What Each Year of University Taught Me

Posted by Sam on May 3, 2016

Archive | Student Life | The Vari Reel

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This being the YU Student Blog, giving you information from a student’s perspective is obviously our main intention. What this can sometimes translate to, however, is us talking a lot about ourselves. It’s not necessarily because we consider ourselves straight-fire individuals; it’s actually the opposite. Speaking for myself at least, I think I’ve experienced a fairly standard university experience throughout the past four years, with just enough sprinkling of weird and unique to make it mine.

Standard is good for this particular article, as much of what I experienced will be applicable to a lot of other folks. If you have ever even considered the idea of university, you have undoubtedly wondered, “What’s it like?” You probably have seen articles appealing to prospective students that take the form of “10 things to expect,” but it’s much rarer to find personal accounts of an actual student’s year-by-year university experience. This is something I always wanted as a graduating high-school student looking at university, so I figured I’d hop up on my soapbox now and write one: a brief account of each year I’ve spent here at York, as well as some of the main things I learned from each year. Take from it what you will.

cartoon of a whale coming up under a ship
Courtesy of Victor Bergdahl, Kapten Groggs underbara resa (1916).
  • I roll up to Stong College with all my belongings in the back of my Dad’s truck (sounds like the beginning of a country song).
  • Ignoring the nervousness-induced numbness crippling the majority of my body, I carry my small plastic cabinet through a parade of welcoming (rambunctious, but welcoming) York students.
  • Wearing my one-size-too-small salmon-coloured sweater, I move all my things into my room on the 13th floor of Stong Residence.
  • I say hi to my roommate. I greet everyone with the belief that any person could potentially become my best friend.
  • I purchase all/most of my books full price from the bookstore.
  • I’m still operating in my high-school academic mind-set. I do very few readings and put just enough effort into my assignments. This doesn’t work for long.
  • Other than the occasional weekend back home, I very rarely leave campus.
  • By the end of the year, I’ve managed to recover from my early high-school efforts and gain a decent understanding of what the campus has to offer, but I’m not quite where I’d like to be, either academically or socially.
Cartoon of Porky the pig.
Courtesy of Chuck Jones, Porky’s Cafe (1942).
  • After a summer back in my hometown working at Fresh Co., I’m ready to plunge back into school.
  • I move from residence to the Village to get a better sense of living on my own.
  • I take advantage of the discount book store just off campus for all my course books (the store is currently closed, btw).
  • I do literally every single one of my assigned readings. I begin all assignments one to two weeks before they are due.
  • My academic life significantly improves, but my social life still verges on the non-existent.
  • I learn of the Toronto Track & Field Centre just off campus, which is home to the York Lions track & field team and the York University track Club). I begin running during the winter season with the intention of participating in my first 5K. I don’t end up entering an official 5K, but I become decent enough to run a 5K without stopping. Good enough.
  • I experiment with veganism for approximately six months. I’m curious to see its effect on my weightlifting, particularly whether or not it will make me weaker. It doesn’t.
  • I DESTROY Netflix on a daily basis.
  • I learn the basics of cooking.
  • I take my Fresh Co. savings and sign up to go teach in Hong Kong for the summer. I need something different. (Read more about that adventure.)
Cartoon of cows dancing.
Courtesy of Chuck Jones, Porky’s Cafe (1942).
  • Back from Hong Kong, getting back into the groove is hard.
  • My social life becomes much more of a priority.
  • I pick up a second major in Linguistics to support my newfound interest in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL).
  • I rely on the padding I attained in second year a little too much. I don’t completely resort back to my high-school attitude from first year, but I definitely don’t live up to the standards I set for myself in second year.
  • A strike happens on campus. When it ends, courses have to compound content to make up for the lost time. This makes for a stressful few months, but like everyone else, I learn to deal.
  • I understand that Linguistics, although helpful, is not necessarily applicable to the field of beginner ESL.
  • I ultimately end up dropping Linguistics as a second major at the end of the year. I don’t see the courses taken as a waste, though: I have vastly improved (*regained) my command of the English language and I have met some great people. Detours are fine.
  • Wanting to stay in Toronto for the summer, I apply for jobs here on campus. In the end, I am offered the position I currently hold.
Cartoon of two men running from a lion.
Courtesy of Victor Bergdahl, Kapten Groggs underbara resa (1916).
  • After hours of begging and a generous donation to my boss (just joking), my contract is renewed for the Fall/Winter semester.
  • School turns into something that just needs to be completed. I’m ready for the next chapter.
  • Grades hover around third-year performance. Nothing special, but I’m OK with it.
  • Although I’ve worked every summer, this marks the first time that I hold a job and go to school at the same time. I gain a newfound respect for those students who have done this since first year.
  • I’m still enjoying my major, but I can see that I want to move forward and think about a career. Advertising and consumer culture become my focus and heavily influence the Communications courses I choose.
  • On top of school and work, I devote a lot of time and effort to self-improvement. This includes little things such as time management, understanding my finances, reconnecting with old friends, responding to text messages/emails faster, showing up to places early or on time, keeping my room clean, being more honest (even if the outcome might negatively affect me) and reading outside of assigned course material (it should be noted that these projects are all still very much works in progress).

If I were to were to condense my years even further, it would probably go:

First Year — You Really Can’t Predict Anything

Second Year — Independence 1.0

Third Year — Try New Things

Fourth Year — Self-Improvement/Independence 2.0

These are obviously only a few of the things I picked up over the years, as listing them all could potentially fill a J. R. Tolkien novel, but these are some of the points that stood out to me. I wanted to provide an authentic example of the kinds of things you may come across in your own university experience, not to mention the progression from year to year, as well as to illustrate that as many articles as you may read or movies you may watch, you are going to have a completely unique experience. Take it for what it is, and enjoy the ride.


Sam recently graduated with an Honours BA in Communications.

See other posts by Sam