A Letter to First-Year Shaowda

A pen and paperWritten by: Shaowda Salehin, 4th Year English + Biology 

Photo by: M. Bettencourt 

Dear First-Year Shaowda,

I know you’re so excited to come to your dream university - you’ve been waiting for this moment your whole life. Everything is about to change right now, even if it feels like you’re not ready for it-  these are your first baby steps in becoming a grown-up!

One of your greatest strengths will be your perseverance and your ability to cope with change because the university is not completely like high school, but all the while still familiar. Your courses will be harder, ’70s are the new 90’s and you have to work as hard as you can to succeed, but there is still plenty of room to mess up. Take every mishap, bad grade, and problem as an opportunity to learn and change for the better. The only way to improve is to constantly aim higher rather than dwell on the past, with every morning comes a chance for you to change your life.

You would have never thought that you would switch out of your degree, but surprisingly enough you will- and note, it will be in your best interest! Entering the first year of Health Sciences was challenging but it provided you with enough space for electives to really choose what you like about science. Switching out of degrees and changing your mind is actually okay, and encouraged if you’re not passionate about what you’re studying. You will realize that making the scary decision to change your degree to Biology and English, Double Major is one of the best choices you have ever made. The change in your degree has opened up multiple career opportunities in science but has also broadened your appreciation for the arts. Not everyone is as lucky as having their hobby, (reading novels) as part of their education and career!

You will learn that in stressful moments, like handling the change of your degree, you will need to come up with a way to support yourself. You have the responsibility to care for yourself now in a way that you didn’t as a child, growing up with parents who provided everything for you. Now is the moment to prioritize yourself and strengthen your relationship with yourself so that you have your own back forever. Nothing is the end of the world, and just know that you will get through this and much harder things after and you will hold yourself together through it all! You are capable of so much more than you can imagine, you just need to believe in yourself because that’s half of accomplishing it! Your goal will no longer be hyper-focused on a numerical grade as your measure of success, but you’ll learn that what really matters in life is that you’re working every day towards your happiness and health. It’s important to accept that you are not perfect and that every individual has their own strengths and weaknesses. Instead of worrying about what you’re not that good at, you have to do your best to navigate past that and continue to excel in your natural gifts.

To be at peace with yourself, you must reconcile with things that bother you, whether it be childhood traumas, challenges in courses, and difficulties in friendships. You are not alone in having problems, trust me every single person you go to school with has felt some of the distress that you feel. So instead of pretending that you’re okay, you need to take the time to go through the feelings rather than avoid them and accept that some periods of your life will be challenging. But in order to get through the rough seas, you will have to keep your head high and have a grateful heart because there is always a rainbow after the storm! Only if you want there to be though- you will have to keep pushing and fighting for yourself so that you are constantly moving forward. As Miley Cyrus once inspired us all, it’s all about “The Climb”. Happiness is a choice, and in your first year of university, you will realize that it is the most difficult choice to make- but from now on, choose to be content even when things are falling apart. Choose to see the upside and choose to live your life with as much enthusiasm and love that you can garner! Trust me, your first year will fly past you, then you’ll be at the end of your undergrad- your life will continue to flash past you, so live in the moment and try to be your best self every day. 

Your first year will be filled with parties, dinners, clubs, laughter with friends all night, libraries, and rolling down UC Hill in the snow. The Barking Frog has the longest lineup ever, so get there early, and go to Ceeps on specialty days when UWO clubs host so that you can buy cheaper tickets! Don’t think too much and go out with your friends whenever they ask you - it’s important to prioritize making memories because you won’t get the same experience again. First-year is one of the best years because you can finally make decisions on your own, try cooking something new for your friends, try wearing a new colour, cut your hair and read a science fiction book even though you’re not really into it- but just keep trying new things. It’s a time to explore the world with bright naive eyes - especially the Spoke bagels, try all of the flavors of cream cheese and iced coffees! Also, attend all the first-year-specific activities on campus, especially O Week- it will be one of the best weeks of your undergrad for sure, even if your feet kill after every night, it will be the chance to meet new people in your faculty!

Develop a study schedule and study guide- your first semester, you probably won’t know what in the world is going on but you’ll have the opportunity in your second semester to correct some of your study habits.  Use your UWO calendar to write in your class schedule, due dates, and upcoming events- have a planned life, means having a stress-free life!

Here are some tips that might just turn your first year around!

Tip 1: No more all-nighters - study during the week! Group study sessions at the library help a lot, instead of movie night, do a CHEM 1301A Trivia night!

Tip 2: Go to the gym before you go to the library- trust me you’ll actually have more energy.

Tip 3: Use a daily planner to coordinate your courses and assignments- it will change your life.

Tip 4: EAT PROPERLY DURING EXAM SEASON- Freshman 15 is REAL- pick healthier options on campus by eating full meals rather than sugary snacks! I know it’s tempting to stress eat a box of  Timbits, but trust me, eating a sandwich from Subway will keep you fuller and satisfied.

Tip 5: Make regular habits of going to Academic Counselling at least once every month- check in with your progress in courses and discuss any career opportunities.

Tip 6: Research for grad schools and professional schools NOW!


With Love,

Fourth Year Shaowda

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