Changing ponds – becoming the little fish again.

The transition from high school to university is a really exciting time in the lives of young adults. You are suddenly given more freedom and choice than you are used to, and a lot more responsibility as well.

I went to a small high school with a grad class of around 110 students which made the jump to life on UVic’s campus seem enormous. In reality, UVic isn’t a huge school with just over 21 thousand students compared to UBC’s 63 thousand; a fact which makes UVic’s environment so welcoming for first-year students who are looking to find a place for themselves.

At first, being on campus was terrifying. I felt like I didn’t belong, which was a hard adjustment to make coming from high school where I knew everyone and everyone knew me. The feeling of getting lost in the crowd was ever-present for the first few weeks on campus.

I was suddenly sitting in lecture halls with 200 students in them when previously I had never even been taught by a teacher who didn’t teach my older siblings.

There is no point in trying to deny the fact that transferring into the university lifestyle is hard for some people, and often has a lot of emotions and mental struggles around it. Luckily for me, and all other students, there were several events hosted by UVic which made me feel like a part of the community opposed to an outsider.

Thunderfest, with its days of activities and celebrations, is one of my favourite memories from my first few months at university. The way everyone is excited to be back on campus without the stress of being too far along in courses to enjoy themselves makes for an unreal atmosphere. All the free things that were given out such as t-shirts and water bottles also made me feel like I was a part of something special.

UVic is also home to many clubs which have advocates around campus, especially during the first few weeks of classes, trying to promote interest and gain members. Clubs are a wonderful way for students who have similar interests to join together to expand their knowledge and abilities.

There is truly a club for everyone at UVic as they range from anime and bitcoin, to a board games and mental health awareness, to even photography and improv! While it is difficult to put yourself out there, if you have a passion or interest I truly believe there will be a club for you at UVic, and you might just meet some life-long friends along the way.

Many first years make the mistake of just trying to get by in university. With that kind of mentality you miss out on all the amazing parts of being a student and only get to experience the difficult pieces.

If you are focused on getting by you aren’t likely to talk to the person at the booth advertising their club which is interesting to you. If you aren’t trying to experience university life to the fullest you won’t go to the home opener soccer game where the stadium is full and many memories are made.

Students who are just getting by don’t talk to their classmate because they have a sticker on their notebook which interests them, later becoming great friends.

All the times I have enjoyed the most at UVic have been when I have consciously decided to experience my time here for the best, and as a result I have found ways to cope with the difficult parts of university better than if I focused solely on getting by.

When I first began my time at university I wasn’t interested in putting myself out there to become a better professional student. I’m sure there were many missed chances during my first few months on campus where I could have learned important skills or joined in on an activity to better myself. The focus on simply getting by in university was a detriment to me during these times.

Thankfully, I am in the Recreation and Health Education co-op program and part of my degree has been finding 4 work terms in my professional environment. Through these working opportunities I was able to gain skills which I will use daily post-graduation, and skills which will make the post-grad job hunt easier.

After speaking with friends who are in programs which do not require co-op jobs, I would HIGHLY recommend to everyone that they at least work in their field of study during the summer. Some people find out they aren’t interested in the actual work that their program is targeted towards and end up feeling stuck post-graduation. To avoid this, try to gain as much experience in your field as possible, even in sectors you feel as though you won’t work in later, because graduating with a diverse set of work experiences is so valuable.

One thing which I wish I could tell my younger self when I was just entering university is to get out of my comfort zone more and try more things. The amount of personal evolution during your time at university is wonderful, and the more you put yourself out there the more you will change.

The best memories so far of my time at university are when I was challenging myself, and in the moment it didn’t always feel great. I have had to have several tough conversations where I didn’t think I would be fine after. I thought those moments would be pivotal in my life. In a way I was right, the tough moments did change my life, but the change was for the better.

Going into university I thought I was pretty grown-up. I thought that I had a fairly good idea of how life was going to work out and that I understood how the world worked. Boy was I wrong.

University is a place where you learn to question everything and even though I will graduate having gained an enormous amount of knowledge through my time at UVic, I will likely leave with more questions and wonderings than I came with. In the end that is probably the best things about university, personal growth and the ability to have confidence in the times you are uncomfortable.

Throughout my university career I have had the chance to develop into a person I never thought I could be. I am happy with who I am right now and I know that this journey was largely shaped by the choices and opportunities I had during my time at UVic. I have learned many valuable lessons throughout my time here, but the most valuable were almost always learned outside of the classroom. I am excited to go into my final year of my undergrad as I hope to continue to experience all UVic has to offer, and to keep growing as a person.

My advice to all incoming first year students is to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. That sounds like the most stereotypical advice but when broken down to smaller pieces it could change your entire life.

You may take an elective which changes your career path, or have a group project partner who will one day be in your wedding party. Little things can seem scary when you are coming into university but it’s important to not let that intimidate you. UVic has a welcoming environment and works to integrate new students into the many communities within it.

Don’t fight the current, let it lead you to new adventures and activities; you never know, you might just find something you are extremely passionate about but never would have guessed. Most importantly though, truly experience your time here because while it seems like a long time ahead of you at the start, when you are looking back it goes by in the blink of an eye; Make sure your memories are worth it and you’ll leave UVic without regrets.

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