New School, Old Me: Why Picking Happy Makes You A Better Student

“Dad?”

“Yeah, Bep.” He used the nickname only he uses for me. At this moment, I knew that he knew what was coming.

“I need to come home.” My voice quivered as I tried not to cry on the mossy steps outside the Arts Lecture Hall on the University of Waterloo’s campus. It had been raining, so I had nowhere dry to sit.

“Okay, Bep.”

For the last seven months leading up to this phone call, I had been attending the University of Waterloo (UW). I finally escaped the town I thought was inferior to any of the other options I applied to through OUAC, and at first I was excited. UW was quaint, hip, artistic and academically wonderful. It felt like home when I toured it, and above all else, I was getting out of London. I had plans to make friends, join clubs and insert exactly who I was into my university experience.

I soon realized this wasn’t the case and that Waterloo was not the right fit for me. UW is so academically focused, it didn’t offer the extras that I expected out of my dream university. Making friends while living off-campus was nearly impossible for me, HOCO was entirely different than everything I knew from living in London for most of my life, and its nightlife was mundane to me after spending my first bar years on Richmond Row.

I craved obnoxious school spirit, football games with full stadiums and people who wanted to study over a pitcher of hard cider. My loneliness and unhappiness with my life outside of classes began affecting my health and grades, and I needed out.

Professors and teachers today stress the importance of taking a break from studying. While it is important to study and have your academic duties in line, it is just as important to maintain an active and healthy social life. Your breaks from school allow you to breathe, think clearly and come back feeling refreshed. In the beginning, I had picked a school so academically fierce, it made finding a life outside of school feel impossible for me. The negativity I felt radiating from this issue made me feel tired, unsuccessful and, most of all, dismayed that I was missing out on everything I wanted from this experience. My grades began to fall and my health deteriorated literally from the lack of happiness in my life.

The day I called my dad on those steps, I applied for a transfer to Western University back in my hometown of London, Ontario. I felt bittersweet about my decision. I was excited to be in a place that would work best for me but I still felt like I failed at this part of my life. My education career is now pretty unconventional, I still haven’t guaranteed happiness and I had to move back to London. The only thing holding my university experience together is how much more fun I had at Rick’s one Wednesday in December compared to three months in Waterloo. UW had nothing like Rick McGhie Wednesdays, and if this small taste of Western made me feel that happy, there’s probably more for me at Western, and unsurprisingly there was.

Once I started at Western, I joined Her Campus Western, made friends, went to football games and felt at home. I now have friends to have lunch with between classes and people to go to Rick’s with every Wednesday. Choosing happiness has led me to academic and personal success making all aspects of who I am as a Mustang happy and healthy. I have finally returned to the old me: social, outgoing and involved.

What’s the moral of this story? Choose happy. If that means transferring, do it. If you are not happy with who you are outside of school, you will not be happy with who you are as a student either. Always choose happy and the motivation, clarity and grades will follow. I am not a student who failed at first year, I am a student who is thriving through second, third and fourth year. University is an investment in yourself, so invest in the best version of you that you can. 

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