How Changing Schools Changed My Life

Back to school. It’s a time of anxiety, excitement and stress all rolled into one. This time two years ago, I was gearing up to move three hours away from my home, my friends, my family and my boyfriend. I was excited for the chance to start fresh and become independent. I had never lived alone before and I had mostly held onto all of the same friends since elementary school. Little did I know that wave of excitement would soon pass after frosh week and I would feel completely isolated, trapped and misunderstood.  

As the year went on, frequent trips to and from ‘home’ made me realize I hated living on residence. What I realized was that I wasn’t getting the experience I bargained for. I didn’t find my program fulfilling and I didn’t find myself in friendships that made me feel like ‘home’. The worst part is that I was surrounded by hundreds of people in my residence and I had never felt more alone. I realized what I wanted from university wasn’t the whole experience of being ‘away’. What I wanted was to be independent, but I wanted to do it on my own terms. I didn’t want to feel so isolated. However, residence life can definitely be this way if you don’t forge strong friendships and ‘find your group’.

My decision to change schools became more of a no brainer as the year went on. I knew I needed to change my program because when I looked into my future, I didn’t see myself working in my field. I felt like I was pursuing someone else's dream and that often kept me up at night. Being in the wrong program made me feel like my hard work was going to waste, not to mention it wasn't leading me to a place I desired to be. While I liked my program, I realized I didn't necessarily find value in it. Sure, it may have been stimulating and I may have gotten good grades but at the end of the day, something felt off.

Photo by Dmitry Schemelev

Looking for programs at other schools was a mysterious and uncharted process. This time, I chose to navigate my choices solely on my own terms. Sometimes it takes realizing what you don’t want to find what you do want. For me, this was a class called “Introduction to University Essay Writing”. To everyone else, this class may be a necessity (maybe even a nightmare) but for me it sparked a passion I forgot I had. This was the one class I actually looked forward to attending and it would often be the highlight of my week. That’s when I realized what my education had been missing: writing. Whether it was writing narratives, essays or reviews, I had finally found something I liked doing.

Photo by David Iskander

My experience taught me that the aesthetic or reputation of a school wasn’t as important as I thought. In truth, it’s the people you meet and the feeling you get while you’re there that makes a school right for you. Ultimately, being away on residence made me feel like I was living two different lives. Once I focused on chasing my own passions, I finally allowed myself to thrive. If I could give any piece of advice, it’s to listen to your gut and worry about the rest later. Life’s too short to worry about what others think.