I just completed my final month of university, which is scary and exciting at the same time. I went from being a small-town girl, embarking upon the city with a bright-eyed idealism to a cynical broke student with no future prospects. Just kidding, Ryerson prepared me for the real world, and I’m happy to say I’ll be teaching English next fall in South Korea!
When I look back on who I was and what I was doing in first year, I want to laugh. First year is so funny to me because I had no idea what I was doing, but I still thought I was the queen of Toronto. At the time, I felt like I was so old and mature but looking back, I was just a naive 18-year-old trying to fit in. Now, at 21 and within mere weeks of my convocation, I still have no idea what I’m doing, but at least I’m acknowledging it. I’m sure by the time I’m 25 I’ll be looking back to my 21-year-old self laughing for the same reasons. None of us can turn back time, but if given the chance, these are the notes I’d make for my first-year self.
Talk to the people around you
Everyone appreciates a conversation, especially in a big city where everyone is so easily distracted by their own lives. Say hello to everyone you sit beside in class, because those people will be with you for the next four years. The best friendships I’ve made in my time at Ryerson have come just from talking to the people I sat beside in classes. In a small program like English, it wasn’t too hard to maintain these friendships because it was likely that we’d have more classes together in the future.
Don’t wait until your last year to get involved
My biggest regret of university was waiting until fourth year to fully engage myself with a community that I wanted to be part of. Now that I’m about to graduate, I’ve finally established the writing community I’ve wanted all along. I wish I had acted sooner to seek out the groups I actually wanted to actually be apart of. If you are going into first year, don’t make the mistake of applying for a role on every committee and club you possibly can. Stretching yourself thin for the sake of being busy is not worth it. Being part of something just so you can write it on your resume does not benefit you in the long run, so don’t waste your time in something you don’t wholeheartedly want to be part of.
Get out of downtown
In my first year, I mostly spent my time in the area within the southern portion of the Yonge-University subway line. While this area is conveniently central to Ryerson and does have interesting places within it, there is so much more outside the boundaries of the downtown core. I didn’t fall in love with Toronto until I started spending more time in the west and east ends of Toronto. Toronto is the fourth-largest city in North America, so you can imagine there are tons of cool areas to explore outside of downtown. Some of my favourites are the Annex, Koreatown, Roncesvalles, and Little India.
Learn how to cook
Going from a small town to Canada’s largest city was exciting for me, mostly because of all the diverse food options at my fingertips. I didn’t budget my money at all nor did I put any effort into learning how to cook, so ended up eating at restaurants or getting take-out most of the week. I’d recommend asking your parents or grandparents to teach you a few easy recipes, because cooking is a skill that will stay with you longer than your pad thai leftovers will. Going out to eat is fine every once in a while, but I was doing it as such a regular frequency that my bank account was rapidly diminishing each month and I couldn’t figure out why.
I hate getting sentimental about things like institutionalized education that I paid thousands of dollars for, but university was the prime of my life (so far). I got to study in Paris, publish a creative writing journal, live in the most exciting city in Canada, work in an elementary school, and meet so many amazing people who I am sure I will be friends with for life.
The truth is that Ryerson doesn’t owe you anything. It is an amazing school, but at the end of the day you pay to go here. Your time at university is directly related to what you make of it, so be sure that you are creating something that counts.
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