Student life: A balancing act
As a student, it seems as though people are always throwing advice in my direction. A lot of it seems obvious, a lot of it seems useless, but some of it is helpful.
Sometimes it’s hard to sift through and separate the good advice from, simply, the advice. So instead of providing recommendations, this piece should act as an acknowledgment that student life, regardless of your goals, can be overwhelming and a reminder to get the most out of your university experience.
What follows are steps and suggestions to help you balance a multifaceted student life. What constitutes the balance, however, is up to you.
A lot goes on in the Laurier and greater Waterloo community, which is why you should take a look around for yourself.
Keep your eyes open for volunteer, employment and academic opportunities, as well as social or activism events. You can join sports teams or art clubs, et cetera.
Even if you have no desire to break out of the Laurier bubble, plenty of opportunities present themselves on your very own campus. Be sure to check out what goes on within the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU), Wilfrid Laurier University Student Publications (WLUSP) and Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG), Laurier’s athletic department and within various academic faculties, especially music, where there are always events going on.
Ways to explore include: Looking online, talking to peers and professors (many people will be eager to share their interests with you) and walking around campus and the city looking at bulletins and posters. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities.
Do what interests you
Now that you’ve explored your options, hopefully something has struck your fancy. Do that.
For starters, as a student, academics take up a significant portion of your life; thus, the academic program you choose should be something that you enjoy studying.
Granted, occasionally you may have to take a required course for your program that you find less than thrilling. But overall, you should be in a program that piques your interest.
Pursuing a business degree if you hate business, for example, isn’t going to get you anywhere – at least no where you want to be.
As for extra curricular activities and employment, there is enough variety that you should be able to find something that interests you, and chances are, if it interests you now, it will help you in the future in some capacity or another.
Doing what interests you now teaches you not to settle in the future. Also, there is that adage you may ascribe to: If you don’t like it, change it. If you can’t change it, like it.
If you know what you want to do when you graduate, find out how to get there, and do that.
If, like many students, you haven’t the slightest idea what you want to do when you graduate, keep your options open.
To achieve any goal it helps to have people on your side, so even if you’re unsure of your goals, get to know people and get on their good side.
Who knows how they can help you in the future? Be sure to help them too, if the opportunity arises.
Planning ahead is also important on a smaller scale in regards to essays and assignments. If you get them done early you won’t be stressing over them the night before they’re due and you wont be penalized for handing assignments in late.
The WLU’er, an agenda offered by WLUSP can help you organize. Or, buy your own planner, or even a wall-mounted calendar to help you stay on track with upcoming commitments.
Though you may plan ahead, things don’t always work out as intended. For this reason it is important to be flexible and open to change. However, being prepared will allow you the time to readjust to a new situation.
With so many options, interests, and responsibilities, you will likely feel as though you are being pulled in many directions. You can’t do everything, but you can do some things, so do those.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, cut back and prioritize. The challenge here is knowing what takes priority. Question what you believe will help you in the future and what you enjoy now.
Ask for a second opinion. With the information you’ve gathered, make the best decision you can.
If you try to do everything, you’re focusing on the number of experiences rather than the quality of experiences. In the long run, quality pays off.
You’ll get bored if you focus all your energy on one aspect of student life. For example, if you spend all your time in class and in the library you’ll likely begin to feel one-dimensional.
Besides, chances are you’ll learn more (and even perform better academically) if you cut back a bit in the academic realm and expand your horizons.
You’ll get bored if you focus all your
energy on one aspect of student life.”
Giving your brain a rest from a certain activity is reenergizing and, by the time you get back to studying, you’ll (hopefully) feel inspired. At the very least, you’ll feel better than you did before the however brief interlude.
On that note, if you’re concerned about your marks and your future, keep in mind that sometimes your emotional state is the best indicator of academic success.
Learn how to say ‘no’
Learning how to say “no” will save you a lot of time and a lot of fights. For example, if your friends ask you to go out with them tomorrow night and you’re too busy, or not interested, say no.
Saying no doesn’t mean you don’t like your friends, it just means that you aren’t feeling up to it. It is much better to say no from the get-go than to flake at the last minute.
This can also apply to taking on new commitments that you can’t handle. It may be difficult, but saying no will save you a lot of hardship in the end.
The key to this approach is to be kind and polite. It is nice to justify your decision when you can, but you should not feel pressured to defend your decision. With that said, always reserve the right to change your mind.
Eat right, get enough sleep and exercise
This trio of advice is easier said than done. But the tips are priceless when executed correctly.
You will have more energy and feel more alert.
Whether you are aware of it or not, your brain’s reaction time decreases when you are sleep deprived; you get more oxygen pumping through your system when you exercise; and you feel less lethargic when you eat a healthy, balanced diet.
There are plenty of resources online and on campus to help you eat right, get enough sleep and exercise.
For instance, the Student Health and Development Centre is designed to help students cope with issues such as health, body image and diet.
The centre also has its very own dietician there to help you create your own personalized meal plan.
Work hard, play hard
If you haven’t already incorporated maintaining a social life into your list of priorities, you should.
Partying and spending time with friends in a (not necessarily productive) social situation is a great way to relax when done in moderation. Besides, with all you have going on, you deserve a break.