Long story short: The best SFU experience goes beyond the lecture hall

“Like the corny antagonist on every competitive reality TV show, my mantra was: “I’m not here to make any friends. I’m here to win.””

Image credit Tiffany Chan

By: Youeal Abera, Staff Writer 

I vividly remember navigating campus on the first day of my undergraduate career — running from class to class, frantic to find out which building I was expected to be in . . . Truth be told, I still catch myself viscerally experiencing the embarrassment and angst of showing up to lecture half an hour late, sweaty, and having the entire hall turn to see yet another hopeless first-year. It was a crazy first month, yet I was convinced I was going to do it all alone.

Weird, right? If there was ever a time to make friends and establish connections with other human beings, it was the beginning of my undergraduate program. But I didn’t do that. I didn’t care about any of the clubs that were tabling in Convocation Mall. I wasn’t interested in trying out for the sports teams. Not only did I lack the desire to be a part of the SFSS, but I didn’t even know what its acronym stood for!

As a teen, my three objectives while attending Simon Fraser University were: get into the courses required for my program, achieve good grades, and graduate. Like the corny antagonist on every competitive reality TV show, my mantra was: “I’m not here to make any friends. I’m here to win.”

Admittedly, that mantra didn’t get me very far. For the first two years of my undergrad, I would eat lunch by myself at the spare tables on the sixth floor of the AQ. Before class, I’d do my readings near the window at the library’s computer lab. After class, I’d get on the first available 145 bus, earphones in and eyes shut.

I willingly subjected myself to these mannerisms, keeping my distance from others in my attempt to remain focused on my goals. I didn’t feel alone, nor did I feel like I was missing out on anything particularly estimable. I got the grades I wanted, and I seemed to be content with that.

Yet I also felt cheated. As a kid, I always knew university would require refined discipline and hours of meticulous work. But I also knew that post-secondary school was a place where you could search your talents and ascertain where you wanted to go after you received your degree. By secluding myself from the numerous clubs and extracurricular resources that SFU provided, I realized that I was missing out on some excellent education administered outside of the classroom.

Shortly after I came to this divinatory realization (realistically, I was enlightened by a very passive-aggressive text from my mother), I came across a Facebook post a friend had made about writing their first piece for SFU’s The Peak.

After feeling slightly embarrassed in grasping that it was not, in fact, some pretentious hiking club at SFU, I decided to navigate The Peak’s website and browse through its content. I discovered that I too could get in touch with editors and have my own writing published in The Peak, too.

So, I started writing.

As much as I love The Peak, I’d like to clarify that this is not, in fact, a detailed advertisement for SFU’s main news-source. Rather, my motive in sharing my experience with The Peak is to ardently encourage any SFU student to take a leap of faith and join an extracurricular club or activity.

What started as movie and album reviews soon developed into heavier pieces that tackled national affairs and the global political climate. I became familiar with a number of talented editors. From what I gathered, many on The Peak’s staff seemed to share similar interests.

Whether it was taste in music, opinions on film, or even the experiences we lived on campus, I discovered that I had a lot in common with the writers and editors of The Peak. I had found my people, and as it turned out, they were just a minute away from the isolated areas I regularly inhabited on campus.

These periodic writing submissions soon lead to a job at The Peak when, after applying this past summer.  Now, I get the privilege of attending pitch meetings, closely communicating with editors, receiving regular feedback on one of my biggest passions, and hanging around an office. I’ve grown to vehemently appreciate everyone I work with, and consequently, I’ve found a home away from the perilous stress of lecture halls and tutorials. Cheesy, cliché, corny maybe, but true.

Sure, your student workload is already enough to leave you exceptionally busy throughout the semester. However, if you take the time to see what SFU has to offer, and if you take initiative in applying yourself to a particular group, you may just find that the most indelible experiences and invaluable lessons are waiting outside the classroom.