My Top Four Takeaways from Undergrad

By Western University Modified on July 01, 2024
Tags : Campus Life | Community | Student POV

Hear from a Western University student on how to make the most of your undergrad.

 My Top Four Takeaways from Undergrad

This article was written by Amy Li.

As I wrapped up my final semester of undergrad, I felt a weird sense of joy, sadness, and relief at the same time. Having spent the last five years studying at Western University, I didn’t realize how attached I would become to this place. I realized that a lot of my life-changing experiences took place at Western too: from my first time living away from home to joining a post-secondary competitive dance team, and to meeting people who I can call some of my closest friends today.

Writing this blog post feels very sentimental. It didn’t hit me until now, but it does feel like I am saying goodbye. Instead, I like to think of it as closing the chapter of a book. Just like how I was able to experience so many wonderful things at Western, I am so excited for what’s in store for me as I enter my Master’s at UofT this fall!

But before I officially leave Western, I wanted to share with you all some reminders that I found very helpful for making my undergraduate experience a meaningful one.

1. Be open to new experiences

It’s never too late to embark on new experiences! After all, your undergrad is what you make of it. Just earlier this semester, I competed in my first case competition hosted by Women in STEM. Although I had my doubts when applying, I wanted to take a shot at doing a case competition before I left Western — and I’m so glad that I went through with that decision.

Knowing how fast my undergrad flew by, for the current students: really soak in all the experiences. Don’t narrow yourself to one or two clubs. Looking back on my first year, I wish I explored more clubs and found more communities to be a part of because when I really think about it, it’s the bonds I’ve formed in the clubs that I’ve joined that have made my undergrad so memorable.

2. It’s okay to feel lost and unsure of your career goals

Between my third and fourth year, I remember seriously contemplating about my future career and what I wanted to do with my BMSc degree. It can feel even worse when the people around you seem to have their lives figured out, which makes you doubt yourself or your capabilities. Luckily, the best decision I made during that time was to do the Science Internship Program. It gave me the time and flexibility to figure out my goals while obtaining real work experience outside of the classroom.

Hence, my advice here is that it should not feel like a race to finish your undergraduate degree. There is no shame in taking an additional year if that means you are getting eventually closer to achieving your goals. As well, taking that time off should be for yourself: you have nothing to prove to anyone else when you make decisions. Do it for your OWN good and trust in your own intuition!

And sometimes, it’s within those ‘breaks’ that you gain an epiphany or realization that “Aha! Now THIS is what I want to do, and this is something that I am genuinely interested in”. In those moments, that’s also when we discover what our underlying passions are or what drives us. Before we chase anything, identifying those factors is so important because that is what will guide and motivate you to continue pursuing your career goals.

3. Don’t stress too much about the result

I know it’s easier said than done, especially with exams, but I always found myself in periods of stress, thinking “What if I don’t succeed?” and every time, it always worked out in the end. It’s also comforting to know that you are not alone in this process. Thus, don’t hesitate to reach out to friends or classmates in the program or course for guidance and support.

And if things don’t go the way we planned, we learn to adapt to our circumstances. After all, undergrad is not meant to be smooth sailing, but we can always control how we respond to situations.

That being said, it’s also important to consider HOW we approach our stress. Instead of incessantly worrying about how something will fail, a quote from Eric Thomas that I really like is: “Don’t think about what you can accomplish in a month or in a year. Think about the 24 hours ahead of you and do what you can to get yourself closer to where you want to be”. Hence in this quote, it’s important to take actionable steps to get to where you want to be. Those micro steps will eventually accumulate and make it easier for yourself down the road.

4. Stop and take a breather

Aside from school, don’t forget about the critical life events happening around you. While grades are important, I would hate for anyone to regret missing an important family event because of an assignment that was due the same day. I’ve been there and it’s something that I can’t undo. Time is of the essence, so make time for those you love!

It’s also important to find ways to destress and look after your physical and mental well-being — and I don’t mean just doing this during reading week or Christmas holidays because burnout won’t magically disappear after those breaks. Even if it’s 5 minutes out of your day, find an activity that really calms you down. If you’re interested in learning more about burnout and its coping strategies, check out this pamphlet on burnout that myself and students from the BMSc IMS program made for our Medsci 4995E CEL course: Burnout Pamphlet.

To end on a happy note, graduation is also an exciting time to look forward to! It’s a celebration of all the graduating students’ efforts over the years. For those graduating this year: you’ve come so far and I hope you know how proud the people around you are. And for the current students: it’s never too late to try something new or to reach out for academic and career support. Remember, life is not a race, and you will get there, slowly but surely.

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