I wish I had known

For the past couple of weeks, we have been collecting advice from U of T students about what they wish they had known as first-year students with the hashtag #wishIhadknownUT. It’s been great to see the wide mix of tips, from practical advice such as to make Blackboard your homepage (never forget a biology reading quiz again!) to more general wisdom. I thought I would use this blog post to share what I personally wish I had known as a first-year student.

Moving into residence in September 2010.
Moving into residence in September 2010.

It’s hard to remember now, but four years ago I was a nervous wreck preparing to move into residence. I had been to Toronto a couple of times with my family, but did not know a single person who would be here in the fall. As someone who had the same group of friends from grade 1 all the way to grade 12, making friends from scratch was a terrifying prospect.

If my today-self — someone who has made amazing friends through residence, clubs and the Toronto community, switched what she wanted to study twice, ended up being in charge of a magazine and made a 180 degree career goal switch — could go back and tell my first-year self some things, here’s what I would say:

-It’s okay to change your mind. Really. You think you want to study physics because of how much you loved your high school class, and that’s great. But if you find yourself not very good at or fond of theoretical math, you don’t need to feel guilty about wanting to try something different. Don’t think you have to pick a closely related discipline just because you started in physical sciences, either. The whole point of this university thing, especially at the beginning, is to try on different subjects and roles to see what feels best to you.

Fourth-year self, spreading the word about Demo magazine to first years at Clubs Day.
Fourth-year self, spreading the word about Demo magazine to first years at Clubs Day.

-Put yourself out there for clubs you’re interested in! I know that there are a couple of clubs you are interested in but are feeling shy about approaching. Just try it! Getting involved is the best thing you can do. While it is never too late (it will take you until halfway through your third year to start writing for The Varsity), the most important experiences you will have will be outside of the classroom. Seriously, they will change your mind about how you want to spend your life.

-You will change. You’ll grow immensely while living away from home, meeting new people, surmounting challenges and chasing opportunities. This is a good thing.

And a bonus piece of advice after having trouble finding a current photo of myself for this blog post: take pictures! Document your experiences! Your memories will last, but it's nice to have a visual reminder too.

Join the conversation! Share what you wish you had known in first year by tweeting with the hashtag #wishIhadknownUT.

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