Reflecting on personal growth after 2 years at university

At the end of April 2023 I finished up my fourth semester at UVic, which marked the completion of the first two years of my undergraduate degree in Psychology.

While there is still so much for me to learn and experience as I work towards graduation, I have noticed considerable personal growth between when I first arrived at UVic and where I am now. I hope that by sharing my experiences I can help students who are just starting their undergraduate degree.

Everyone is on a different path that leads to a different finish line

When I began my first semester at UVic I had a very rigid idea of what University life should look like, and I thought that everyone shared these same sentiments.

I believed that it should take everyone four years to complete their undergraduate degree and once they were done they would go straight into the workforce or continue on to grad school. Furthermore, I thought that everyone had their ‘life plan’ figured out, and once started on one path there was no opportunity to diverge or change directions.

My views quickly changed once I began to talk with other students. By learning about their experiences I realized that many people did not stick to my set idea of what University life should look like.

I learned that many students take more than four years to graduate. Over the course of their degree they might change majors or areas of study as their interests change. And after graduating, students often take some time to figure out what they want to do with the next chapter of their life.

Learning that there is such a wide array of possibilities has helped me to feel less anxious about University and my life after graduation. Now that I know that my path is not set in stone and there is no timer dictating when I should have my degree completed, I have been able to actually enjoy the classes I take and focus on learning, not just completion and grades.

Learning how to be kind to myself

student on grassDuring my first year at University I put so much pressure on myself to take a full course load while achieving high grades in every class. When I got marks that did not meet my expectations I would be very disappointed in myself and feel like a failure.

What I did not take in to account at the time was that there was so much more going on during that first year. For the first time I was living away from home in a whole new city. I needed to create a new social circle and meet new people since most of my friends from high school had gone to other Universities or stayed in my home town.

I also had to learn how to handle my own finances and look after my own health. At UVic there are a lot of resources available around campus to help with the difficult transition from high school to University, but even with help it is a lot to manage.

Once I was able to acknowledge that University is more than just academics, it’s also about learning how to be an independent adult, I made an effort to treat myself with more kindness and understanding. Going into my second year I was more empathetic towards myself, which made navigating University life a lot less demanding and helped to ease some of my anxieties about my grades.

Understanding who I am as a person

One of the biggest changes from high school to University is independence and with it comes a complete reworking of one’s identity. In my first year at UVic I encountered so many new people from many different backgrounds. Some shared similar experiences to my own, and others were wildly different. This challenged me to look at my own identity and begin to become my own unique person.

Once you are pulled away from your parents, siblings, and high school friends, and introduced to a new environment, there are so many aspects of yourself that you begin to question. In my first year I had to figure out what parts of my personal identity were most important to me, what passions I wanted to pursue, and what pieces I no longer needed and was willing to leave behind.

During that first year it felt like I was configuring a whole new person, made from pieces of my past self sewn together with new thoughts and ideas. Now as I am entering my third year I feel much more confident in myself and my identity. I feel more sure of who I am and my place in the world. But I know there is still so much more for me to discover about myself in the years to come and I look forward to continue to explore my identity.

I’m ready to start my third year of my Undergraduate degree this September, and I am excited to continue to grow and learn here at UVic!

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