By Donovan Makus
Welcome, everyone, whether it’s welcome back or welcome for the first time!
For some of you, it’s your first time attending Concordia (or any university at all). You may feel overwhelmed, confused, and uncertain. Don’t worry, though; I felt the same way my first year and, as far as I can tell, everything’s worked out just fine so far. My simple advice to you is to focus on developing an understanding of university—the process, the way courses run, and how to do well—before starting to load up with other activities. At the same time, make sure you take opportunities to connect with those around you. You may be here with friends from high school, or you may be setting out with no pre-existing network. In any case, now is a great opportunity to branch out and explore, as cliche as that may sound. Make the time to attend Club Fair, go to club events, attend Thunderfest if that’s your thing; there are many opportunities to make lifelong friendships in this stage of life. Make sure to include some flexibility in your schedule. While your schedule may look nice with your five classes concentrated from 8:00-1:00 every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, you are still human, and back-to-back-to-back midterms make for unpleasant days (trust me). At the same time, don’t be afraid to seek out help with schoolwork or life in general through the Student Success Center, Peer Support, or Concordia Students’ Association. Once Christmas rolls around, as distant as it may seem now, make sure you take some time to reflect on your first semester. Maybe the classes that your 17- or 18-year-old self thought they would love are not working, and a degree change is in order. The time to figure this out is in, or shortly after, first year, when the opportunity cost for switching is still low. Don’t be afraid to go wherever life takes you! I had a chance to read some thoughts I wrote as a first year, and it’s amazing how few of my plans back then actually came to fruition, but I’ve still appreciated the journey to the here and now.
For the majority of you, this is simply another year; it may be your last, or you may still have several years left. Whatever your mindset is going in and leaving this year, remember that you are more than your grades. The people skills you will have an opportunity to work on will be more valuable than an A+. In the past, my focus has been getting in and out of classes as quickly as possible—time is money, after all—and why waste time when you can book classes/activities back to back and be more efficient? But after experiencing a nice break in between classes, I learned to really appreciate the time spent talking with others, sometimes about the course, but usually in more general terms, rather than rushing off to another engagement.
I’ll admit, these messages are ones we’ve heard a lot. In the past, when people gave me this same advice, I nodded along politely, even while thinking of how easy it was for them to say, so removed from my personal situation. Attending a school of our size truly makes you a name, not just a number or identifier, and that’s something you should fully embrace. I had the fortune of working in a number of jobs this summer, and I was surprised to encounter more than a few Concordia grads. Seeing one person’s Student of the Year award on his desk was interesting, and speaks to the lifelong connection you can build. Despite the 10+ year gap in when he and I attended Concordia, we were still able to share the same experiences. A good portion of the same professors are still around and we built an immediate connection. This is what this school is all about–finding that sense of connection.
Hopefully all of this doesn’t sound like a repeating, broken record at this point. My qualifications to offer any profound advice is quite limited, but now is a great time to reflect a little before school really gets going, whether it’s your first or final year here.