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Things I Learned in my Undergrad

Hindsight truly can be 20/20. While looking back on my university experience, I wanted to share six lessons that I never knew I was going to learn while studying at uOttawa. Truly subjective, very honest, and all incredibly worth it.

Take care of yourself.
One of my favourite quotes is by Brian Morton and it says “You need your books and time to read, and you need a few friends and you need someone – not to take care of you, but to care for you. If you have all those things, you’ll always be all right.” I liked this because Morton differentiates between being taken care of and being cared for. Being cared for is a beautiful experience to share with another person, but taking care of yourself is your responsibility. It was in my first year of university, scared of gaining the freshman fifteen and falling into unhealthy habits, that I first grasped what it meant to be responsible for yourself. My mom dictated most of what I ate at home because she’s the best and always cooked dinner for my family, but by moving away I quickly became the person who was responsible for feeding me 24/7, 7 days a week. Through this act of caring for myself, I found out how much I LOVE to cook and bake (seriously, see any of my former articles), and just how much a healthy diet (or any act of taking care of yourself) can change your life.

Challenge yourself.
This is one of those things that some people brush off, but at the end of my undergrad, I realized I truly started challenging myself too late. What I really mean is put yourself out there! In the first half of my undergrad I thought all I could handle was school. In my last year at uOttawa I joined HerCampus (hello, this is where you are right now) and I got a part-time job. I realized very quickly that both were wonderful experiences that I wish I started sooner. By writing for HC, I found a voice in my writing, appreciated having a creative outlet, and learned to work within deadlines. At my job at Father and Sons, I met some great people, learned to balance my time, and started saving to pay back my student loans. Not only are these enjoyable, they can beef up my resume and make me a more diverse and well-rounded person. Challenging yourself, I have learned, is rewarding.

Do what makes YOU happy.
I MEAN IT. My old roommate once pointed out to me that I did this and I’ve only made more of an effort to do so ever since. At first it gave me pause because she was either calling me stubborn or giving me a compliment. I think she was pointing out that I am very much not a yes-person. This definitely came with age. It took time to realize that I don’t need to spend my time doing things that are expected of me; I want to do things that I like. I’m not saying to never do anything you don’t want to, I’m merely making an argument for evaluating your actions. Why do you not want to do that? Does it matter if you don’t do x-y-z even though Betty wants you to? Are you just being lazy? And so on. I recommend doing any action that will benefit you later (hellooo studying, taking your makeup off before bed, going the extra mile at work, etc.), but save your spare time for doing things you want to do. Recharging by doing whatever pleases me has become a practice I thoroughly appreciate.

Understand yourself as an ever-changing being and don’t be so strict with yourself (or others). Here are two more quotes for you. The first is by Nathan Morris, “Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.” The second is Gala Darling, “You have permission to simply stop doing the things that don’t thrill you anymore. You can change your mind, whenever you like.” What power these hold. The permission and encouragement, to change – and at any time! At any point in your life, not just your undergrad, it helps to be reminded that change is good, healthy, and encouraged if you want to make any progress! So, change! Make new friends, eat new foods, try new workouts, get a brand new job, start a new daily ritual. Feel like having a new experience? Go outside. Just because you decided something a year ago does not mean you have to stick with it no matter what. The years you spend in your undergrad are so full of figuring-it-all-out moments that it is almost impossible to not change during this time. Embrace it!

Work on your friendships.
People often look at their S/O as their main relationship in their life, willing to work on it and nourish it at any cost. Friendships are sometimes forgotten in this sense, but they are just as much a relationship as the one your have with your S/O. When I look back to my friends from first year, I’m only still close with a couple of them now. I definitely believe in the quality over quantity argument when it comes to anything, but even the most loyal, true friendships need care. During my years here I have kept a few friends close, and we have gone through cycles of being very close to kind of distant and back again. In this last year, I’ve truly realized that going the extra mile (whether it be making plans, texting a thoughtful message, or tagging them in something silly) makes all the difference. Even though we’re all on different schedules now, seeing my BFFs always makes me so happy. For me, any relationship is made simple by the saying, “Love the ones you want to keep.” Your friends become your main support system when you’re away from home. My few girlfriends are my people. They are the ones who I tell my secrets to, vent to, having fun with, cry with, eat with, and am my true self with. I’m telling you, strengthening these friendships is one of the best things you can do.

Do. The. Readings. Participate.
This is not something I was told to add by a professor or colleague, I truly mean this. It will make your classes so much more enjoyable if you show up prepared. You may even feel more confident speaking in front of people if you participate in class. All of my favourite lecture or seminar experiences were made better when I made sure I did all the work and had something to say once I got there (even if I wrote it down in my notebook so I wouldn’t forget). PLUS your professors will appreciate it when it is you who fills that looming void of silence after they ask a question. It can help your grades and you may unveil the answer to what someone else is wondering, but is too scared to ask. Your professors notice when you speak up and ask questions; it helps them do their jobs. I know this is the last thing I’m mentioning, but it is not the least important by any means. Seriously, try it! You could potentially raise your grades, become closer with your professors, and find new study spots on campus. A little more reading will be incredibly beneficial to your learning experience.

When you’re graduating high school, it’s hard to prepare for the life-changing experience of your undergrad. I didn’t fully grasp just how much I would change during this time because the focus before I got here was merely on school. Moving away from home, making new friends, learning so incredibly much (about my program, adult-ing, and becoming myself) has truly been a wonderful, magical experience. I’m glad that I chose uOttawa five years ago. This is always going to be a nostalgic place for me. Thank you for forcing me to I learn how to cook! XOXO 


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