Looking Back at Four Years at UVic
It’s hard to believe how fast these four years have gone. In June, I will finally be getting to walk across the stage at my graduation ceremony!
Well, not exactly…
These last few weeks and months were not the way that I foresaw my time at UVic coming to a close. It’s crazy my European Studies midterm would be the last time I would step foot in a classroom at UVic.
These last few months have been a time of reflection, anxiety, and patience for everyone and no less for those graduating. At times, I felt overwhelmed with the news and with the less than ideal upcoming job market that I will be going into. Therefore, I thought I would reflect on the last four years and think about how UVic has made me into the person that I am today. These four years were a ride and it is almost hard to believe how fast it has all gone.
Taking the risk
When I went through the list of schools I would be applying to in Grade 12, UVic did not even come into my top ten. In fact I applied solely because I had some family in the area and the application was not as challenging as the other American schools. I knew next to nothing about the school or Victoria in general.
Being from California, UBC and McGill are typically the names that ring in people’s heads when thinking about Canadian schools. Looking at the prices of American schools daunted me and having the privilege of being a dual citizen made going to school in Canada almost a no-brainer. Therefore, my first choice was UBC and when I got in, I thought the choice would be obvious.
After having visited a small liberal-arts university in Oregon and being a bit overwhelmed by the size of UBC, I started to become more interested in the mid-sized nature of UVic.
Victoria was a large city with a small town vibe and it seemed to fit just perfectly with the kind of place I was looking to live in. I took a Harbour Air plane from Vancouver to Victoria and very quickly I knew that UVic would become my new home.
I feel that it was a risk for me coming to a place where there were no other students from my high school attending and where I had very little connection to. Luckily my incredible experience in first year set me up for my success in Victoria as well as the laid back atmosphere of island life.
Looking back, I cannot imagine what my life would have been like had I not chosen to come here or to Canada in general. I sometimes even feel that I have learned more about myself and the world through just living outside of my home country than I have in my classes.
Living in a new country gave me new cultural understanding and knowledge that I will now cherish regardless of where I end up living in the future.
My first year experience was key to my integration at UVic and living in the Tower Leadership and Civic Engagement LLC was a large part of that.
To this day, my closest friends from university come from my residence in first year and I am really happy about the experiences I was able to have that year.
I was able to explore the city a bit better by being a bit of a tourist in my own city. Going on a Parliament Buildings tour, visiting the Butchart Gardens, hiking at Goldstream, trying my first Beavertail, going to late night Bin 4 burgers, etc.
My building also went camping and on numerous other small hikes and trips that made the residence life experience all the more rewarding. Despite the nerves and changes that come with first year, I think having a great group of friends around me made it seem like a seamless transition.
New perspectives on my home country
In November of 2016, the American election came to a disappointing result for me and ultimately changed how I viewed my home country.
Living in Canada, I felt both the frustration of not being able to be more involved in the election while also feeling an immense amount of gratitude to live here.
While I have always been more critical of American politics, the last four years exposed the flaws that I saw in its system and Canada showed me how important a trusted government was.
Not to say Canadian politics and society is perfect, however, the comparison between both countries was rather stunning to me. Being able to understand the history of Canada a bit better showed me the entrenched differences between both countries that were rather fascinating for me to learn about.
In many ways, I feel like living in a different country taught me more about my own country than it did about Canada. Many of the issues that I care the most about, including health care and education, brought to light many of the reasons that I find American society to be so broken. I hope that if I do return to the United States, that I am able to take these ideas that work well in Canada and bring them back with me 😉
The COVID-19 crisis has also shown me the difference between a government that works for its people over one that doesn’t. While Canada’s response was in no way perfect, I feel secure living in a country where I feel my voice matters and where I can make changes either through civic activism or voting.
The response by the American government to this crisis has made me both infuriated and worried about the scope of this crisis and how bad it will get for my friends and family back home if this situation is not properly dealt with.
Since I was in high school, I knew studying abroad would be a must for me. I decided upon going to Copenhagen, Denmark as it was a country that I had never been to and had always been fascinated by.
The ability of Nordic countries to create safe, stable, and equal economies that work for all citizens was something I wanted to explore a bit more. My expectations, like most students who go on exchange, went above and beyond what I could have imagined.
I very much miss biking along the lakes of the city, learning a new language, and meeting so many interesting people from all over the world.
While not the best country for my bank account, the way in which Danes live in such a carefree way really shows the importance of a proper social safety net and the parts of life outside of work and money.
Like when I moved to Canada, I was in awe of how important having a functioning and trusted government is to maintain a fair and free society. While in no way perfect, we have a lot to learn from the Danes in terms of how to manage our social safety net and… how to dress better 🙂
Working with the BC government
Being interested in media and politics, I wanted to get some job experience outside of the service industry to explore some potential career paths.
After joining the MyUVic Life blog team, I felt more inclined to explore areas in communications and journalism as a potential path through which to gain some experience. Therefore, I applied to the Political Science co-op program and after a few gruelling months of applying to dozens of jobs and getting rejected, I managed to be hired with the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Specifically, I was hired in the Residential Tenancy Branch, which manages the rental laws of the province. I had no real idea what I was getting into but the experience turned into one of the most rewarding ones in my life. Part of my responsibility was to respond to citizens’ questions and comments through correspondence letters or through the internet.
I came out of the job feeling very informed on rental laws and the tenancy dispute process, which I was able to pass on to friends dealing with difficult situations with their rentals.
While I’m not sure if working in government will be my path long-term, I was fascinated by the work that is done behind the scenes by public servants and how the structure of the public sector works in the province. I now have a new-found appreciation for the public servants who make government function without necessarily being credited for their work.
It is for this reason that I highly recommend the co-op program. Even if it doesn’t seem like the job fits exactly with what you want to do, you will come out of it with great experience and new knowledge to share. I am really thankful for the work I was able to do there and for the incredible experiences I got to have.
Check out my blog post on renting: My Tips for Students Renting after my Co-Op with the Residential Tenancy Branch
Joining campus radio/Working in the SUB
One part of UVic that intrigued me was the radio station. I have always been fascinated by radio and television broadcasting so I joined the station in my second year.
I eventually was able to broadcast live on the airwaves, which was nerve wracking but really fun as well. I was able to find so much new music to listen to and get to know the local music scene a little better.
CFUV has a charm that is quite irresistible and I was in awe of the people who have been volunteers there for years. My favourite memory was when I was able to put on a show for the 2019 funding drive with one of my friends, where we raised over $250 for the station.
If you want a true university experience, join CFUV and you will get to really be immersed in the Victoria music scene and get a better idea of the quirkiness of the island.
I also managed to get a small part-time job in the SUB working as a cashier for Cinecenta. This was a really cool experience as I was able to see tons of free movies and eat lots of free popcorn. I highly recommend working for UVic or the UVSS as the working hours are built around students’ availability and you can get some great discounts on food during your shifts.
Living independently and finding myself
Going away to university away from home, and studying abroad even further away, taught me how to live on my own for the first time. It sounds silly, but the little things like cooking rice, buying groceries, and keeping a budget for meals is really difficult at first when living independently.
I think most of the learning that comes in university actually comes from outside of the classroom where you are choosing how to live your own life for the first time. This transition is easier for some people and I am definitely not one who adjusted very easily.
My first and second years I was riddled with constant anxiety and it really affected my learning in class and my ability to do basic things like go grocery shopping and take the bus.
I think this is a typical feeling by many who already suffer from anxiety disorders, however, it gets heightened when exposed to an unfamiliar environment. To this day, I deal with certain anxiety issues but I have learned to deal with it better through some therapy and a small dose of medication.
I think that this situation taught me how to better take care of myself and know the boundaries that I need to take in order to care for my mental health.
Check out my blog post on studying abroad with anxiety
I think my UVic experience overall has made me prepared for the issues I will be facing after graduation during this crisis. While a large amount of anxiety continues, I am confident that things will settle down soon and I will be able to begin my career.
I will, however, miss my daily walks to school and walking through campus on a brisk fall day. I am only now realizing once again why I chose to come to this school. The trees, the ocean, the forests and its small, quirky environment make Victoria such a unique place to live.
While I am feeling a bit nostalgic of the past, I am excited to graduate and finally have my diploma after the long years of hard work. I hope to stay in Victoria and savour the smell of the ocean for a little while longer.
Cheers to the Class of 2020!