Introduction

the way it is – a letter to my first year self.

the way it is – a letter to my first year self.

If you aren’t familiar with this song, you are probably familiar with Tupac’s Changes. That song heavily samples “The Way It Is”. 

To my first year self,

So, you’re sitting at home constantly googling “U of T” and seeing what comes up.  2,540,000,000 results. Despite the pages upon pages of results, somehow though you always wind up on websites showcasing grumpy testimonials. These folks advertise U of T with about as much enthusiasm as Eyore (not hating on Eyore though).  You hear countless stories about how U of T drains your GPA and your social life, how nobody seems to care about you, that you’re just a number.  That the campus is filled with cold hearted narcissistic people who will stop at nothing to achieve their career goals.  They tell you that “that’s just the way it is and that some things will never change.” Before you consider calling up York, you should know that there is another lyric to that Bruce Hornsby song, and that pretty much sums up my advice to you.

“Oh, but don’t you believe them.”  

Welcome to your first year at the University of Toronto. This year will be filled with struggles and challenges, successes and failures, friends and rude people and academics and extracurriculars.

This year, you will find yourself being tested physically and mentally. Assignments and essays pile up, term tests occur one after the other. Pretty soon, you’re in your room crouched in the fetal position hugging a teddy bear. Understand that it’s normal and totally okay to be overwhelmed.  First year is a big jump from high school and it’s meant to be that way. You will do really well on some things, you will do really badly on others.  Get back on your feet, dust yourself off and continue moving forward.  Failure is not something to be ashamed of, but rather an opportunity for growth.  U of T tests your academic limits, yes, but in doing so you grow as an individual.  If the pressure ever feels like it’s too much, don’t dwell too much about U of T being a top notch academic school. We are and certainly we’re proud of it but before it is the top notch school, it is first and foremost your school and you belong here.

This year, you will find that there are some on the internet, etc. who love to put you down. Dash your dreams about being a doctor, a lawyer, a Pokemon biologist. You attend U of T, so therefore you are doomed to a life of mediocre employment according to them.  Others will say that U of T is difficult and that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  Don’t let faceless people dictate your life and your mood. You have the right to feel proud of going to U of T, but you also have the right to feel frustrated and fed up at times. It is your university experience after all. Just don’t let these feelings allow you to put down others.

And, yes, you will meet people on this campus who are rude. Who don’t smile, who don’t talk and are willing to do anything to get ahead of the crowd.  But, life is a bowl of fruits. Some of us taste sweet, others taste sour. U of T is no exception. For every cold person on campus, there are at least four warm people. You just gotta reach out and interact with them. We don’t bite.

If there is anything my blog post this week has outlined, it’s that U of T isn’t perfect. We have our good aspects and we have our bad aspects (although the good outweigh the bad). So who are you to be perfect at a school that isn’t? We’re only human. Try your best and be yourself and you’ll do just fine here.

There’s so much left to say but so few words for it, but I’ll leave you with this last piece of advice. University will see you becoming a new person developing a new identity, new thoughts and ideas.  In the rush to become anew, don’t forget your roots though. Where you’ve come from, your family, your old friends, your heritage.  Step boldly into the future while keeping in mind your past.

Enjoy your first year. You’re gonna love it here.

– Abdullah

4 comments on “the way it is – a letter to my first year self.

  1. Thanks for writing this. I’m absolutely terrified of going to U of T because of all these horrible posts on how challenging and soulless it is. I only have a couple of months to choose but this really helped. It’s going to be hard work, but then again it’s university, it’s my job to make the most of it wherever I am.

    Now I just have to choose a campus. Oh boy…

  2. This was great to read. It was such a relief to have someone give you a “realistic” look at the experience without going all pessimistic! I’m so anxious about going out come September for my first year, and as I’m guilty of googling “U of T” and reading the blogs, the negative articles do not help at all. Above it all though, I am SO proud of the fact that I’m going to be attending this university. I know I’m not the first year to be scared to move into the university system, and I won’t be the last. You’re absolutely right, “…don’t you believe them,” I’ve been reaching out to friends that have already gone through university or are in it themselves and they all tell me what you’ve said.

    As first years, we can’t forget that we all have the same core fears and anxieties going in to U of T. The fact that we all are most likely going to face the same obstacles calms me, it fortifies my belief that I will be able to reach out to others and get by with a little help from new friends.

    I’m so nervous, but these “Letters to my first year self” posts are really encouraging!

    looking forward to start at U of T 🙂

  3. Hey Abdullah,

    Thanks a bunch for this post. After being engulfed in a state of bliss when I first read the word ‘Congratulations!’ on the admissions page, I started researching what people had to say and was soon terrified by most people throwing my grad school aspirations to the ground and trampling them with their feet. But now I feel like those who do succeed have no time to go to studentawards and complain and are instead either studying or getting involved and having fun. Thanks a bunch!

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