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What I Learned From My First Year of University

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 Toronto MU chapter.

Last April, I had accepted my offer to Ryerson’s Journalism program, still not knowing if I made the right choice.

I was anxious about whether or not I would enjoy the program, unsure if I would make new friends during a pandemic and if I would be able to handle the unknown of university life.

I’m going into my second year of university and it feels surreal. How did first year go by so fast?

Looking back, I’ve gone through and learned so many different things. Some good, some bad, but all lessons were valuable, and I wouldn’t change them if I had the chance. Here’s an insight into some of the things I’ve learned.

It’s okay not to be passionate (right away)

Coming into a program of aspiring journalists, I was quickly surrounded by what seemed to be every single person having their career plans figured out. They talked about things I hadn’t even considered and seemed to have everything sorted out in their elaborate five-year plan.

Then there I was, not even sure if journalism was my calling, let alone knowing which specialty I wanted to pursue.

It was daunting, it felt like everyone knew what they wanted and I was walking around aimlessly, unable to figure it out for myself. It made me think that maybe I didn’t belong here after all.

But, as the year went by and I was exposed to the different avenues in the program, I found myself being pulled towards certain writing styles, certain topics too. I always loved writing and I needed to constantly remind myself to give myself a little bit of time.

Not everything had to be figured out at once, I didn’t have to be overly prepared with what I wanted to do. And I wasn’t (and that’s okay). Giving myself the time I needed is what evoked my passion and it gave me perspective on what I truly wanted to do.

Remember: Everyone has their own pace and priorities, don’t let that be intimidating and instead, go at your own rhythm.

All-nighters are your new best friends

I knew university was a lot in terms of workload, but I guess I somehow still ended up underestimating it.

The amount of coffee-driven all-nighters I’ve experienced is a number I’d rather not admit to. 

Is there a way around it? Definitely. It’s called ‘not procrastinating like it’s your life’s mission’. Do I learn anything from these all-nighters? Not really.

Loneliness is draining and real

Usually, people talk about university as being the place where you make friendships that’ll last a lifetime. No one ever talks about the feeling when that doesn’t seem to be happening.

As a student who spent her first semester primarily online and lived far from campus (all commuter students rise), the cloud of loneliness never seemed to leave.   

I kept seeing all these people thriving so early on in the year and couldn’t help but wish it could be me. My FOMO really started to kick in, something I’ve written about before (sorry, couldn’t help myself from shamelessly plugging a previous article in this article), and I was desperately craving the university life everyone seems to ramble on about.

Despite constantly rationalizing my circumstances in an attempt to make myself feel better, it never truly worked. I still felt just as drained and I couldn’t help feeling bitter.

I didn’t expect the loneliness, maybe that’s why it hit harder. And even though things got better, the doom and gloom still need to be spoken about.

You have to get out of your comfort zone

For someone who is both an introvert and socially anxious, this sounded like a nightmare. But it was something I had to repeat like a mantra. 

Everyone, and I mean everyone, is in the same position as you. Anxious and awkward about what’s to come.

I’m never the person that can start conversations out of thin air, especially not with someone I don’t know. University, however, forces you to be that person. The amount of times I had to give myself a mini pep-talk before approaching someone was honestly embarrassing (remember: introvert and socially anxious!).

Here’s the thing though. Making the first move was totally worth it. 

I got to experience things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I met some amazing people that I now have the privilege of calling friends and I didn’t let anything get in the way.

You will find your people

I talked about my unexpected loneliness. I talked about coming out of my comfort zone. So, what ended up being the result of these things?

Meeting the best group of people ever. 

There’s a really special type of feeling when you instantly click with someone. Conversations flow, there’s no awkwardness and you feel like you can say anything without being judged for it.

I learned that friendships like these cannot be rushed, they’ll come to you when they need to. One came to me when it needed to.

As lonely and upset as I was during the first couple of months of the year (which felt like a lifetime), I am just as happy and grateful for the incredible friends and memories I’ve made.

Would I experience all the bad from the start of the year all over again if it meant I would be with the people I’m surrounded by now? Over and over and over again.

Be patient with yourself and just like the saying, all good things come to those who wait.

Academic burnout takes on a whole new meaning

I thought I knew what academic burnout was in high school. I was so, incredibly, terribly wrong.

There were so many moments where I felt like I couldn’t get through the week without crying, stressing about major deadlines or both at the same time. There were times when I couldn’t even look at my work, I just didn’t have the motivation to.

When I got into these slumps, I tried to identify the root cause. What was it that caused me so much stress? What was it that made me feel like I couldn’t go on forward?

Sometimes I couldn’t even figure that out. So, I just began to tackle my work in small bits and pieces, taking things as slowly as I could, to not overwhelm myself, but not so slow that I missed deadlines.

I also found that it wasn’t a bad thing to ask for help.

It’s okay to need help

I promise you, getting help does not make you any less than. Instead, it shows your self-awareness and initiative to get better. 

I’ve always had a “do-it-yourself” mindset. I wanted to handle and deal with all my work, problems, feelings and more. But it wasn’t the right thing to do. It just got me more stressed than necessary and had me in avoidable situations.

Hence, if you need it, get whatever help you need. Whether it’s academically, emotionally or anything else, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone, you’ll only benefit from it (trust me).

You will be okay

I am okay.

I got through my first year of university. All the anxieties I had about it before and during the start of this new chapter in my life were dealt with and resolved. 

There were ups and downs but I somehow managed to push through it all. And now, here I am; ready for the rest of what seems to be a complex but rewarding journey. 

I learned so much about myself in this past year, more than I thought I would, and I can’t wait for the next three years with amazing friends in this amazing program.

📖 Related: Spotting the Signs of Academic Burnout
📖 Related: A Guide for Toronto Commuter Students
Khushy Vashisht

Toronto MU '25

Khushy Vashisht is a second-year journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University. She enjoys singing, hate-watching Twilight, and reading thrillers. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found watching romcoms, procrastinating on her readings, or both at the same time.