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The End of an Era: Life Lessons from 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 York U chapter.

Writing this article is bittersweet.

I’m approaching the end of my journey at York University. This brings about so many different emotions; sadness, happiness, anxiety, relief, gratitude, contentment, fear, excitement.

No matter what the future has in store, I am so grateful for the friends and memories I’ve made. As I reflect on this passing chapter and move onto the next, here are some life lessons I’ve learned throughout my post-secondary career.

Independence comes in many forms.

Even though I got into universities where I could have lived on residence, I decided to go to a school that was close to home. Some people would make comments about how this experience would limit my ability to develop independence and come into my own. However, independence does not need to be practised through isolation. I don’t need to be alone to know how to do the laundry, cook, clean, navigate the transit system, self-regulate, or care for myself. I’m fortunate that these are skills that my parents have taught me from a young age. Staying at home was not only a financially responsible decision, but it enabled me to be a more present sister and daughter.

Life is short, and the time we get with our families feels even shorter. Take advantage of any moment with them that you get, and of course, be extra grateful for that home-cooked meal after a long day.

Not to forget, if it weren’t for staying at home, Kobe wouldn’t be in my life. And that naughty, slightly chubby Shih-Poo is my everything.

put yourself out there…what’s the worst that could happen?

For some people, university is about getting a degree. It’s about going to your classes, performing well on assessments, and walking across a stage with a diploma in hand. For others, it’s a place where you can learn more about yourself and meet some particularly wonderful people.

I took my first year as a reset. Since not that many people from my high school were going to York, I was able to re-invent myself. This gave me such a strong sense of freedom; I could like what I want, do what I want, and be who I want without clinging to a version of myself that I felt was set in stone. I truly put myself out there, whether it was attending Frosh week, raising my hand in tutorial, starting a club, applying for an on-campus job, or volunteering.

Getting involved not only helped me expand my skillset and develop my interests, but these opportunities led me to my best friends.

Sofia and Lexi in first year. Mel in third year. Pearla and Vanessa in fourth year. I can’t imagine my life without all of you.

And of course, I can’t forget all my friends, colleagues, and mentors at LA&PS. My phenomenal teams at Her Campus York U and Crafting for a Cure York U. My fellow Teacher Candidates. My Professors and TAs (especially Rachel Silver, Louise Azzarello, Annette Bickford, Aziz Guzel, and Peter Flaherty). Though you may not even know it, you’ve all endlessly inspired me. Your words of wisdom stick with me to this day.

women fists raised in air
Original Illustration by Gina Escandon for Her Campus Media

always advocate for yourself; you’ll never regret it

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that bureaucracy, bigotry, and bias will follow you everywhere you go. When I recently pushed against them, my best friend Vanessa turned to me and asked if I regretted speaking up. Even though I was under so much pressure and stress, my answer was instantly “not at all.” Being a university student has taught me that your voice is your most powerful weapon. You should always use it carefully and respectfully, but you should never let others control it.

You will definitely encounter situations in life where saying something feels like it won’t achieve anything. But that’s where I would disagree. If you speak what’s on your mind, you not only get challenging thoughts off your chest, but you also ignite the possibility of change. If it doesn’t happen this time, it might happen the next.

being busy is a blessing

I used to always tease about wanting to be busy so I didn’t have to be “alone with my thoughts.” With pressures of all aspects of life weighing down on you at the same time, it can get quite loud in your head. Having a ton of things on my plate, whether it be school or friend commitments or extracurriculars or planning for my future, actually gave me a mental break, especially when I needed it most. I used to see a packed calendar as a source of stress. Now, I see it as a blessing. How lucky are we to have all these doors open, all these memories to make, and all these people to share life with?

No matter what happens, you’ll be okay.

Throughout university, I’ve dealt with change on countless occasions. I switched my degree, went through existential crises figuring out what jobs to apply for, and stressed over post-grad applications, just to name a few. But one thing I realized is that I always ended up okay. I always got that tedious assignment done, got through that interview, or conquered through that busy week.

At the end of the day, what’s meant for you will be. And no matter where life takes you, you’ll be okay.

So put your hair in a bun, throw your things in your bag, and step outside. If not now, when?

Riya Bhatla was a part of Her Campus’ York University Chapter from 2020 to 2024. During her time at HCYU, she served as both a Writer and Campus Correspondent. She is now certified to teach high school in Ontario and is pursuing a Master's Degree at the University of Toronto! She is also contributing to a research project that is investigating the “lived experiences of the first Master’s degree recipients at a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.” In her free time, Riya loves going on walks with her dog Kobe, bingeing Scandal, and going for Friday night Karaoke at a local pub.