What I Wish I Had Known in my First Year of University
6 pieces of advice for future first-year students from someone who's been there.
This article was written by Tendai, a BSc in Chemical Engineering student at the University of Alberta.
University is a beautiful place for growth and self-discovery. As an international student, adapting to a new culture is only part of the process; there is so much we have to learn, and sometimes that can be overwhelming. I wanted to share a few things I wish I had known in my first year that could’ve made a massive difference for me.
Make the right friends
Your friends have the power to influence who you’ll become — choose them wisely. Having a friend who challenges you and wants the best for you can go a long way in your university career. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to shut other people out, but if you have a solid first line of defense, you can conquer anything in this life. Take it as a chance for you to choose your “family” and cherish these relationships. The advantage is that there are so many people on campus, making finding someone you can relate to on campus a lot easier.
Find a good work-life balance
In my first year, I was consumed by work. I had a very unhealthy relationship with school, and I wish I knew how powerful taking a break is. Too much of anything is harmful, so searching for that balance between school and life is essential and could help you achieve better results. Plan some fun — take a walk and go hang out with friends. You deserve it! You are important, so creating a healthy and well-balanced schedule could improve your academic performance.
If there’s something you’re not understanding or if you’re curious about anything in class, the key is to just ask. It took me a while to realize that there really is no such thing as a dumb question. No one deserves to struggle in silence, especially when so many resources are available to us. You are not expected to know all the answers. By allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you could potentially open new and brighter avenues for your career. In my experience, the best opportunities, such as research and volunteer positions, came from asking simple questions.
Keep your notes
This is key! I’ve had classes that I took in my first year come back and haunt me later in my degree. Everything you learn is essential, and there is always a reason it is being taught to you! If you use applications such as OneNote, Good Notes, Google Drive, or any other shared drive, this could ensure you have them readily available if you need to refer to them. Treat every class equally when it comes to note-taking and focus on making comprehensible notes as a favour to future you.
Everyone you meet is important and deserves respect no matter their beliefs or background. Forming good relationships could help you get a job later on. People are powerful, and something as simple as a small introduction could lead to giant leaps toward a successful career. Try to put yourself out there no matter what environment you’re in. Vulnerability is key! This does not only apply to professors or industry professionals in your field, but it also applies to your colleagues. The key is to realize that you never know what role any of the people you come across daily will play in your success story.
Mistakes are allowed
I am a massive advocate for treating every bump in the road as a learning curve. Failing at anything is very discouraging, but every challenge can be overcome. I have found myself getting caught up in situations I can’t change; I’ve been working towards asking myself questions such as “what’s next?” and “how can I do better next time?”.
You've got this! Congratulations on getting this far! No matter where you are in your university journey, I hope some of the points I’ve shared in this article resonate with you. University is not a walk in the park, but I can 100% guarantee that you’ll conquer this chapter in your life!
Discover the University of Alberta