By: Grace Rose, Peak Associate
When I started university back in 2013, attending class outside of my living room after being homeschooled for 10 years was a little daunting. Yet I learned a lot from my 4.5 years here at SFU — most of which was learned outside the classroom, often through trial and error, making mistakes, and sending a bajillion emails. However, there are some things that I wish I had known during university, and I thought I’d share them with you. You may find some of this advice helpful, or you may not, but like any good millennial with a computer and a social media account, I’m going to give it to you anyway.
- Plan ahead
Let me preface this by saying that I’m very much a Type A personality whose life is practically run by Google Calendar, so I’m definitely a planner. Yet for some, needing to prepare for things long-term is an adjustment. Coming into university, I knew that I wanted to do a semester abroad in the second semester of my third year. Sounds great, right?
Yet I didn’t realize that the process starts almost a year in advance of you going. So when it came time to submit my application, I had only two weeks to complete the entire form (which included a budget and short essay), request a reference, pay the application fee, and submit it all before the deadline . . . I got it done on time, and I ended up going on the exchange, but I know I could’ve had a stronger application if I had planned ahead. Plus, I could’ve saved up more money before heading off, which would’ve helped alleviate a lot of stress. Do your research, cover your bases, take care of your business, look at requirements, et cetera.
- Ask for help
Sure, we live in the age of the internet, where we can find most of the answers to our questions on Google. However, I don’t care how well you’ve mastered the Art of Google: nothing replaces a person.
The internet can be a good place to start looking for information (it also shares its name with a great band that you should probably look up on Spotify and add to your rotation). However, in a system like SFU that was established before the digital sphere, some things are definitely best addressed in person. Sure, you could email that advisor using the “Contact Us” form to ask about your chances of getting into that waitlisted class. Or you could boss up, put on your grown-folk panties, and go to their drop-in hours to ask about it in person — and they might even be able to get you into the class right then and there! (Shout out to Denise in the School of Communication. She helped me get into many a class during my time here and she laughed at my jokes so that’s great.)
So go talk to people. They won’t bite.
- Don’t forget about self-care
Thanks to university, I now know that my body is capable of surviving on three hours of sleep, two large coffees, and one Tim Hortons donut a day. However, I probably shouldn’t have found that out, because I should’ve been taking care of myself.
Yes, life happens, and sometimes it’s easier to order pizza for the fourth night in a row if you’ve got several assignments all due on the same day because professors don’t realize we’ve all got other classes. Yet if you can’t take care of yourself, how in the heck are you going to take care of something else? Can I get an amen up in here!? So do your best to intentionally prioritize eating, getting good sleep, and maybe even exercising a bit as best as you can.
- Make your degree yours
When I started university, Justin Bieber was the biggest pop star in the world, Obama was the president of the USA, and Beyonce was getting ready to rock the music industry with the “secret visual album drop.” I also had no exact idea of what I wanted to study in university.
Fast forward 4.5 years, the world looks completely different. I ended up with a perfect degree that I loved, and low-key wish I was still completing. How? Well my dad gave me a great bit of advice after my first semester: bend the arch of your degree towards your interest. Do you love watching National Geographic documentaries about early civilizations? Try anthropology or archeology. Do you think that you could develop an efficient and cost-effective electric car? Take a look at applied sciences! Do you have an unnecessary amount of Beyonce knowledge, and love looking at intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and pop culture? Try communication!
Find creative and unique ways to study what you love. You’ll definitely stand out from your peers and probably bond with a professor over the fact that he saw Beyonce’s Formation Tour in 2016. Or maybe that’s a me thing.
- You’re going to screw up
What a fun note to end on, right?
But out of everything I said, this is probably the most important one to realize. No matter how much you plan, ask questions, take care of yourself, and try to make your degree completely on-brand for who you are, you are going to make mistakes. You’re probably going to bomb a midterm or two, or forget to do an assignment and have to hand it in after an all-nighter. You’re probably going to forget what a social life is like. However, that’s all a part of going to university. I think mid-2000s fake news pop star Hannah Montana said it best: “Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has those days. Everybody knows what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. Everybody gets that way.”
“Nobody’s Perfect. I gotta work it again and again ‘til I get it right. Nobody’s perfect you live and your learn it and if I mess it up sometimes, nobody’s perfect…”
Either way, the girl’s got a point. The mistakes you make are opportunities for you to learn, and it’s how you recover from them that really makes the difference.