is similar to the last point but this is a more serious note. Do the things you don’t think you can do. Being in immersion and having come from Core French is super intimidating! The amount of times I’ve hesitated to speak French this year is seriously ridiculous. And yet, when I went to my first bilingual interview, not only did I get the job but the French portion was actually my strongest part! There were so many things I turned down this year because “I’m not bilingual” or “My French isn’t good enough” and I’ll never know how many friendships and experiences I missed out on because of it. French may mean anything to you but we all make excuses for why we refuse to try something. So go for it, stop making excuses and try things you don’t know if you can do. If you succeed you’ll prove yourself wrong, and if you fail you’ll gain experience that will help you succeed the next time. You have NOTHING to lose.
Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, you can do it.
Let’s be real. University is freaking hard. It is so not a walk in the park. At least, it hasn’t been for me. The sheer volume of work I had looming over my head 24/7 was overwhelming to say the least. But I did it . Not only have I survived but I’ve actually thrived in my new academic environment. I took classes in French for the first time, I got a GPA that I had convinced myself was impossible, I declared a minor, started learning a new language, wrote countless papers, aced tests and wrote others that did not go so well. I pulled all nighters and cried once or twice (or a lot). I had profs that I respected and looked up to, profs that were totally insane and profs that told me I had impressed them.
A couple of times, especially in first semester, I remember sitting at my desk and wondering how on earth it was humanly possible to get a university degree. Like how do people do this for 4+ years??? And yet here I am, very nearly having survived the year. It’s possible. Sometimes it’s hard. Other times I find myself furiously researching for a paper that I can’t wait to write because I am so passionate about the topic. You CAN do it. Just remember why you’re in the program you are in. Sometimes all you need to get through a week of hellish assignments is to remind yourself why you’re doing it, whether it be because you are fascinated by the intricacy and complexity of biology or because you want to work for the United Nations. Studying with a purpose makes it so much easier to get through.
I also have been really liking this Bible verse lately to give myself study motivation for exams. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11
Obviously, school is hard work if you want to do well. But this verse reminds me and gives me hope that it will pay off and produce a harvest. University is meant to test you, train you and prepare you for the future. Although discipline is hard, it is the only way to see real progress. I learned this year that sometimes, I really do just have to sit down and plough through the stuff, whether I want to or not. The future pay off and reward will be greater than the temporary fun of procrastination.
BONUS: Enjoy every minute of 1st year because it WILL be over before you know it
I’m sure you’ve noticed a recurring theme throughout all five of these points because if there is one thing I learned in first year it is to live in the moment, as cheesy as it sounds. Take advantage of all the time and opportunities you are given because this is life. Don’t wait to live it. I got so sick of listening to people complain about the dining hall or living in res or how they just want to move on to med school/law school/the rest of their lives. In high school you couldn’t wait to be here and now you can’t wait to leave? There are so many things to explore! We have to enjoy this time and glean all we can from it.
This year I spent 8 months learning. Not just in class, but in life and now, in just two short weeks, I’ll be moving out of my cosy little dorm room and headed off to a jam packed summer full of adventure. Crazy.
-Until next time, Sam ❤
P.S. If you need some productive procrastination, check out this TedTalk on the subject, it’s pretty funny and also scarily accurate haha #thedarkplayground