4 Years Later: Looking Back

I’m finishing up my fourth year of undergraduate studies here at UVic (that’s crazy to say!) and with only three more classes to complete over the summer, my degree is nearly done. As quite possibly my last blog post as a student blogger, I wanted to reflect on my time here at UVic.

I still remember coming to UVic four years ago fresh out of high school, as a nervous but excited 17-year-old eager to start this next chapter in her life. In September my family helped me move into my dorm room and then not long after waved goodbye, and just like that I had the freedom and independence of being a first-year university student, a “junior adult” if you will.

Little 17-year-old Sam just after moving into my new dorm on campus, four years ago!

My random assortment of elective classes in first year led me to what would later become my major, geography. I quickly fell in love with this study of space and place and found comfort in finding “my people”.

In dorms, I made new friends on my floor in the Tower building, four of whom would later become my roommates in the following years. We helped each other with the chaos of the pandemic, which unfolded right at the end of our first year at UVic, and kept in touch over that strange pandemic summer.

In the fall of 2020, I returned to Victoria again, moving into a small basement suite with three of my friends from dorms in first year. Online classes became a source of struggle and stress, and pretty much all of the social interaction I had was with those roommates. It was definitely a tough year, but we made it through. And just like that, before I knew it, I was halfway through my degree.

The summer before third year, I decided to apply for a study abroad exchange. I was accepted, and that fall I began preparing for a semester abroad in the Netherlands in the spring.

I took this photo on the first day of fully online classes in September 2020. I had no idea what I was in for!

I moved into a new house in Victoria with some friends from my hometown, and experienced another challenging semester where the anxiety sparked during that COVID year of online school began to build and take a toll on parts of my life.

I made it through the semester though, and the anticipation for my exchange reached a high – I had something so exciting to look forward to, a break from my routine, a new challenge, a chance to try something new and experience a bit of the world again.

In late January, I was flying across the ocean to start my exchange. There was excitement but also some nervousness, and some logistical challenges with the pandemic as well. However, I made it, and proceeded to have the most difficult yet amazing experience over the next six months.

In the Netherlands my anxiety hit an all-time high: I would feel stressed and uncomfortable in the unfamiliar space, and I felt isolated from the support of friends and family back home. These were things I wasn’t entirely expecting to feel as someone that usually prides herself on being extremely independent and adventurous.

Yet, at the same time despite the anxiety, I also was able to revel in the incredible art, culture, and food I got to explore and the wonderfully kind people I met along the way. My exchange experience was filled with high highs and low lows, which was not what I had been expecting, but I credit it with providing me some of the most significant opportunities to learn about myself and grow as a person throughout my degree – and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

In an art gallery in Brussels, Belgium while on exchange.

Travelling in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, July 2022 after my exchange.

And that brings me to this school year, my last full year, where I simply tried to enjoy my learning and focus on myself and my happiness again.

My anxiety, while it’s still definitely there and is an ongoing challenge, is better understood by myself and doesn’t have such an extreme power over parts of my life anymore.

This year I wrote my honours thesis, the biggest academic project I have ever undertaken, and defended it a week ago, something I am incredibly proud of myself for.

I’ve spent time this year engaging in the UVic community, meeting new people, and strengthening relationships with old friends. I feel so grateful for everything my time at UVic has taught me, not just academically, but also lessons in my personal life that have allowed me to grow from that shy 17-year-old to a more confident and self aware adult.

And with that, I think I can safely say that I am fully content with my UVic undergrad experience, have taken every opportunity my degree had to offer, and am excited to move on to what else the world has to offer in just a few months. And for that, thank you, UVic!

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