Dear first-year reader,
Believe me when I tell you that those days that seem so frustrating are just one of the many chapters of our university life. Getting lost trying to find the tutorial rooms in the basement of Davis was only one of the struggles I faced as a first-year with ambitious dreams. September 2014 was the year I learned that we need to embrace change and that things always have a way of working out.
I remember walking into an enormous chemistry lecture with UTM bookstore bags in hand. I was so excited; I was one step closer to becoming a pediatrician, my dream since I was two years old.
I wasn’t worried at first—after all, I had done exceptionally well in high school, and I was a science tutor. What should I have to panic about?
After a few lectures and interactions with my classmates, I began to question my abilities. “So many people, and all of them are extremely intelligent,” I thought.
I found myself thinking, “What if I can’t apply the material I already know, and the professor doesn’t like me?”
Instead of trying to enjoy my first days of school, I became stressed and overthought every single detail. When my classmates would hang out and study together, I was hiding in the cubicles, trying to solve all the questions in the physics textbook. Whatever it took, I was going to ace all those classes and go to medical school. There was no other option.
Fast-forward to the first chemistry midterm. After weeks of continuous studying, I was ready for that test. You know what? I thought it was rather difficult—and didn’t feel any better when I heard that everyone else found it to be a piece of cake.
“Why couldn’t I have found that test easy? Why do I have trouble understanding this, and I was so good at it before? Why am I not as intelligent?”
Truth is that I just needed to believe in myself—cliché, but true.
A spiral of self-criticism and obsessive competing wasn’t going to fix my problems. I contemplated whether I was actually benefitting from my university experience, or just trying to survive. Instead of keeping to myself, I decided to go to academic advisors and various study skills seminars. I also took time to relax and reconcile friendships with my classmates. With that same determination and newfound confidence, I ended up doing pretty well in that chemistry class.
After taking many different classes (which is a wonderful idea to see what you like) I realized I actually really enjoy cell biology! Change is a part of life. It brings about a new solution to an old problem. That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind. Don’t be afraid to change what you’re doing. This is important for us to grow as students and members of society. Balance is also key to understanding and coping with change, so find that medium between work and relaxation!
I’m not telling you not to study hard. Absolutely work hard! However, university teaches us more than just a discipline or two. It’s here that we discover what we like (or don’t like).
You don’t know where it’s going to lead you and there’s actually something scarily wonderful about that. It’s okay to struggle sometimes, because we learn from each experience. We don’t have to have our lives mapped out, so don’t be discouraged if nothing seems to be going as planned. After all, turns and bumps along the way are what make the route more interesting.
Dear first-year, if I have any advice for you it’s this: Do yourself a favor and embrace change.