by Jackson Tse, Peer Learning Assistant
I’m standing in this place for the first time, my many bags clustered at my feet. It’s a dream come true. I’ve just arrived at Queen’s University, registered in first-year engineering. A wave of awe washes over me.
It’s the kind of awe you get when you’re a kid in a new candy store, surrounded on all sides by smells you can see, colours you can taste and textures you can smell. You’re excited but also a little apprehensive because there are so many possibilities and you know all of them are equally delicious. You’ve begged your parents for so long to let you come and they’ve finally agreed, but now that you’re here you don’t even know where to begin. You feel a little lost, a little confused.
That was two years ago. I’m now a third year engineering student and I’ve noticed that everybody feels lost and confused and excited when they first get to university. People might find it odd that I relate going away to school to visiting a candy store, but if you think about it, there are many parallels. You only have so much time and money, so you have to choose what you want wisely.
One of the biggest lessons I had to learn as a first-year university student is how to prioritize. I used to be really focused on only one or two parts of my life at a time, but recently I’ve learned to strike a balance between a social life, schoolwork and extracurricular activities.
Figure out how you’re going to split your time between having fun and doing work. You get a tremendous amount of freedom in university. Remember, you got accepted because somebody out there believes in you and they know you have the potential to be great. Don’t let them down by partying too much or not studying enough. While it’s important to make time for yourself and relax, don’t slack off.
Visualize every day as a 9-5 work day and study in between class-time. This literally saved my life. I could not manage the steep course-load by working only after school. Working solidly for 8 hours prepares you for the real world, and you reap the benefits of having the evening off to enjoy.
Finally, keep your old notes (from previous years). It will help you remember material that the professor’s currently going over and help you understand it. My physics professor spoke with the thickest accent I’d ever heard, but after comparing my notes with the notes I took the year before, I managed to pass the course. In other courses, the previous years’ notes will help you succeed and excel.
Expect to be challenged. Expect to be stretched. There will be times when you will feel lonely, but there will be other times when you know you’re having the best time of your life. Enjoy your time here because, unlike a candy store, you’ll probably only ever have one chance to go to university.
If you feel lost, lonely or overwhelmed, seek help before it negatively impacts your academic life or mental health. Our campus has peer support networks, free counselling, and informative workshops that can help you get your life back on track. Check out our Learning Strategies Development website (http://www.queensu.ca/learningstrategies/undergrad.html) for more information!