An International Student’s Guide to Fun and Virtues

Mabuhay! I’m ZVNI (Sunny), an international student from the Philippines. I’m going into my 2nd year of undergrad, double majoring in Health & Disease and Immunology and minoring in Psychology.

Collage of photos of Sunny, the University of Toronto, a coffee cup, with text, "An International Student's Guide to Fun & Virtues"

When I finished the last exam of my first year at U of T, which was for an Immunology course, all I remember was thinking, “woah… I just completed first year of undergrad in a different country… at Canada’s premier university… I deserve some ice cream!” Now, here I am, someone who completed U of T’s first-year Life Sciences program, offering you, incoming international students, my guide to Fun & Virtues in hopes that you can start the new chapter (more like the new book) of your lives with the right mindset.

University of Toronto sign with a white border

Virtue #1: Be Diligent

The first half of my first semester was tough. I was overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities I had to face alone on top of adjusting to life in Canada and life as a pre-med student. You might experience a similar phase, and it might take a lot of effort and diligence to get back on the right track – it did for me.

“Work smarter, not harder,” is the usual advice you will hear from others. However, I realized that there is a caveat: you need to work hard on learning how to work smarter. When reading week came, a week with no classes in the middle of a semester, I took the time to reassess my habits that were not optimal and researched about what things I could do to improve my school-life balance. I did do better for the remainder of the first semester – although it was still a trial and error in terms of what study methods/tools to use to properly manage my time. Thankfully, I finished first year with flying colors, but with somewhat limp wings and faded colors. So, yes, I do deserve some ice cream.

ZVNI (Sunny) taking a photograph with a camera

Virtue #2: Be Daring

Above everything else, I believe our time in university is a growth journey. So, you should be daring enough to move past your comfort zone and ‘transform’ into a better version of yourself. U of T, and Toronto in general, boasts a variety of opportunities like volunteer work, research, internships, and other extracurriculars – these are also avenues for you to meet people and build meaningful relationships. In my case, I joined my program’s student union and am now an executive member, I’m also a book writer for a Canadian youth organization, and I recently launched an Instagram account where I plan to share my journey/learnings as an international pre-med student. In short, there is so much fun you can have if you open yourself up to new experiences, just don’t spread yourself out too thinly and remember to balance your academic and non-academic responsibilities.

Student with a backpack taking a walk on a Fall day.

Virtue #3: Be Generous

When I finalized my decision to study in Canada, I planned a lot of things I wanted to do and achieve during my first year, such as joining clubs, getting high marks, applying to internships, and others. Lo and behold, first year came and ended, and I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted. I am not trying to discourage you from being ambitious – since I am too – but I want you to realize that the mishaps can help reorient you and your goals as well as fortify your resolve to succeed. Not everything will go according to plan, nor will you be able to do everything right every time. Thus, be generous to yourself, allow yourself to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow. In addition, be generous in terms of taking care of yourself by dedicating some time to rest, catch up with family and friends back home, and do the things that will regenerate your vigor.

I hope you were able to learn something and remember to be diligent, be daring, be generous, and have fun!

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