3 Lessons from My First 3 Weeks of University

There’s no doubt that getting accepted into my first choice school is an achievement in life that took me to a whole new level of Oh-My-Gosh-I’m-So-Excited. I’m sure some of you can relate. Whether you got an email in the middle of the night or found the letter waiting on the table when you got home from another repetitive day of grade 12, opening it up and seeing your name in the neat font, reading “congratulations” (a word that can’t quite sum up the reward for years of hard work) is absolutely and totally incredible. There’s nothing like that feeling of knowing that you’ve passed, you get to go on to the next level of life, that you have achieved something awesome.

And if the first eighteen years were A New Hope, that it’s time to move on to The Empire Strikes Back section of life – and deep down, everyone knows that chapter is the best. Now, we’re all Luke Skywalkers, crashing on a strange planet to learn the ways of the Force. Or, in this case, to study subject areas that we’re deeply interested in (it’s goodbye math, hello social sciences for me), and gain specialized knowledge that may guide our choices for the rest of our lives. In a lot of ways, it’s pretty cool, but then there are a lot of choices to be made, all of which have a huge effect on what we’ll do for the for years to come. Pretty intimidating, right?

untitled

Before all those studies began, there was plenty to do in preparation as well, and every step taken towards university could be an exciting – and terrifying – adventure on its own. From taking hours upon hours to put together a comprehensive schedule that includes all the courses you want or need to take, to visiting the beautiful campus and getting your T-Card, to eagerly getting geared up for classes and assignments. Even after these first two weeks, there are still a lot of How-To’s to learn, and I still find myself already getting buried in UTM’s webpages, from Acorn to Blackboard to ROSI – let me just say, navigating all these sites alone could be a course. Both preparation and these first two weeks seemed to pass by in a bit of a blur, where weeks of summer relaxing and hanging out were broken up by days of stressing and planning and getting everything ready, only to be followed by hours of class and (even more) hours of homework. The first few weeks of classes are just a tiny taste of what is to come. It sure does make me wonder, if this is just the beginning, what is the rest of school year going to be like?

University is supposed to be the unforgettable experience of our generation. Where our parents go on and on about their years in high school, we’ll go on about our years at UTM. It’s time to say goodbye to the sheltered high school methods, where textbooks are free and the day to day schedule doesn’t often change. We’re in for something completely different. And to be honest, I’m not totally sure exactly what to expect. I mean, adults ask me if I’m ready for university all the time, and the best I can do is shrug and say “I guess so.” Half of me is super excited. I engineered my schedule to reflect my interests, I planned my days to give myself time to study and also to do things I enjoy, I browsed UTM clubs and groups I might want to join. It gives me that feeling of responsibility, of being an adult who can make choices and plan things properly, of being free. It feels pretty darn good.

The other half of me is nearly anxious from all the possibilities. There is no experience in my life thus far that mirrors what I understand university might be. I may be understating the fact that I’m just a little frightened of all those different paths laid out before me. Because, after all, this is the beginning of grown-up life. This is when we, a collective group of eighteen-year-olds beginning our first year at UTM, finally get to do what we’ve always wanted: whatever we want. That leaves only one question: what exactly are we supposed to do?

I can’t speak for everyone, obviously, but aside from taking the time to really contemplate what finishing high school means and devoting myself to a new school I have already become totally obsessed with, I don’t know what to do or what to expect when I get there. Given that, it is understandably difficult to offer solid advice for what to expect for our first year. So, naturally, I’m going to try and offer that anyway. Here are three pieces of advice from me to my peers, for what to do when beginning a new life chapter;

  1.  Read Up! Better to be over-prepared than to not get ready at all, right? Even though there is no measure of total certainty in research, there’s always ways to find out a thing or two, so take a day to look through all those numerous UTM websites! Read up about your courses, extracurriculars, residence, local food spots, and everything else you might want to explore! A key to being ready for something new is doing the reading. Take it from me – after a good deal of browsing, I feel more confident that when I head to school each morning, and I at the very least know I won’t get too lost between classes.
  1. Make A Plan – To Have No Plans! Okay, obviously I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have any plan, as in regard to courses and studying, I would really encourage you to have a plan. But when it comes to social life at UTM? Don’t resign yourself to a predetermined idea of what you’ll do for fun! Be open to trying new things, to stepping out of your comfort zone and experiencing all that you can. As someone who is just learning to do that themself, I know that trying new things is hard, but then, most of the time, facing a fear and/or gaining a new hobby always ends well. So go to UTM with an open mind, because I bet it will make the experience so much more fun.
  1. Don’t Stress! Saying “Not Today” to stress isn’t always as easy as it might sound, but it’s good advice. Too much stress has a 100% success rate for making things harder than they really need to be, and so when that school year begins, take a moment to remind yourself that everything will be okay. That, if you do your work, try new things, and allow yourself to forget stress and have fun, UTM will be one of the best experiences of your life. I can say this without having experienced it myself because I know with certainty that taking away stress always makes life feel all the more enjoyable.

With that, I bid you, my peers, good luck. Go and take that step into the unknown world of university, and remember to make every moment count. Whether UTM meets my expectations or even exceeds them, I know that I am excited, I am half-ready, and I am going to have the time of my life. I can’t wait to share that experience with you all!

Your friendly campus nerd,

E.