Fin: UVic Top 5 Life Advice

UVic alumni pin and stickerIn less than two months, I’ll be finishing up my undergraduate degree at UVic and moving on to my next chapter in life.

That sentence still feels weird whether I’m saying it out loud or writing it on my laptop.

In light of my five years here, I wanted to sign off in a manner that echoes how I arrived as a freshman. Back in 2017, I stumbled on some videos by “Casually Explained” (if you know you know) that highlight both what to expect from university and some pieces of life advice. So here I am, attempting to merge these two nostalgic videos into my last blog post with UVic.

This top five list is a collection of statements that resonated with me during my academic journey. Some are quotes from close friends, others are personal tokens from countless all-nighters, and some are sayings that help me remember the “important.”

Hopefully, some items on this list can help you (wherever you are on your journey) in a similar way that “Casually Explained” helped me when I walked across Ring Road five years ago.

5) You’re the Manager

One of the best one-liners I’ve ever heard came from my old rowing coach. Although I left the sport after my first semester, the quote still holds true to this day: “you’re the manager.” The actual quote is paraphrased from the original line, which was “manage your sh*t.” I always took this to mean the importance of taking full ownership of my responsibilities.

The longer I stay here, the more I realize how much it pays off to be someone that acts as a manager in their life instead of an employee.

This statement still applies despite the mandatory nature of our assignments and courses. If we decide to organize and construct the tasks we want to get done, then they’ll be more likely to be completed, simple as that.

You can’t rely on someone else to instruct you on how to structure your life. Eventually, you will have to take the necessary steps to carve out what you believe needs to get done now and in the future.

4) Be a Dot Collector

If the mindset towards learning is what gets you started, then the act of making it personal is what makes it meaningful in the long term.

I’m not just talking about our courses; education, in general, has to be personal in order for it to pay off down the line. By personal, I essentially mean two principles. The first is that we need to understand how a given subject can be ingrained into our life (why it matters).

The second is how we can effectively structure our studies on a daily and weekly basis (ex. are you more productive in the morning, afternoon, or night?). However, I think the final piece in this puzzle, to make our learning meaningful, is to make it connective across studies and people.

hand holding leaf

It’s easy to imagine our classes (ex. organic chemistry and cognitive psychology) as being separate organized bins of information.

In reality, almost every subject we will encounter involves concepts grounded in other subjects. For instance, fundamentals in psychology rely on biological foundations, which require an understanding of chemistry.

I like to imagine subjects less as filing cabinets and more as a web; learning in this sense can strengthen the connective space between disciplines.

If you want to take this to the next level, I’d recommend talking to someone from a completely different faculty. Strike up a conversation with a student that lives in a world completely different from yours and you’d be surprised at the lessons and perspectives both of you will learn with time.

3) Write Your Thoughts Down

There have been a multitude of nights where I’ve questioned my path in life. Other nights I would imagine if my past self – maybe two years ago – would enjoy this current version of me.

Regardless of how you feel in the moment, it always helps to express your mental dialogue on paper.

It doesn’t have to be coherent or grammatically correct (no one else has to read it except you), but it will help, maybe not immediately but slowly over time.

If this action becomes a habit, you’ll stumble on a miraculous gift: reading your transcribed thoughts year after year.

This method of journaling almost feels like having a conversation with your past self. At times I would feel like shaking my younger self, yelling, “What are you doing?! Don’t do that! Aaah!”

Although the communication seems one-way, your past self will give you something that’s very difficult to notice in a classroom: realizing how many steps forward you’ve taken in your mental journey. If you decide on writing your thoughts down, perhaps you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from your previous thoughts, actions, and emotions.

2) Be a Bridge

It’s always daunting to be in a new course with hundreds of students. As a freshman, I would get overwhelmed because although I wanted to succeed in each class, I wasn’t sure where to begin when meeting new people.

The truth of the matter is, most people at UVic feel the same way (nervously excited at first) and almost all the classmates I’ve encountered were and continue to be awesome individuals.

Almost everyone is happy to strike up a conversation, but it’s always good to be the first to start one. Who knows, maybe the person you decide to open up to – in your biology lab – will become your best pal two years down the line.

This idea of “being a bridge” also extends within your current friend group. At least for me, I used to expect my friends to plan fun events like hiking or grabbing a beer at Fels.

This would happen obviously because most of my friends are extroverted. However, after a while, I began to wonder how many more memories I could share with people if I decided to be the person that plans events.

This relationship goes both ways with the people you’ll meet at university, but hey, that’s why it’s called a bridge; you both need to walk across it.

1) Breath In and Relax

You heard me, take a deep breath in and relax… because at the end of the day, things will work out one way or another. Your path through UVic may not be as you predicted it to be (believe me, it wasn’t how I thought it would go), but you know what? That’s okay because life is organic and rarely linear.

I think there is a fine line between following the advice of others and listening to your own heart and desires. The happiest people, or at least the most fulfilled people, I’ve had the privilege of meeting these past five years were the ones that followed their own passion, which carried them into their professions.

This doesn’t mean that seeking advice isn’t important, but rather that it always pays off to listen to your internal script. And if you don’t understand what your script says (like I did for many years), then give yourself permission for self-reflection. I said this once to my close friend, and I’ll echo it here,

“University, in my opinion, is less of a discovery process, and more of a process of rediscovering the things that you already keep close to your heart.”

So take a deep breath in and relax…because you got this…. things are going to work out one way or another, believe me, you’ll get through those hurdles now and the ones in the future.

As a final farewell for this blog, I want to mention the last stanza from the poem titled “The Calling” by Y.D. Gardens, that has recently supported my journey on many fronts:

“If I’d ignored the voices, perhaps I’d have learnt sooner
That following the crowd
Would never make me a winner.
For the battle is inside
And is our own to fight;
At our pace, it is our race –
And only we know what’s right.”

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