Dear first-year me…
What advice would you give yourself starting university?
By Andrea Wong, Contributor
With another September come and gone, most students are falling back into their usual school rhythm or are still figuring things out. Either way, it can be easy to get caught up with everything you need to do, especially when you’re experiencing it all for the first time.
Picture yourself at the start of your university journey, however long ago or recent that may be.
Who were you as you walked through the doors to your first class? What were you most worried or excited about?
For me, I remember the gripping fear of falling behind and the stress of planning a future I wasn’t sure of. If I could go back and tell my first-year self anything, I would certainly have an extensive list of do’s and don’ts.
Your next few years at university can play an important role in shaping who you are. Here’s what other past and current students have learned along the way.
“Be more confident in yourself, because when you start off as a first-year you’re really unsure and you always second-guess yourself. Nobody is really sure when they start off either, but you do what you can and you believe in yourself. Just do what you love and try your best and you’ll be fine.”
-Khadija Abdallahi, fourth-year human resources
“You have made a terrible mistake! Back out now and go to Canada. When I went to university in Vietnam, I made the ‘safe choice’ and I went through the business program … Instead of the safe choice, I would have told myself to find a way to compromise. Try to make an effort to find a middle ground where you can be comfortable with your choices, you know you are good at something and search for opportunities to improve yourself.”
-Chester Ho, fourth-year information design
“I actually dropped out of my first-year and one of the last courses I took was intro to sociology, so it’s really ironic that I’m teaching sociology. I would advise me to be prepared for tremendous career uncertainty, to put a lot of time and effort into the humanities, be as adaptable as I possibly could. Try and get as broad a humanistic education as you can because that’s what’s going to allow you to adapt to the changing conditions.”
-Dr. Mark Durieux, sociology professor
“Do your assignments beforehand, because due dates are closer than you think. Try to schedule your days in advance. My first-year was very chaotic because I got involved in way too many things. I tried to keep myself as busy as possible and I didn’t really make time to study. Make connections as well as study hard. Don’t have a closed mindset when you’re coming in because you need people around in your life, especially when trouble hits.”
-Sam Alexander, third-year accounting
“I was in a different program than I am now and I definitely just came to school to go to class and leave. I would tell my first-year self to get out there, pursue experiences, it’s not a bad thing to ask questions and get to know people and access the resources that are on campus. It’s okay to make mistakes and really, everyone else doesn’t know what they’re doing. It’s okay to be in that place where you’re unsure and there are lots of nice people on campus that are here to help.”
-Kathryn Hoffart, third-year information design
“Make sure you make good friends and never leave them because they become part of your life in university. Those are the kind of experiences you never forget. Value every moment. When everything is hard, remember what you did to get out of those situations. It might help you tomorrow and it might help someone else as well.”
-Lea Nounezi, second-year nursing
“Join a club whether or not you care about the content. Try to enjoy things that you don’t think you’re going to enjoy because it leads to a lot of different opportunities. Find a community and try to be part of something bigger than yourself. It’s also good to rebuild yourself after a loss. You have to ride the waves and be okay with being sad for a while and be okay with not really knowing where you’re going, which is the same advice people are giving me now as I’m leaving university.”
-Ryan Seggie, fourth-year psychology
“Some of the friends you’ll make in first-year will be lifelong friends and they’re going to be the people that you lean on and support through the next four years. I would tell my first-year self that even though all my high school friends went to universities and I’m the only who went to Mount Royal [when it was a college], I would have the time of my life and I would relive it again. The path you take may not be what you thought about when you started, but it turns out to be the right path and everything happens for a reason. You will definitely enjoy the next four years even though it will be a lot of hard work and a lot of late nights. But, it’s all worth it in the end.”
-Amy Bell, 2009 journalism graduate
All photos by Andrea Wong