Written by Aleeza Karp

As my undergraduate career comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on me, my relationships, and my experiences. Naturally, the majority of this self-reflection is focused on me wishing I could go back to my first year knowing everything that I do now. If this were possible there are a few key lessons I would always carry with me.

  1. Embrace your fears!

The sooner you accept your fears and anxieties, the sooner you can begin to explore and overcome them. Even though it may not seem like it, the vast majority of your peers share your insecurities and can help you through them. It doesn’t matter if this fear stems from social anxiety, stress about keeping up in school, or being afraid to try something new. Don’t let your fear keep you from experiencing all of the incredible things your new world has to offer you.

  1. Expand your horizons and create your own community!

University can be really terrifying, especially if you are living away from home. While it is important to maintain ties to your community and friendships at home, it is just as important to create this network for yourself at school. Join a club. Go volunteer. Make an effort to talk to one new person every day. Build new relationships and pursue new experiences. The inspiration and support from your personal community will give you immeasurable value.

  1. Plans are almost always made to be changed.

Some people enter their undergraduate degree with an exact plan of where they want to go in their lives and how they want to get there. Others spend their entire degree and then some trying to figure this out. Either way, it’s not uncommon for your original goal to change as you gain new experiences and perspectives. And that’s okay. You need to be able to keep an open mind and have the flexibility to re-evaluate and accept change as it comes to you.

  1. Make time for yourself!

The rumours about university are true; it can be really demanding. Between classes, study time, extracurricular activities, and your social life, it is extremely easy to spread yourself too thin and become overwhelmed. Make sure to find an activity that you enjoy or something that helps you relax. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you are doing it for you.

  1. It’s okay to ask for help!

Going into university can feel like being thrown into the deep end while you’re still learning how to swim. All of a sudden, your professors don’t know your name, your workload has tripled, and you feel like you have to do everything on your own. But you don’t!!!! Your school has so many resources to help you, you just have to seek them out. Professors are there to support you, and they love it when you visit them during their office hours and give them the opportunity to get to know you. Your school is full of professors, advisors, and counselors whose job it is to help you and support you through your university journey. All you have to do is ask.

  1. School is extremely important. But it’s not EVERYTHING.

This is probably the most valuable lesson, one which I have spent my entire degree learning. There is no question that academics should be your main priority in university. At the end of the day, you go to school to learn in hopes of furthering your education and building a career. But it should never be your only priority. I mean this in two ways, both equally as important. First and foremost, your health comes first. ALWAYS. This includes your mental health. You should never do something that puts you at risk or compromises your health. This could mean losing out on some study time in order to get a full night’s sleep. Or taking a day or two off from your hectic schedule when you’re sick to allow yourself to fully convalesce. Or making room in your schedule to go to the gym to maintain your sanity. There are certain compromises that shouldn’t be made, even for school. Secondly, university is not solely about academics. Sure, it is of the utmost importance to get good grades so that you can pursue a career, but some of the most important lessons you learn during this period of your life can’t be learned in a lecture hall. They are found in the relationships you form and the experiences you allow yourself to have outside of the classroom, all of which shape who you are as a person. Make sure to make the absolute most out of your university experience. Take advantage of every single opportunity the comes your way, and even go after some of the ones that don’t! You never know where they may lead you…

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