For those who are reading and don’t know, today I wrote the very last exam of my undergrad. There is a feeling of excitement for the adventure ahead; new milestones, and a step into the “real world” but the overbearing question at the tip of everyones tongue who talks to me: WHATS NEXT?
Great question and I wish I knew the answer but until I figure that out, here is an appreciation post for the past 5 years that have played a major role towards shaping me into the person I am today. I applied to a bunch of universities that had the concurrent education program because I knew I wanted to become a teacher. My parents and I took campus tours of numerous universities and I can confirm that going to the campus and getting a feel for the atmosphere there can be a big deciding factor of where you choose to go.
When I came to tour the Laurier campus in Brantford, I could instantly tell it was a unique place. The university which opened in 1999 had new buildings, and an exciting feeling of potential growth and discovery. Although the city had been beaten up through rough times, the integration of the campus into the downtown area gave it the feel of a tight knit community. Coming from a busy city, Brantford provided a nice balance for me. It did not have the silence of the countryside, but it did not have the buzz of constant activity like the city. The residence styles, small city vibe, reasonable distance from home, and amazing double degree program with Nipissing which allowed me to start placement in my FIRST year were hard to ignore and I ended up accepting my offer to become a Golden Hawk!
Since the campus was new, there were a lot of minor issues that I faced during my years here but at the same time, I was able to see huge changes that were considered milestones for the university. It felt like I was growing WITH the campus which always gave me a proud feeling.
Here are some things that university taught me:
How to use public transportation
In Ajax, there was never a need for me to use public transportation. Now I know I can get from point A to point B no matter where you drop me off without having a panic attack. Brantford allowed me to step out of the comfort zone of my car and figure out routes within the city, and to other cities!
How much groceries cost
- This is something you only realize when you have come to the counter and do a double take at the numbers staring back at you. I rarely cooked anything so I was mostly buying snacks, frozen food, or random ingredients I had run out of, but prior to living on campus, I never realized how much a trip to the grocery store could end up being.
How tim hortons coffee really adds up
The university student coffee addiction is REAL. Looking back at my credit card bills, all those medium french vanillas that I used to sip on so I don’t fall asleep in class made a big difference.
Learning simple recipes
I went to school knowing how to make absolutely NOTHING. I couldnt even make a tasty serving of Maagi (instant noodles). Over the 5 years, I got resourceful in my ways of figuring out how to make different kinds of food. Often, it just meant trying a dish from somewhere and wanting to replicate it at home. I used CHEFS PLATE and HELLO FRESH multiple times to get inspiration as well. Luckily, my parents never went more than 2 weeks without visiting me and dropping off a BUNCH of food, but it still gave me a chance to eat at all my fast food restaurants or try cooking in between those days.
Making the best use of my phone
- I have learned to be a lot more organized. Although I am guilty of my phone having my entire life on it, at least it has come to my advantage most of the time. I transferred all my notifications from Nipissing and Laurier’s course sites to my emails so I was always instantly updated. I now reply and send out emails at lightning speed and write everything I need to do in my calendar app with reminder notifications.
How useful google docs is
I never used google docs before I came to university and now I can’t imagine doing any group assignments without it! I also struggle with space on my Macbook so this was a great tool for me throughout university, allowing me to back up all my notes.
When you’re away at university, you can do whatever you want. Meaning, you can skip class. I can proudly say that I RARELY skipped class and a lot of people thought I was super weird but I genuinely enjoyed most of the classes I took! It would also bother me if I was sitting at home while I knew my class was going on. I’m not saying I’m perfect, we’ve all had days when we just don't think anything is worth getting out of bed for, but I honestly believe university helped me with my self discipline.
There is one thing I have not been able to resist throughout these 5 years though and that is... THE CHANCE TO TAKE A NAP!!!!
Assignments, papers, and exams between a bunch of courses can be really overwhelming. Using my time wisely is something I have learned over time and I actually started finishing things earlier than they were due by my 5th year which was a huge accomplishment for me!
I realized that 24 hours is not enough in a day. Sometimes you’re doing what you need to and don’t have time for what you want to so finding that balance is super valuable.
Better communication skills
- When you come to a campus where you barely know anybody, your communication skills are really put to a test. The more people you meet, the more you learn as well. The hardest part of learning this was figuring out what the best and most convincing way to ask my prof for an extension was LOL
You don’t realize how many services a university has to offer until you need a random one. I got to know as much as I could about the different ways I could use the university to my advantage very early on which was beneficial for me! Even going to the writers centre and having them help me update a resume or going to the wellness centre for a sickness that just won’t go away turned out to be a huge help.
The value of time
You don’t realize when the paper that you thought was due in so much time is actually due tomorrow, just like you don’t realize that the entire semester has flown by. I learned to value the small moments and big celebrations with the same level of appreciation.
The importance of on campus involvement
- I met a lot of people during university that did not know the most basic buildings on campus, like the student centre! I realized that getting involved around campus, even if it meant going for the therapy dogs or a free pancake breakfast can result in meeting some pretty cool people that you can say hi to from that day on and helps make campus feel a little bit more like home
I volunteered for orientation week, which is frosh week for Laurier and that made a huge impact in my university life. I talked about the campus proudly for newcomers and comforted them when they were unsure about whether they had made the right decision. Seeing those first years walking confidently around campus merely months later is such a rewarding feeling!
How to find something to do in a dead city
Brantford showed me that there is always something to do even in the seemingly most dead city. After a lot of googling, and exploring during my 5 years, I came to learn that Brantford is rich in historical value. I visited the last residential school to exist in Ontario and a rare school for the blind. I now appreciate nature more because of the walks I took along the beautiful Grand River and learned more about the Indigenous community because of the reserves that surround Brantford. A fun fact: The very first phone call was made by Alexander Graham Bell FROM Brantford! Luckily I’ve had some great company throughout my 5 years to take on these adventures with me as I explored the city.
How to take advantage of a student discount
There are SO many places that offer a student discount. Funny story, I went to a nail salon and asked if they offered a student discount and when the lady said they didn’t I was shocked! She noticed this reaction and ended up giving me almost 50% off !! There are soo many benefits to being a student, you just have to find them sometimes haha
You’re more capable than what your degree covers
My involvement in numerous clubs and associations on campus taught me lifelong skills and proved to me that I could step out of my comfort zone and explore so many different roles that are outside of my teaching degree. I really think university shows you who you are as an individual when you’re put in many different situations. A specific example for me would be when I got offered to be marketing chair for a Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union President candidate. Although we didn’t win I picked up on a lot of management and creative skills while making some really great new friends.
How to deal with excessive amounts of FREEDOM
So when you live away from home freedom is all you have. There isn’t a single person that can tell you what to do! This is something that many people might get carried away with and although we learn best from making mistakes, sometimes it’s better to take a step back and think about an action before doing it. I realized this many times during university and sometimes had to make the harder choice of missing out on things by reminding myself of my priorities. One thing I cannot deny is that it is really hard to go home after a while away because it’s a huge adjustment to change your lifestyle depending on people around you. On campus everyone is a student and luckily I’ve had roomates with similar habits as mine so timings never really clashed.
House hunting skills
- I have lived in 3 different places in 5 years but toured almost every house that’s been on rent within a 10 minute walking distance from campus because that’s just something I enjoy doing. I also like to know ALL my options before comparing and selecting the best one.
- It also helps to know the right questions to ask like how far the landlord lives so that when you’re locked out of your room you know how long it might take them!!
What a big difference a roommate makes in ur life
This could turn out to be a live in BFF or a drag with a complete stranger. I have been lucky to find roomates that I now consider close to family. You pick up on their daily moods, likes, dislikes, hobbies, and study habits. There is a special connection that you have with a roomate that you is rare to share with anyone else.
The power of Facebook groups
All of first year I resorted to the Greyhound bus (DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS SERVICE AT ALL) to take me home but as soon as I found out about Laurier and McMaster’s rideshare Facebook pages from Brantford or Hamilton, I began using these a lot more! It is a great way to meet other students and learn about different programs, plus the convenice is great. I also found the Laurier Brantford Used Books Facebook page after my first year and this has been one of the most helpful tools that I have ever used. I have literally saved $100 on a textbook before by just buying it from an upper year student!
The meaning of school spirit
I am SO lucky to have gone to school with an insane amount of school spirit. I still remember cheers for when I first came to Laurier and had my orientation week. Our multiple homecoming events were the best ways to celebrate and now I’m left with (and my parents who I kept buying things for) a closet full of Laurier clothing! For those who don’t know, Laurier is also well known for its crazy St Patricks day street party which is something Golden Hawks take pride in: https://www.google.com/search?q=laurier+ezra&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjCw_66v_HhAhUym-AKHaTWAqIQ_AUIDigB&cshid=1556410111203095&biw=1264&bih=743
There are events for literally everything in university and no one judges you for going all out. My favourite has to be halloween. I had more creative and crazy outfits during my time at university than I ever did when I was younger. People are always looking for a way to celebrate and the best thing to do is participate!!!
How useful late night dessert runs are for your mental health
Mental health is a huge topic in todays society and the university does a great job providing resources for all the students which was incredibly helpful and reassuring. I realized during university that I am a comfort eater and that is completely OKAY. I had roomates that loved late night dessert runs or mid day ice cream runs and sometimes that’s all we needed to help us finish up that final paper!
The importance of me time
- Me time is something I never understood before university. I always hated being alone and felt that way until I really just needed a break from everything and everyone during one of my hectic times. This was a surprising moment for me but after that, I made sure to always take some time away and reflect on how I was feeling and what my goals were. This contributed a lot to my time management because it took me away from distractions and taught me to really focus on what I needed to get done and what I wanted to get done. Also… my naps were the best part of me time haha
Being more open minded
I met people from unique little towns, yet big international cities. I learned about unique cultures and become friends from with people from a variety of races, religions & sexualities. University has helped me realize that everyone has struggles of their own and the best kind of person you can be for the world today is an open minded and accepting one
The most important thing I realize today is that mistakes are okay to make and you’re not the only one who might be struggling to figure out the next big step in their life. Next time you meet someone who has graduated ask them about their university experience instead of asking what’s next for them!