Today I thought I’d share the second post in my ‘Introducing the Blogger’ series. As most of you likely know, York wasn’t my first choice for my university. In fact, I never even considered it as an option.
When I was in highschool, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I had no clue what career I wanted to pursue. I’ll let you in on a secret… I still don’t know. And I’m certainly more comfortable with that revelation than when I was in highschool. There is way too much pressure to just know what path you want to take for the rest of your life. It’s not realistic. At 17, 18, even up to 30, our brains are still growing. If our brains are still growing, how can you expect us to plan a single linear path for our whole life. Who even says that that is the only way to go about things?
I remember being so jealous of the students that just knew. And of the other students that applied to programs that they were interested in or knew that they would excel in. I admired them all for following their dreams and strengths. What about me? Well, I was lumped in the group of students that were on the med school path, except for one important point; I was only somewhat determined to become a doctor. My parents, my mom in particular, were VERY HARD on me about maintaining high grades. My mom dreamed that I would become a doctor and ‘reach my full potential’, so I applied to a Life Sciences program. I figured it was a compromise. The program could lead to tons of job opportunities, not necessarily to med school. I still had room to grow and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to apply to a different Ontario university for a few reasons:
1) because I knew I wanted to move out and
2) because it was only 30 minutes away from where my boyfriend was living.
Looking back I wish I had followed my intuition instead of just compromising because I could have avoided the mess that I’m about to describe.
As I’m sure you can imagine, my first year was horrible. I knew university was going to be different than highschool but I was so unprepared for the transition that my mental health abruptly made a turn for the worse. In highschool I was a lazy A student. In university? I felt like a failure. A stupid failure. My intelligence had always been one of favourite traits and without it, I felt worthless. I also was having social problems -I had decided to live in residence my first year so I could get the whole ‘first year experience’. However I wasn’t able to make any friends (for a few reasons, it was cliquey, party-based, I didn’t have anything in common with my roommate) and so my self-esteem plummeted and my social anxiety steadily worsened until I just stopped leaving my room. It got so bad that sometimes I wouldn’t even leave to get food.
In regards to my classes- all but 1 was overwhelming. Calculus and Physics left me feeling like I didn’t belong in university because no matter how much I studied the concepts never sunk in. Bio and Chem were almost as bad but in a different way. To me they were uninspiring and I failed to see the larger picture of why they were relevant. At this point I wasn’t even considering changing my program. I was considering dropping out and either going to college or moving back to my hometown and returning to my job at a local Hardware store. I just didn’t think I could do it.
As my depression and self- esteem worsened, I eventually stopped going to class… all except Psychology. In my Psychology class, I felt inspired. I felt intelligent. I related to the material and I saw the bigger picture. That first year, Psychology was my only A. The rest of my classes I either failed or barely passed. On the brink of being kicked out, I wrote a letter to the Dean of my faculty, pleading for a second chance. It was hard for me because I had to share the details of my mental health and I also had to plan for the future, but thankfully my letter paid off and I was given a second chance.
For my second year, I did things differently. I moved in with my boyfriend (who was living with his sister and her family about 30 minutes from campus). I decreased my course load and decided to focus on electives so I could raise my GPA. I knew I had to take some responsibility for my first year so I took an academic success class so that I could learn how to be a better student. I also decided to take a bunch of psychology courses – developmental, personality, and abnormal. It wasn’t long in to the school year that I was overcome with a desire to change.
I hated my university experience. I didn’t feel any connection to my campus. I was dreading taking my degree requirements. So I went for it. I was finally one of the students that I was so jealous of before. I knew that I was meant to study Psychology (the one program that BOTH of my parents have the least respect for) and I started to research schools. My partner was my biggest support and because he works all over the GTA area I decided to look into Toronto universities. When I read about York and its enclosed campus, I was sold. Thankfully I was able to raise my GPA to York’s minimum requirement and I poured my heart out into a letter addressed to the admission office. It detailed why I wanted to attend York and why my GPA was so low. I honestly don’t know if that letter affected my offer, but I like to think that I won a battle to be here.
When I finally received an offer from York I was so excited. In fact I was ELATED. Despite my previous experience with university and my broken self-esteem, I was determined to have a successful transition. My second attempt at frosh was phenomenal and right from that first day I felt a deep connection to York. People walking by would stop and ask if I needed help. Frosh bosses would come over, unexpected, and introduce themselves. Only 20 minutes into the day and my peers were approaching me and asking about my program and classes. I finally felt like I was part of a community.
I dedicated my first year at York to re-finding my self-esteem. It was a slow process but I’m happy to say that my self-esteem is once again healthy. And I know in my heart that I have York and its amazing community to thank for that. I couldn’t have got here without the support of my partner but York itself was directly responsible for getting me back out of my shell. I’ve made so many amazing friends, and met so many interesting people. I just felt inspired to put myself out there and so I started getting active in the online community. I was inspired for the first time in my university career to take a leadership role. It started with me answering my peers’ questions on Facebook and from there I launched a York advice and community blog, York U Life.
And that’s it, now we are back to the present. I hope my story stirred something within you. I just think it’s so important to follow your own dreams and pursue an education that you want. You never have to settle. Ever. Whether you are part way through a degree, or whether you’ve already finished one. The only person that is ever allowed to limit your possibilities and potential is you. And why limit yourself when you don’t have to? You have a whole long life ahead of you to accomplish all of your dreams. We shouldn’t waste that opportunity.
As always, feel free to comment below. Share your experiences, and even your dreams. I look forward to reading them.
Updated September 2, 2014