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How Getting Involved on Campus Changed My Life

When I graduated from high school in 2014, the only “volunteer” experience I had was my mandatory 40-hours of community service. Back then, my main focus was to pass my classes so that I could get my OSSD and finally leave high school behind. Notably, when I began my first year of Political Science at the University of Toronto, I made it my mission to attend Clubs Day; however, nothing ever resulted from it. Later on, when I started Psychology at the University of Windsor, I made a habit of attending Clubs Days but never really signed up for anything.

Interestingly enough, I spent my first two years on campus struggling with gruelling anxiety and low self-esteem. I would convince myself that no one liked me and that regardless of how seemingly hard I tried, my peers would not give me the chance to get to know them. As our parents often say, had I known then what I know now, I would have made significantly different decisions. For example, I’m fairly certain that I would not have dropped out of my first year at U of T; instead, I would have completed the year and gone over my options during the summer – maybe I would not have needed to consider any options at all. Similarly, my first two years at Windsor would have most likely developed differently as well.

I firmly believe that one of my biggest mistakes in first year was not getting more involved on campus. In my opinion, the best part about university life is that there are dozens of associations, clubs, and societies on campus that connect people with similar interests from a variety of backgrounds and programs. If I had joined some during my first semester, I am confident that I would have been in a much healthier head space. Being someone who struggles to complete tasks that do not give me a sense of purpose and fulfillment, I feel that joining a club or organization on campus would have also inspired me to do better academically. Knowing that I had a strong group of like-minded individuals around me would have given me a sense of responsibility, and it would have motivated me to live up to those people who I admired. While I cannot change my past, I can shed some light on my situation and maybe give you the courage – or push – you need to put yourself out there and get more involved.

This year, I am in my third year of my undergraduate studies, and I have finally committed to doing what I should have done years ago: I sought resources on campus, joined clubs and organizations, and got more involved in my community. In the Fall semester, I received a writing position for Her Campus, and this generated my new-found enthusiasm to participate in as many things as possible. In January, I applied to the Volunteer Internship Program on campus and got placed at the hospital; I also joined a sorority. During Clubs Days, I signed up for numerous clubs that I never knew about, and I became a member of United Way’s WE Students United, Personal Support and Advocacy for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, the Psychology Students Association, and many more. Beyond clubs and organizations, I have made it my priority to utilize various resources on campus throughout the year. I attended the Psychological Services and Research Centre where I received Cognitive-behavioural therapy to help manage my anxiety symptoms, and I also had several counselling sessions at the Centre for Career Development and Experiential Learning, where I completed a Strong Assessment and received invaluable advice to help me prepare for my future career goals. More recently, I received a volunteer position with the Canadian Mental Health Association. 

Truthfully, by facing my fears and forcing myself to get more involved on campus, I have turned my university experience around tremendously. A year ago, if anyone were to tell me that my life would be the way it is today, I would have been in complete disbelief. Last March, I barely left my house out of fear of having a panic attack. I barely socialized beyond having casual conversations with my coworkers, and I was genuinely terrified about my future: I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I would end up in life. Everything seemed daunting and bleak; I felt as though every day was just another date to check off my calendar, and I would go through the same motions – wake up, (maybe) go to class, go to work, come home, go to sleep, and repeat. The optimistic, purpose-driven person I was had vanished, leaving behind this dull, unmotivated shell to fill her space. Looking back on that time of my life, I am truly proud of how far I have come thus far, as I honestly did not think I would ever get to experience this moment of pure relief; relief of being able to look back at how terrible things once were and finally be able to smile knowing that everything is now, surprisingly, okay.

While I know that everyone’s life situation is unique and one person’s subjective experiences do not – and cannot – advocate for everyone else’s, one piece of advice I strongly encourage you to take is to get involved in whatever way you possibly can. Regardless of your age or the year of the program you are in, it is never too late to take advantage of the resources around you and grasp towards the abundance of opportunities many of us tend to overlook. Personally, I believe that university, like anything in life, is what you make of it. For me, the past few years were way more difficult than they could have been simply because I allowed myself to dwell on the negatives without trying to truly change anything. Now, I can feel my passion returning and for the first time in a long time, I feel driven to make something out of myself. Joining Her Campus and Delta Zeta were two of the best decisions I made because they introduced me to countless opportunities. I’ve met amazing individuals who are doing astounding things and through them, I found out about other possibilities. Also, becoming more active in campus life has helped me feel more secure about my career goals, which is something I have struggled with since I started my post-secondary journey. By forcing myself out of my comfort zone, I’ve discovered various ways to incorporate my interests into a fulfilling career; I’ve even been introduced to positions and graduate programs I did not know about before.

Essentially, my intention for this article is to hopefully inspire anyone reading it, especially if you are in a similar position to the one I was once in. Even though I cannot go back and change my own circumstances, I can pass on the wisdom I have gained to help make someone else’s life a bit easier. Ultimately, getting involved in student life may not seem like a profoundly life-changing experience, but for me, it was. I look back at the girl I was merely one year ago, and I know that if she were able to thank me, she would. That said, I encourage you to try something new today, tomorrow, and the day after that. We often become so blinded by the big picture that we completely forget about the small, yet momentous, experiences that eventually become the details creating it.

This is an anonymous account hosted by our team mascot, Morty the Monkey. This article was written by a UWindsor student.
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