I received my acceptance letter to UVic over five years ago. When I enrolled as an undeclared social sciences major the following September, I had some wavering ideas of what I wanted to do after graduating… but mostly, I just had an abundance of uncertainty. However, there was one thing I was absolutely sure of: I was going to graduate on time. I proudly added myself to the “UVic Class of 2018” Facebook page, certain that I’d be out in the real world in four years.

Had I stayed on this self-imposed track, I would’ve graduated last spring with my supposed “UVic Class of 2018” cohort. Evidently, that didn’t happen. This spring, even more of my friends are graduating and leaving behind the familiar and comfortable landscape that campus has become… but I’m still here, with a few handfuls of classes left in my degree.

This September will mark my sixth year of returning to UVic. 

And that’s okay.

My perspective has shifted significantly from when I first started my degree, when was convinced I’d be finished by now. This shift in thinking was a slow process, and not without struggles. Over the past five years, I’ve learned to see truth in things that I couldn’t initially take to heart when I started as a headstrong and by-the-books student in 2014.

Here are five of those things!

1. Taking time off can have incredible value.

When the first year of my degree came to a close, my uncertainty about my future at university was rapidly devolving into anxiety. Even though I’d taken a variety of different courses, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to flounder in (and spend money on) classes that I wasn’t entirely invested in. 

Though I returned for another semester, it became clear by the following January that I needed a breakI took a semester off and worked full-time. Some difficult life events happened, and my one semester off turned into two. I moved back in with my parents. I felt isolated, alienated, and exhausted. My mental health plummeted. 

image source: twitter.

After a few months of therapy and self-work, I decided I needed a change of pace. With the money I’d made working, I bought a one-way ticket to Paris and spent the next few months backpacking solo around Europe.

As contrived as it sounds, traveling alone taught me more about myself than I’d ever learned before. I learned how strong, capable, and independent I could be. I learned how to as for help when I needed it. I learned how to spend time with myself… and how to enjoy it. And I learned a lot about the things I loved: deeply connecting with people. Art. Reflecting on my own experiences. Learning about others’ perspectives.

When I came back to school the following January, a full year after I’d initially left, I was reinvigorated. Taking time off gave me a realistic picture of what I did, and didn’t, want to be doing post-graduation.

2. Change is an opportunity for growth, and no education is wasted.

image source: pinterest.

As I mentioned, I started my degree thinking I’d be done in four years. That didn’t happen. After my first year, I had a whirlwind change of heart and considered transferring schools and going into a completely different program. That didn’t happen. When I went traveling, I thought I’d be away for a full year. That didn’t happen, either. When I came back, I was fully convinced I’d major in English… and you guessed it… That. Didn’t. Happen.

Each of these shifts occurred because I was learning something new about myself, and developing my sense of the direction I wanted to take. I think that doing my best to honour and weather these shifts, instead of fighting them and continuing on the path I’d initially set, has made me happier, and will make me happier in the long run.

I’m a firm believer that no education is wasted. I don’t think any of the classes I took that were unrelated to my current degree program, or decisions I made only to change course, were anything but constructive. I’ve learned so much about myself from the projects, opportunities, and paths I’ve stepped away from, and from the process of doing so.

3. University is a whole lot better - and easier - when you feel connected to the material.

When I first started my degree, I took classes in different disciplines. Though I enjoyed them well enough, none of them made me really excited to study and learn. I’m not a person who’s naturally inclined to crack open a textbook unless it’s something I find really interesting and personally valuable… or there’s enough pressure to do so. As such, when I was still uncertain of where I wanted to go with my degree, I found myself leaving a lot of readings and papers to the last minute. 

Taking the prerequisite courses for the counselling program shifted the way I study, and the way I see studying, enormously. It gave me a concrete, personally valuable answer for the question of why I was learning at all, and enabled me to apply the material I was learning to a specific field and area. Connecting to my education in this way made my experience of studying not only more interesting, but also easier.

image source: a pair + a spare.

4. Being in "the slow lane" gives you time to do other things.

image source: weheartit.

For me, the “fast track”, four-year degree felt unsustainable. After several summer semesters of full-time, busy, on-my-feet work, I knew that I’d rather have a part-time job throughout the school year and take less classes, than cram all my work into one semester. 

Though I’ve technically been a “full-time student” every semester that I’ve been enrolled, I usually only take 3 or 4 classes. This reduced course schedule gives me time to allocate to other things: I work part-time, volunteer in the on- and off-campus community, and have more time to make art, spend with my loved ones, and practice self-care than I did when I had five classes on my plate. 


Diversifying my schedule like this has felt more balanced and sustainable for me. Not only this, but having time to volunteer and work has also made me feel more prepared for my impending masters’ applications, and for post-grad life. 

5. Comparing your path to others' isn't worth the energy.

In the past, I’ve often compared myself to others as a motivational force. According to motivational psychology, using an externally-regulated, extrinsic motivator such as this one can actually hinder rather than help. When I returned to university after my year off, comparing myself to others stopped being useful, and started being exclusively a source of anxiety for me. People I’d lived with in residence in my first year were graduating around me, and I was still only midway through my degree. I felt behind, unprepared, and lost when comparing myself to other students and their paths.

image source: teepublic.

Unraveling my belief that I had to “keep up” with others around me in order to see my educational path as valid, and myself as a “good enough” student, was a huge step for me. It’s something I’m still working to do. Seeing myself as enough, and finding gratitude for my own life and experiences, has been so valuable.

Also… despite feeling that the “slow lane” has been the right path for me, I recognize that it’s not the same for everyone. There’s no perfect answer to how one should attain their education. We all have different routines that work for us. I have a few friends who find that they do and feel their best when they’re focusing exclusively on classes, rather than working and attending school part-time. I know students who couldn’t wait to graduate, and who are happy to have finished their degree in four years’ time.

I think most of all, it’s important to recognize these differences, see them as valid, and know that it’s okay to do things in the way that feels right for YOU, regardless of the norm.

image source: odyssey.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a great summer… whatever that means for you!


  • Cassidy


The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.