By Taylor Jevning
At the beginning of every school year, it becomes apparent that there are people who show up and know exactly what they are doing. Believe it or not, there are some people who have known what they wanted to do with their lives since the seventh grade. The students who show up in their first year and already know their major and minor seem ambitious until you ask them the same question in their third year and they give you the same answer (I’m looking at you, biology and psychology students). Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people, and this article is for the ones who have no idea what they are doing, or even the ones who say they know what they’re doing but are just faking it. The best advice I can give to anyone who feels lost every time they show up at university is this:
It’s not the end of the world if you screw something up in university.
I remember being a first year student doing a Bachelor of Commerce studying Human Resources and Labour Relations. It was so terrible that whenever someone asked about my degree, I had to tell them I hated it. My physics and economic marks were dismal and I felt incapable of handling calculus even though my math was strong throughout high school. I was sitting in my calculus midterm, staring blankly at the exam booklet in front of me and I felt overwhelmed. I was an honours student in high school, and for the first time, I looked at an exam and realized it was too much for me. I left the room and called my mom crying because I didn’t know what to do. She told me to go to the registrar’s office where they advised me to drop that course. When I returned to the midterm a half hour later, my professor was frustrated with me because he would have to fail my midterm until I informed him I wasn’t in his class anymore. I cried at least four separate times that day. Calculus was one of the requirements in my degree, and I knew I’d never be able to pass it. Suddenly, my entire plan was derailed by something I felt I had no control over and it felt like the end of the world.
But it wasn’t.
When I was in the registrar’s office, they also helped me change my course schedule around for my winter semester. Instead of a heavily business-based course, I took a science fiction English course, a yoga class, a psychology class, got my statistics out of the way, and in addition to all of these, I took my first sociology class.
Taking sociology for the first time was like a light switched flicked off in my brain. It was something that I enjoyed, was interested in, and somehow, also great at. When I finished that course, I felt nothing but excitement to register for my next one.
Luckily for me, most of the credits from my first year transferred smoothly to a Bachelor of Arts, so I was able to do sociology. Sitting here in my fourth year, I can recall the way I felt the day I realized I didn’t know what I was doing. It felt like the end of the world, but somehow, it wasn’t, and even more surprising, the whole experience gave me a better idea of what I’d like to do with my life.
If you don’t know what you’re doing in university, don’t fret. A year of open studies where you use up some options credits to try a few courses out is rarely a setback. The point of university isn’t necessarily to be an end to a means, or even just instrumentally valuable so that you can get a degree one day. I’ve learned the hard way over and over again that university is for discovering what it is you want to do right now, and to consider how to plan a future around that later. Dropping a course is not the end of the world. You can always make up for lost time in the summer by doing a few weeks of one course while you’re working. Without taking a single extra course yet, my first year meltdown has barely put me at a setback, allowing me to still graduate, as a transfer student, the summer of my fourth year.
If you ask me right now where I’ll be in five years, I’ll tell you I have no idea. The same goes for in twelve hours. The only thing I can be certain of right this moment is that I love sociology, I love doing classes on it, and I know it’s going to benefit me in the future, whether the future is in twelve hours or five years down the road. I hope for all of you that during your degree, you don’t have a single setback, a single hiccup, or any reason to feel discouraged, but let’s be real. That just isn’t going to happen. So, when it does, I want you to remember that there’s nothing you can go through that countless students before you haven’t been through already, and they lived to tell the tale. University can be an incredible facilitating place to learn about yourself and the world around you, but believe me, it’s not the be-all-end-all of the world. You’re all capable of finding something to do with your lives that you’re passionate about, and whether that be at Concordia or elsewhere, I wish you the best of luck.
Oh, and just a quick reminder: midterms are coming.