Dear First-Year Lina

Letter that reads "Dear First Year Lina"

Written by Lina Ghattas, 4th year Honours Specialization in Physiology and Pharmacology with a Minor in Economics 

Dear First-Year Lina,

Right now you’re feeling a whirlwind of emotions as you begin this new chapter of your life. You can feel the anticipation build as you count down the days until you move into your room at Delaware Hall, but despite all the excitement and although you’d never admit it, a big part of you is also quite nervous. For the first time, you’ll be away from your friends and family, living in a new city where you’ll have to interact with new people. Sounds kind of scary right? Well, I’m here to tell you that although it isn’t always smooth sailing, over the next few years you are going to experience things you never would have dreamed of, and you are going to learn so much and meet so many phenomenal people along the way. Here are some of the most powerful things that you will come to realize over your next four years at Western:

Do the things you want to be doing, not the things people tell you that you should be doing

Coming into university, you have countless aspirations for your career and personal life. But right from the get-go, it seems like everyone else has it all figured out and you feel that maybe you’re just not prepared enough to fulfill your goals. Before you even know your way around campus, you’ll hear phrases like “you won’t get into a professional school without a 4.0 GPA” and “you should already have a research position” which will really freak you out. But before you stress yourself out too much, slow down for a second and take a deep breath, because you’ll eventually learn that there is no one set path you need to take to fulfill your goals. Take the courses that you find interesting, follow your passions. Be 100% genuine with everything you do, and the rest will come.

Use every opportunity as a chance to learn something new

While you’re going to learn some super cool things in your courses, you may be surprised to find out that most of the learning happens outside of the classroom.  Turn to your peers and learn from them, ask questions and push yourself out of your comfort zone. You may be afraid of failing, but I’ve learnt that university is the best time for that- to fall, dust yourself off, and get back up better than before. Bombed your first physics midterm? Try studying a little differently. Didn’t get the position you wanted? Do some more research, gain a little more experience, and apply again. You’re going to fail quite a few times over the next few years but that’s ok because everyone fails at one point or another. As long as you have the mindset that there is something to learn from every experience, you’ll continue to grow and be more prepared for future opportunities.

Speak up, people listen

I’m not saying that Western is perfect; there is definitely still so much room for us to continue to do better as a community. However, what you’ll quickly learn, and the thing that will make you fall in love with the school, is that when you speak up, people will listen. Whether it’s speaking with members of the university administration, participating in club initiatives or reaching out to student bodies on campus, if you see something that you think should change, start that conversation. Everyone can be an advocate in their own unique way, and there is no right or wrong way to speak up. For you, it’ll be getting involved as a student senator, and working with councils and administration to advocate for student needs, but these only represent a small fraction of the ways that you can make your voice heard on campus! 

Give yourself a break, people have your back

Remember those bumps in the road that I mentioned at the beginning? Yeah, those happen sometimes, and it can be quite overwhelming when they do. In the beginning, you’ll just solider on, as you’re being bombarded by what seems like a never-ending list of things to do for work, your courses, and your extra-curricular activities. “Everyone else seems fine, I’ll be fine too” you’ll say to yourself. But during these difficult parts when you have a lot going on, remember to give yourself a break, and to lean on those around you. Don’t feel guilty about watching Netflix for an entire afternoon even though you have a million things due, or for saying no when someone asks you to take something on. Lean on your amazing sophs and friends when you need support because that’s the best way to get through the tough times- by caring for each other and supporting one another. Remember that amidst all of your responsibilities and commitments there is one thing that should be the priority every single time- your own health and wellbeing.

Make new memories, learn new things, and most importantly have fun the next few years because your time at Western is something you’ll remember forever 😊

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