6 Things I Learned During First Year

Sitting at a round table near the centre of the cafeteria, I’ve spent the past five minutes writing and backspacing; writing, and again, backspacing. All the while more or less listening to the lively conversation of my friends around me. It feels a lot like I’m rewriting every essay I’ve had to endure thus far, and also the ones I’ve started and am—as you might have expected—nowhere near finished. However, this one is less about the Irish Potato Famine, and more about the near-end of my surreal first year experience.

Admittedly, university was nothing like I imagined it to be.

Ironically, it was also everything I imagined it to be. I can officially say that I survived my first three o’clock coffee-induced adrenaline rush; hands flying across the keyboard as I promise myself that I’ll never write another last minute paper again (only to do the same thing a week later). As the year comes to a close, and coursework dwindles, I’ve found myself (again, and again) trying to compile a list of the six most important things I’ve learned upon first walking through the doors of my new home. While these experiences very well could be unique to me, I’m sure you’ll check a few of them off as you embark on your university experience:

It’s the most unlikely people that become your friends

Lovingly, I will tell you that the people sitting around me today are the single greatest band of misfits I have ever encountered. I will also tell you that if someone were to read this over my shoulder, right now, I’d have to endure a whole lot of good natured ribbing.

This year, I’ve not only been fortunate enough to meet new people from across Ontario, but I’ve also been lucky enough to be reacquainted with old friends. This was the year that I truly learned how to leave my comfort zone; talking to people from different towns, cities, programs—heck, my closest friends don’t even like History. Dare to talk to the girl who sits in front of you in that Philosophy lecture, or the boy who always waves at you between classes. Who knows? Maybe they’ll become your best friends.

You probably won’t finish all of your course readings—and it sort of hurts to try

… But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t [try].

I have to admit that my ever-growing pile of textbooks has become a little daunting, and for some courses, they became something like a three hundred pages of I’m not reading this. But let me tell you right now, it hurts a whole lot less to read them as you go along, than it does to read every single assigned reading the night before a big test. If nothing else: find an online summary, and for the love of all that is holy, take notes. You’ll thank me later, I promise.

Your professors are passionate, and they want you to succeed

I can’t help but think about Dr. Koivukoski, who always reminds his students that they’re more than welcome to visit him during office hours, just to go over the course material during tea; or Dr. Langridge, who has more than willingly gone above and beyond what is expected of him in order to ensure that his Philosophy class succeeds, despite such a difficult year.

I guess what I’m trying to say here, is that I’m really grateful for the professors that I’ve had. I’ve been told that it’s inevitable to have one or two bad professors, and I’m sure this is the case. It’s impossible to please everyone. However, this past year I’m in awe of just how much effort they have put into not only their students, but the areas of study they’re most passionate about.

My best advice? If you’re ever having a problem with the course material, don’t be afraid to talk to your professor about it. Within reason, they’re here to help you.

Sometimes your best isn’t good enough, and that’s okay

For me, nothing is more disheartening than getting a poor grade on something I worked especially hard on. These past couple of months especially, I’ve had to learn that failure is essential on the road to success—I promise, I’m not trying to sound like your middle-school vice principle. I will never tell you that I’ve “gotten really good at failing,” or anything. However, I will admit that I’ve learned far greater lessons from my mistakes, than I have from my successes. Keep trying your best, and I promise that everything will work itself out.

Eat your veggies and sleep regularly: your body (and mind) will thank you

While I’ve also learned that the illusive university student will sleep anywhere with a flat surface handy—comfortable, or otherwise—I’ve also learned it’s far more convenient (and far less embarrassing) to do this in the comfort of my own home… At night. I know; I, too, was shocked to learn that sunset isn’t simply the world’s way of gently reminding you that you have a paper due tomorrow (and that you should probably choose a topic… Now…).

Make healthy choices; get up a little earlier (and go to bed a little earlier), but most importantly, don’t forget to eat your carrots. It does wonders.

Always make time for a new adventure

Whether that’s going out for tea with an old friend, or climbing to the peak of Mount Everest (or perhaps even the less daunting trek from lower residence to campus), always give yourself just enough time to enjoy this next chapter. As a full time student (and casual blogger!) at Nipissing University, and a part-time associate at one of North Bay’s many grocery stores, I convinced myself that I never had enough time to take a minute and enjoy my first year. This is, after all, supposed to be fun! Put your books aside and make some memories; it’s the little things you’ll cherish forever.

– Amber W (first year blogger, for the last time)