Hannah’s tips to survive SFU

All of my best wisdom, free for you to absorb

PHOTO: Windows/Unsplash

By: Hannah Kazemi, Staff Writer

I’m in my last semester at SFU and looking back, there are many things I wish I had known when I started. There’s small stuff, like waiting to buy books or pay tuition until after the first week of classes, but there’s also big stuff that would have probably made the first year or two of my degree a bit more fulfilling.

Do: Try all the food!

This is one of the simplest ways to spice up those long days of back-to-back lectures. I made it my mission to do as much exploring as possible whenever I had a break, and the best way to do that is to go on a food tour. Become a campus food snob and you’ll find some kickass places to eat. I stumbled upon a great pho place called Pho 99 (which I realize is probably not a hidden gem but it is to me) at Cornerstone during my fourth year. Also, they give you ice cream at the end of your meal!

Don’t: Try to sit through a 3+ hour lecture without snacks!

Listen. You have to be prepared. Sometimes profs don’t give breaks to run and grab a snack from a vending machine or a café. I promise you that the day you start bringing snacks to class is the day your life will change. I stopped caring about munching on things and making noise with snack wrappers after I watched someone in my POL 100 class crush a family-sized bag of Cheetos. They crunched Cheeto after Cheeto during the whole two-hour class and then proceeded to lick the orange dust off their fingers. If that person was brave enough then you can be too. It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. Just bring the snacks. Stop by the convenience store in the SUB or Nesters in Cornerstone or better yet, grab a snack at Renaissance and munch on something sweet during class.

Do: Go to office hours!

Ask for help! Do it! Immediately! Sooner than you think you need it!

The first time I ever went to office hours I was so nervous. I remember shaking like a leaf in the elevator up to the sixth floor of the AQ. I remember standing outside, about a door down the hall, and texting my mom, “omg I’m so scared what do I say????” But I did it and it was fine! Now, in my last semester, I waltz into my professors’ offices like I own the place. I address most of them by their first name (if they tell me it’s allowed) and ask questions about their dogs, their jobs, and if there’s anything they regret about their lives. I realized very quickly professors are human and not that different from me! They also get paid to pay attention to you, so make use of them! I remind myself of that when I feel like my questions are very simple. Repeat after me: Professors get paid to pay attention to you.

Along these lines, make good use of the resources SFU offers to students. I’ve personally had great experiences with Health & Counselling, and I encourage everyone to seek help when they need it. Some other resources include the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL), financial aid, the Ombudsperson, and the Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office (SVSPO). University is hard and students go through so much both within and outside of school. Remember, these resources and people are literally being paid to support you.

Don’t: Send panic emails! Verbalize the panic instead!

This is half-baked advice. I have typed up probably dozens of 2:00 a.m. panic emails to professors requesting extensions, trauma-dumping my anxiety onto the screen, only to delete them instead of hitting “send.” I find that I’m able to get all of my shit out and into the universe that way, and then I become so much more productive. I express myself best in writing, so writing out the most dramatic email on earth helps me get a handle on how exactly I’m feeling. 

This isn’t to say that asking for extensions is bad. Ask for help when you need it, and be honest with your professors (and yourself!) about a timeline that can be reasonable for you to get your work done. It’s been much better for me to verbalize or write out my feelings before acting on them.

Do: All the things!! Be open! But also stubborn sometimes?!

This sounds so cliché, but I don’t care because it’s true: you have to take ownership of your learning and yourself in university. Nobody cares if you show up or not unless participation is part of your grade. It’s up to you to decide how much effort you put into your classes. It’s also up to you to decide how diverse and fulfilling your university experience is. Go to puppy therapy! Take a random course about dinosaurs because you think they’re cool! Join a club! Quit that club and join a new one! Study abroad! Or don’t! It’s all about you, you’re the star. 

But also set boundaries; be social and pack your schedule if you want to, but take time for yourself as well. Self-care and alone time is important, so be stubborn when it comes to giving yourself enough you-time. You’re not too selfish by setting boundaries and saying no! If your schedule doesn’t allow for a day off from campus, change up your environment often. Walk the trails on Burnaby Mountain or find a quiet spot on the bottom floor of WMC to decompress and remove yourself from the busyness of school for a little while. Your brain and body will thank you for it.

Don’t: Waste your time comparing yourself to others!

This one is short and sweet because you’ve definitely absolutely certainly heard this one before: don’t do what other people do! Do what you want to do! Everyone is the star of their own show and if you compare yourself to other people you’ll never get to where you want to be. And that’s not a slay.

Do: Take time off!

I was able to get my degree done in four years — it’s been a great accomplishment and I know I sound like a privileged asshole saying this. Not a lot of people can graduate in four years and so many socio-economic factors impact the pace at which people can finish their degrees. But, if you can afford to, take time off. 

I took last summer off because I could feel the burnout seeping into my brain. It caused such an intense mental block that it was challenging to pay attention in class and absorb new information. My sister and I booked a trip together exploring four different countries. I had the best summer of my entire life seeing places I never thought I would see and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I just wish I had done it sooner.

Taking time off might look different for everybody, it could mean taking a summer off, or it could mean reducing the number of classes you take in a semester. However, make sure you listen and give yourself time to rest and recharge. It’s not a bad thing — it’s healthy, in fact — and you definitely need it.

Don’t: Put others first!

This is all connected to that “take a break and set boundaries” bit that I’ve talked about like three times now. You are the person taking care of you. You will be you for the rest of your life. So why wouldn’t you put yourself before anyone else? Do what makes you happy and enjoy the ride, it’ll be over before you know it. It still feels like I just graduated high school and started university, but in reality, I’m 22 and graduating with a university degree. Shit’s wild.

That’s all, folks.
Hannah xoxo