Here Comes The First University Assignment! A Story from Not-so-Long-Ago…

So it’s the first of October, which means your first essay/test/some other form of evaluation is near. Before you freak-out because you just realized a month of school has already passed, never fear: I will tell you a little story from my first year that you may perhaps learn from.
My perma-face from first-year
My perma-face from first year
I remember my first class very well. It was seminar connected to the notoriously difficult TrinOne Program. But being from far, far, far away (aka Edmonton, Alberta), I knew none of this. I sat down and I immediately felt awkwardly underdressed. Many of the folks in class where wearing nice sweaters and dress pants, if not ties and “casual” suit jackets whereas I was wearing my blue cheetah pants with a some-what plain flannel shirt.
Flannel is a Lifestyle
Flannel is a lifestyle
And then my prof came in. Now, to preface this story, my professor for this class turned out to be one of my greatest mentors (where I am today is thanks to him). Nonetheless, when he walked in, I felt incredibly intimidated. The room was dead silent. He starts introducing himself. “So you may have heard that I used to interview terrorists for a living.” For the record, I heard no such thing.   “And although it was not a sort of James Bond type of job, that is a hundred-percent true...oh and by the way, I take plagiarism very seriously.”
“How am I going to make sure I don’t plagiarize? I mean there are millions of books out there! Someone somewhere is bound to have said what I have said at sometime, right?” Now obviously I didn’t really understand what plagiarism meant, So when my first assignment rolled around I placed a footnote in every second sentence...meaning only half of the work would be considered my own analysis and thoughts. That problem, along with a bunch of grammatical errors and factual misconceptions, led to a pretty low mark. To be sure, I worked my little first-year tail off but I still ended up hugely disappointed and incredibly stressed out. So, why did this happen?  
The classroom that taught me how little I knew
The classroom that taught me how little I knew
Although it certainly had to do with my nerves from the first class, that essay could have been a lot better had I gone to a writing centre, the Academic Success Centre , or had I understood the concept of time-management. Of course I did poorly because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t fix what I didn’t know. And so I took that first assignment as a learning opportunity to do better on the next one. I bought some grammar books, I went to the writing centre, and I went to my professor’s office hours, and WHAM! I ended up with a fantastic mark at the end of the year and I was far happier and far less stressed. More to the point, staying organized and being aware of the resources, helped me to maintain my mental well-being (and alliteration!) and ensured that I would not get all nervous and anxious every time I got a new assignment put on my desk.  
Okay, my perma-face still in third-year
Okay, my perma-face still in third year
All for now, Haley  

2 comments on “Here Comes The First University Assignment! A Story from Not-so-Long-Ago…

  1. Hello Haley,

    Thank you for this article. It’s so relatable. What grammar book did you find most useful? And what method improved your writing the most?

  2. Hello Christina,

    I am glad you liked the post! Bar-none it was the writing centres. I go to Trinity College so I only went to the Trinity Writing Centre, but I am sure all the other ones are the exact same (you can pick any of them during the summer, and I went to Victoria’s and it was just like Trin’s). Just be sure to plan ahead and book early because they fill up quickly! As for the grammar book, I used the William J. Strunk and and E.B.White book, “The Elements of Style,” which was fantastic, but there are also other books listed on the U of T writing website. ( Best of luck Christina!

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