Editorial: How I survived my first year at Laurier

“I’m so lucky we all lived through who we were to become who we are.” – Neil Hilborn.

When I graduated high school, I’d already been mentally checked out of the place for months. My heart was in the future and I looked ahead at Laurier starry eyed, my mouth watering. I had no idea what I was in for.  

Don’t get me wrong- I love Laurier and enjoyed parts of my first year, but it was also an experience that forced me to confront difficult truths about myself. In doing so, I was able to grow.  

Now entering my third year, I’m much more confident- in myself, my decisions and the people in my life. I’ve finally found the peace that previously, I’d only ever dreamt of having. I’ve created a present that I enjoy living in instead of fantasizing about the future.  

To avoid sounding even more like a cheesy quote in a Pinterest mom’s home, I’ll quit rambling and get into three of the most useful lessons that I learned during my first year at Laurier.  

1. Self-control is more than just a Frank Ocean song. 

The freedom of living on your own is one of the biggest changes awaiting first years- the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want. I was thrilled about this, but it quickly became clear to me that always doing as I wish isn’t sustainable- just ask my bank account.  

My first semester at Laurier, I spent an absurdly large amount of money- whether it was on Doordash, Uber or going out. My diet was so unhealthy, the campus food court servers actually knew me as “the girl who always orders cake”. Since I hate cleaning, my dorm was messy enough to prevent me from ever turning my camera on in Zoom. I juggled a nocturnal schedule, social media addiction and serial procrastination habit.  

At the time, I wasn’t used to living without my parents’ rules. I’ve now found that in a way, university (and adult life in general) is about parenting yourself. I need to force myself to attend class, eat healthy, clean my room and save money. The same goes with deciding on a study schedule, because nobody else is going to do these things for me. As it turns out, humans need structure, and when it’s not offered to us, we can create it for ourselves.  

It took a long time to find the routine that works for me. I had to create one that isn’t overly rigid and makes room for fun, but is still balanced. Depending on our habits and personality, the ideal routine varies. Good routines have one thing in common though, which is that they’re achievable and sustainable for you

2. Stay connected with people who love you. 

My first year was derailed by COVID-19 lockdowns, with everything online and no roommates or guests allowed in residence. While I lavishly had a double dorm to myself, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t incredibly and  undeniably lonely. All of my friends from high school had stayed in our hometown to take remote classes at other universities, and I didn’t know anyone at Laurier. I made new friends and even met two people with whom I became really close, but the closest friend I made that year ended up moving back home.  

My days were a blur of watching Netflix in my dorm, walking through an empty campus to the dining hall and attending remote class. I spent time with people who behaved insensitively since I figured it was better than being alone. Eventually, I became depressed and began to isolate myself- which only made me more depressed.  

Coming home for winter break was a huge wake-up call that the world is bigger than the small town of Waterloo. It showed me that the people in my life are still very much present, even when we’re in different towns. I did my best to stay connected in second semester, whether it was Facetiming my friends from home or joining clubs. As a socially anxious person, I forced myself to try new activities and reach out to others first –  no matter how awkward it is.  

I wouldn’t have met my best friends right now if I hadn’t pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and I’m so glad I did. My point is, in order to be connected, I had to actively seek it out –  especially during a lockdown that will hopefully never return. For those like myself who typically wait to be approached, this can feel uncomfortable and even frightening. In the end,  it’s more than worth it. 

3. Classes are better when you’re invested. 

I was in Laurier’s BBA program en route for a career in business, but deep down I knew it wasn’t right for me. Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Luckily, it’s also my strongest skill- even according to teachers who had a less than favourable impression of me in high school.  

As the child of an immigrant family that runs in circles filled with finance execs, science whizzes and law school prodigies, creative writing isn’t exactly a reputable career. I understand why- after all, it provides little stability or prestige compared to these other fields.  

Despite that, I’d rather aim for my passion- even if I end up working another similar job in the creative field, than spend my life on work that doesn’t interest me. I learned this after taking first year courses that I wasn’t invested in. Along with my poor mental state, my lack of interest definitely reflected in my grades for those courses. In comparison, I did much better in my electives that I enjoyed.  

While BBA is an excellent program with knowledgeable professors, it just wasn’t my passion. I respect the program and it’s more than ideal for those aiming to go into business. The issue was, I’m not.  

After much deliberation, I decided to transfer programs to communications or English. I went with communications due to the multi-media aspect. If you’re like me and value fulfillment most in a career, I encourage you to follow your passion as long as it aligns with your skills. As cheesy as it sounds, doing what you love beats working to please others. After all, if we’re going to spend the majority of our lives trying to build a career, it might as well be one that we love and are good at. 

While these are just lessons based on my personal experiences, I hope you find them to be helpful. Best of luck, Golden Hawks! 

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