“It’s kind of weird,” my friend confessed, “but I’m actually really happy to be back at school.”
The only thing truly weird here is the compulsion that so many of us feel to justify being happy about the new academic year. Sure, September means stress, readings galore, and getting lost on the way to class, but it also means being back amongst friends and classmates. Even though I’ve been getting about 40% less sleep since classes started, I know that I’m truly excited to be back at U of T, and reunited with my favourite people and places (Robarts Library!).
However, the one thing I have found a bit weird is that I definitely didn’t feel this way last September. My head swirled with questions. How harshly will these assignments be graded? Did high school prepare me well enough? Where will I meet new friends? No longer stressing over unresolved questions is definitely a weight lifted off my shoulders. Once the dust settled, it made a world of difference.
While first-year was a bit tough in the beginning, it also had its perks. My favourite was being part of the Vic One program. In the Pearson stream, I learned about historiography, saw photos of my professor with Mikhail Gorbachev, and even did archival research! Meeting my friends in a small-class setting twice a week was also a bonus. While there is no One program for second-years, it turns out that being a sophomore comes with benefits of its own.
Last year, I seldom shared multiple courses with my classmates. This year, I was surprised to find that there are familiar faces in almost every lecture. What’s more, there are multiple people taking all five of the courses I am taking! One thing I know for certain is that my study groups will definitely be bigger this year.
Another major contrast from first-year is having a declared program of study. While I came to U of T with a clear idea of what I wanted to major in, it feels better and more stable to have it on paper. My majors are Peace, Conflict, and Justice; and International Relations. It’s a bit of a mouthful, and doesn’t quite fit on any application forms, but I’m definitely happy with the programs I’ve chosen. As a Peace, Conflict, and Justice student, I’m really enjoying the size of our small core class, and the discussions we’ve had so far. As for International Relations, I’m strangely enjoying our readings, despite their length, and anticipating my next tutorial.
Finally, having a better work-life balance has definitely contributed to making this September great. I can count on one hand the number of times I went out in high school. AP and SAT tests dominated every aspect of the lives of my friends and me. But it turns out that “work-life balance” is more than just a buzzword. Having a social life doesn’t have to mean eating out, or spending hours downtown on a Friday night. Studying with friends, and even just meeting up around campus can be just as fulfilling.
How is the new academic year treating you so far? Let me know in the comments below!