Reflecting on my four-year university experience at York

Written by Deea Deb

Hey Lions! This post is bittersweet as it concludes my university chapter (err… for now, at least). The past four years have been a whirlwind of excitement, challenges and lots of learning, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

If you are considering starting or returning to university, my reflections on my experience may provide insight into what’s to come. 

Why I chose York

I researched a ton of universities, each with its unique appeal. But I settled on York because of its student community, experiential education, volunteering opportunities and, of course, the English and Professional Writing program— the only dual qualification of its kind in Canada!  

But returning to university wasn’t always smooth sailing.

The biggest challenges I faced

The biggest challenge was learning. I was returning to university after more than 10 years of being out of academia. This meant that I had to re-learn how to learn at the university level. 

The solution? I know this may sound silly, but I watched a ton of YouTube videos about preparing for university. The videos helped me understand the workload, learn study strategies, manage time and get organized.

I also felt that students coming directly from high school were more informed about books, social media, digital platforms, software and trending content. However, I soon found that my lived experiences prepared me to be organized, resourceful, a good communicator, a time management pro and a professional. All I had to do was learn some new skills. 

Pro tip: If you are a mature student returning to university, the Atkinson Centre for Mature and Part-time Students (ACMAPS) offers great resources to help you transition into student life and make the most of your university experience. 

What surprised me the most about myself

I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I made friends and networked with instructors and colleagues at York. 

From my first year, I became involved in many co-curricular activities, such as the Peer Mentorship program, the Professional Writing Students’ Association and Existere Journal of Arts and Literature. I also volunteered for Campus Days and Orientation Week and have worked with the YUBlog since my first year. 

I met amazing people, instructors and staff, who enabled me to improve my skills and find more opportunities.

I also realized that first-year besties may come and go throughout your university journey. That’s okay. University is about discovering yourself and growing. I was able to surround myself with empowering and supportive people who believed in growing together. You will find these people too!

My top advice for students starting university

  1. Being a straight-A student (if that’s your goal) requires discipline, commitment and a drive to learn. There isn’t one strategy that will get you an A or A+ in your courses. Many tiny things help you be great at what you’re doing.
  2. Be open to different perspectives and learn new skills.
  3. Plan ahead and be prepared for things that may not go your way.
  4. Calendar everything! Add important university dates, assignment deadlines, co-curricular activities and social and life commitments to your calendar to stay organized and informed.
  5. Get involved! Network with your instructors, join clubs, enrol in experiential education and meet people. These connections will help you succeed at and beyond university.

But most importantly, have fun! I’ve had the time of my life at York and have many wonderful memories to reflect on. Remember that this is your time to shine, make life-long connections and learn. Make the most of it!