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What Second Year Taught Me

It’s bittersweet to be writing my final post as an Academic Success and Equity Blogger for Life @ U of T. With the end of every academic semester and the end of a whole year, I enjoy thinking about where I was a year ago. This allows me to reflect on the decisions I made, the challenges I faced, and what I have learnt from the whole experience. A year ago, I was finishing my first year and felt entirely lost. I was pushing my way to the end of first year and I hadn't enjoyed most of my classes! I was dreading my finals and, truthfully, was not excited for the upcoming academic year. This year, although I haven't even written my finals yet, I am looking forward both to the summer and the next academic year! I realize now that the dread I experienced back then was because I had led myself to believe that the only way I could be academically successful was by focusing solely on my studying, without getting involved on campus. I had this mindset out of fear that I would not be able to manage my time. I only took part in one extracurricular experience, even though I am sure I would have enjoyed taking a break from calculus homework. My second year of university has challenged me immensely, and while it was by no means easy, it has sparked my interest in new fields of science and provided me with insight into future career paths I'd like to pursue. By writing for Life @ U of T, I've become more self-aware of my academic struggles, and have realized that issues I experience, such as academic perfectionism, affect other students as well. We All Face Academic Struggles  After my first year, I took the jump and applied for this blogger position since I have always loved writing! And the topic seemed ideal: my friends often comment that I take my academics a little too seriously. Blogging has not only taught me how to manage work along with my studying, but also has made me aware of the challenges that students on campus face. Through this experience, I have realized that I am an academic perfectionist, which has some benefits but is mainly harmful. Although sharing these struggles can make me feel vulnerable, I've found that I am not alone in this challenge, and have learnt that the first step in overcoming things like this is to acknowledge the issue. And I've been able to learn about some great resources on campus to ask for help! It has been great to go to the Academic Success team (in room 150 of the Koffler Student Services Centre, on the first floor). I have linked their website here for more information. Whether you decide to attend a workshop, meet with a Learning Strategist or access another resource, this year has taught me that academic struggles don't have to be alone! Besides Academic Success, there are tons of resources on campus to help you do what you want and need to do: for instance, your registrar is also a great place to get in touch with an academic adviser if you feel you need help navigating your degree. Time-Management is a Skill This year has also taught me that time-management is possible, but it is a skill you need to practice. As with any skill, you tend to fail at least once! For me, this was thinking that I can review two weeks of material in an evening, or underestimating how long an assignment can take. Through these mistakes, I learnt that I am really good at underestimating how long some tasks will take. I'm still working on this, but I've had to accept that sometimes, say, a lecture can take a few hours to get through and that doing the work isn't a waste of time if it means I'll be able to ace my next midterm. Passion is the Key to Success This year, I also had the opportunity to conduct a research project. This was my first time conducting research, and at first it was stressful: I had really underestimated how much of a time commitment it is. But I soon learnt that research was probably one of the coolest, most exciting things I have ever done! My friends in Life Sci are often curious how I managed to get a research position, since there tends to be a lot of competition in obtaining positions. I've learnt that passion and perseverance are key to success in any role, whether research, work, or club executive. I applied to positions that I was interested in and to fields I wanted to learn about, and I kept on going. To do this, I had to erase the negative thoughts that I wouldn't get the position because someone else is more qualified. Had I continued to doubt myself, I likely would have never even applied to this position, which I hope will start me on a potential career path. Taking on this extra work has been hugely rewarding, and I'm so glad I did it. I couldn’t imagine spending another year the way I did in first year, wrapped up in my books without experiencing the offerings of campus life. As the semester comes to a close, I wish all of you the best of luck with studying, and I hope you all have a fantastic summer!

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