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Things I Wish I Knew In My First Year: From Me to You

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Carleton chapter.

My first year in university was tumultuous. I moved out of my home for the first time, flew across the world away from my family for the first time, and was really on my own for the first time. Three months into this unfamiliar yet intriguing territory, the pandemic hit. We all know exactly where we were when the notification that we were getting a few weeks off of school dropped and unfortunately, we all also know what entailed.

I didn’t get back to in-person classes until well into my second year of uni and even then, things were hectic. Sometimes we were in quarantine and we had to attend classes online, from the comfort of our beds, and other times, the mandates were lifted and we were told that classes would be in-person and decidedly not offered online. Most of the time, I just didn’t go. I was too used to logging into Zoom, still in my pyjamas, camera off and zoning out without a care in the world.

But when it was unanimously decided that the world was moving on from the pandemic and things would go back the way they were (with a few changes), I realized that I had to go to school, I had to attend my classes, had to put in the work. My grades were suffering and, as a result, so was my mental health. I needed to make a choice. I wasn’t going to be scared of university anymore.

I had to figure that out by myself. But I’m happy to say that I’m in a better place now academically. In fact, I now enjoy going to my classes, participating and learning. Even those dreadful readings don’t suck out my soul anymore. Something shifted in me and I can’t quite name it but it’s there and I’m glad it is. I want to extend that to you.

For anyone navigating their first year in university (and for those who feel just as lost years in), here are some of the things I can say helped me out a lot.

Grades are important

You might be thinking, “It’s my first year, I’m allowed to slack off”. That’s incorrect. You’re allowed to have fun not slack off. Developing good habits in your first year will guide you throughout the rest of the years of work you’ll have to face. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, take things slowly. You have lots of time to learn, but make sure you learn to pay attention to your grades.

It’s hard to make friends in university

If you’re still walking those hallways alone, just remember we’ve all been there. We’ve all been loners, gazing longingly at that group of friends being noisy in the library, wishing we were part of them. The truth is, the busy routine of university life leaves us with little time (and energy) to forge friendships. I mean, who wants to stick around and talk after an 8am class? It’s difficult but not impossible. My biggest tip: be the kind of friend you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to hang out, chances are, they’re looking for a friend just as much as you are. If you’re scared of looking stupid, just know that we’re all way too busy to remember whether or not you think you’ve embarrassed yourself.

Also note that people in university are busy with courses, with work, with life so don’t feel defeated if your new friend texts back slow or asks for a raincheck on your study date. Be patient, don’t force things. Your “met her in college and now she’s my best friend” story will come in time.

You can ask for an extension when you’re late on a deadline

Work piles up in university. That’s why it’s good to have a planner and stay organized. But sometimes, even that fails and you’re left struggling with deadlines coming at you and fast. Don’t take that as a sign to give up. Sometimes, professors are understanding of the toil of being a student and you don’t lose anything by asking for an extension, even if the chances of actually receiving one seem slim. And if you’re not offered an extension, submit the assignment, even if it’s not your best work, even if it’s uncompleted. Give your professor or TA something to grade because getting a D on a bad assignment is sometimes better than getting a 0.

Register early!

God, I cannot express the amount of times I decided I had time to register only to find that all my courses were full. It’s a humiliating experience, really. I advise anyone to check the date registration opens, mark it on your calendar and put a reminder in your phone, and start registering as soon as it does. You have the rest of the summer to binge Succession but when it comes to registration, it’s first come first serve.

Join clubs

Clubs are a great place to make those friends you’ve been searching for. Join a club you like and you’ll find people who share similar interests, a great place to start. Plus, it’ll add to the whole university experience, not to mention, you’ll have tons of fun. It can also provide you with some things you can add to your resume (you know how much prospective employers love that “extra-curricular/volunteer work” section). Open yourself up to new opportunities and step out of your comfort zone. You won’t regret it.

Don’t let your first year define you

Failed a class? Didn’t make any friends? It’s totally fine. You have next year to try it all again. It sounds exhausting to repeat the cycle but the only way to make sure your time spent in university is quality is by trying, even when it seems hopeless. It’s okay if things didn’t work out in your first year, life is all about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. You’ll find things you never expected and you learn a lot about yourself in the process. Trust me, my first year and a half in university was a mess but I pulled myself together and I believe you can too. Take breaks, have fun, don’t take things too seriously, look after yourself and I implore you: try.

Ayesha is the current Social Media Director of Her Campus Carleton. She, along with her team, creates content to be posted and directs content all across HCC's social media platforms. Aside from her Her Campus duties, Ayesha is a third-year English Literature student with a concentration in Creative Writing. Recently, she has taken an interest in Journalism, Law, and Political Science, the current socio-political and economic state of the world around her being a subject of great interest. When it comes to extra-curriculars, Ayesha has volunteered with CU Smile and regularly attends campus events to build connections. Ayesha aspires to write for popular magazines one day, such as Vogue, alongside her dream of publishing a book.