First Year University: Year in Review

First year university student gives a review of her first year experience on campus

Alexa Shipman shares insight into the first year university experience. The highlights, learning curves, what’s next and advice to future students.

It’s baffling to think that my first year of university will soon to come to a close.

It seems like just yesterday my parents were moving me into my dorm room, and I was attending painfully awkward frosh week events. I’ve come a long way since my first blog post about starting this university adventure. First year has been an exciting, interesting, and at times overwhelming experience, but I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything.

I am so thankful that I chose to attend the University of Ottawa, as I feel it is the perfect post-secondary institution for me. However, no matter which university or college you choose, I believe your experience entirely depends on what you make of it.

As awkward and nerve-wracking as it can be to take part in frosh week events, it’s worth it. These events are where I met the people who I now call my best friends. Everybody is in the same boat during the first week of school, everyone is uncomfortable but eager to make friends. You’re not alone in this and introducing yourself to those around you can be the beginning of many wonderful friendships.

There are plenty of different activities to suit different personalities and interests. Even if it’s not an activity you’re completely keen on, sometimes you just have to take the chance and dive in. Who knows – maybe you’ll actually enjoy yourself and I’m sure you’ll meet plenty of people in the process!

Making the grade: learning curves

The difference between the grades I achieved in high school, compared to those of university were shocking at first. It’s not that I didn’t try in high school, because I certainly did, it’s just that the teachers knew me and they marked more based on my ability. I was known as being a good student, and the grades I received reflected this, partly because of the work I was putting forward and partly based on my merit. However in university, everyone is an excellent student; it is how they got into school in the first place. You are no longer marked based on your personal abilities or your merit, you are now marked on what the professor expects from the class as a whole.

Despite this, I learned how to adjust. It was also important that I didn’t become discouraged. Obtaining 80’s and above in university is difficult, but it isn’t impossible! I stayed positive and motivated to achieve these marks by finishing assignments early, so I had ample time to make edits and revisions. I studied hard and also made time for myself to assure that my own mental and physical health were not taking a toll.

At college or university, you’re on your own and making your own decisions. I had to make some tough choices to reach my goals. Even though it was at times difficult to get myself out of bed to for my 8:00 am classes, I made sure to go to bed early and set multiple alarms in the morning. I always kept in mind that this is the education I am paying for, and the importance of making the most out of the investment in my education.

That allowed me to obtain an academic average I’m happy with and proud of.

Sometimes, it was a matter of saying “no” to going out on a Friday night, so that I could finish an essay. Other times, it was saying “yes” to a social break from schoolwork when I needed it the most.

Ultimately, I stayed true to myself, and didn’t get caught up in the same high school “popularity” clichés I had come to know. This helped me find a group of amazing friends with similar interests and morals. Most of all, learning to believe in myself made my first year experience an extremely positive one.

Living away from home

The independence I felt during this past year was like no other. I felt in charge of my own life, I took on complete responsibility for myself and learned to trust my own judgement. I had to learn how to live on a student budget. I had to prioritize and manage my time.

Of course there were bumps in the road, but despite having a roommate I wasn’t exactly thrilled about, fire-drills in the middle of the night, or exhausting 8-hour train rides back home during the breaks; this past year has been the best year of my life.

I finally feel completely like I belong, I feel that where I’m at my life is where I need to be. I’m sure that the next 3 years won’t be smooth-sailing completely, however I feel prepared to take on whatever life throws my way! Confidence is a key driver in success, and university has given me that extra boost of confidence I needed.

Looking ahead to next year at university

I’m excited to move into a house with my best friends next year. It wasn’t a difficult decision, personally because of a not-so-great-roommate situation. However, many people choose to live on campus for second year! I am excited to begin taking more specialized classes, and to hopefully avoid all-nighters at all costs.

My advice to any students considering their next steps after high school:

Take a risk and step out of your comfort zone! Whatever this means to you, whether it be going into a program you’ve dreamed of pursuing, moving away from home or even taking a year off. Do something that pushes you to better yourself. Do something different and something that you’re not used to. It will make a world of difference in your life! Here’s to a remarkable first year, and more to come!

Alexa Shipman

Alexa is an outgoing 18 year old from London, Ontario. She is passionate about the arts and was a member of Original Kids Theatre Company for nine years. She spends her summers working as a camp counselor and is excited about entering the newest stage of her life, as a student studying International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa. In addition to being a Parentwise blogger, Alexa is also a CST Beneficiary.

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