Sage Advice from a First-Year Student (Part 7)
The end of first-year, for me, is an out-of-body experience. I am watching myself going through the expected motions: soaking up my last few weeks living in the wild, exhausting, life-changing world of residence, refining and editing final essays until I can recite them line by line, blessing them as I pass them in to the deep and ambiguous abyss of marking by capricious TAs, and, of course, studying for and panicking about those nauseating final exams. Certainly the home stretch is draining and less than ideal, but as the year comes to a close, in many ways I feel at peace.
I titled this series ‘Sage Advice from a First-Year Student’ at the beginning of the year as a joke, because the thought that any idea whatsoever what I was doing at U of T was absolutely laughable. Although I still would hardly call myself an expert, I feel with a high degree of certainty that my feet are at least closer to the ground than they were at the start of the year. Case in point – it is exam time, and I remain upright and breathing and, for the time being, relatively calm.
So, if you will, picture that we are in a classroom or a meadow or wherever you consider to be conducive to learning, and allow me to stroke my chin thoughtfully and reflect on a year in the inferno in the form of a convenient, concise, and of course fancy list of genuine sage advice to take with you as we part ways in this final segment of my advice series:
1. Care every day, even when you really don’t. The way to inner peace at the end of the year is finding solace in the knowledge that you tried your hardest for every day (or most days) previous. This translates into researching well, handing assignments in on time, and studying for midterms.
2. Put yourself first in everything you do. From issues with friends to issues with courses, you need to be number one. In this massive school overflowing with students, you need to look out for yourself and make sure, year after year, that you end up in a situation that is fitting to your needs. Choose the courses and programs you want, choose who your friends are, choose where you will live, etc.
3. To the best of your ability, love every second. Run around Toronto like a loon, go to every club and bar and shop and museum that tickles your fancy, join every association that interests you, go to every event that catches your eye. U of T gets labeled as a cold campus because there are so many students, but the secret you only find out once you get here is that it’s truly vibrant. The city of Toronto is alive in a way no university town can rival.
4. When all else fails, remember that you are one of over 40,000 students at U of T. We are all in the same boat and we can all sympathize. Everyone here has battle scars from the sometimes harrowing academic experience. Breathe, relax, and survive, because I can assure you that receiving your diploma at Convocation Hall at the end of four years will be a gratifying, spiritual, awe-inspiring experience that any student who has spent one day here deserves to have.
Young first-year grasshoppers, I have enjoyed struggling through this year with you thoroughly. Don’t fret – we have only four months of summer until we get to start all over again! Although it seems a genuinely dreadful thought at present to start anew in September 2011, it is my personal belief (and prayer) that each year will get more tailored to your interests and easier to navigate. For now, dwell on the fact that you’re weeks away from being one fourth of the way there.
Upon my arrival to U of T, suffice to say, I was a wreck. Upon my departure, I feel far from it. From the wreckage, I have emerged resilient, eager, and focused on what I truly want. It’s been a long and trying year and I look forward to a summer of rest, but I’m more than ready to soldier on into second year and continue to passionately pursue my interests. Best of luck to all my first-year peers in finding your way over the next three years!