As a seasoned residence advisor I have seen my fair share of move-in days. All over campus you can feel the excitement, the nervousness and the overwhelming feeling of uncertainty. You can see the hugs of nervous parents or supportive friends reluctant to say goodbye. Or perhaps you’ll see the students who have started this terrifying journey on their own. Maybe you are about to move into an apartment with strangers or you are beginning to plan your daily commute. Many people believe that this is when it happens; the true university freedom you hear about. That when you see your closest support system walk away or you board the downtown train for the first time, you’re officially independent.
But this isn’t the case.
It’s not that first day when this transition happens. It’s the next few days or weeks when you test the limits of what is possible that you truly experience independence. It’s three days into Orientation week when you realize you can have bacon and pancakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and nobody will tell you not to. It’s during the second week of classes when you accidentally sleep through an 8 a.m. lecture and realize no one was there to wake you, and it’s your own fault you didn’t set your alarm clock. It’s the night before a midterm when your friends are all going to your favourite bar and there is no one looking over your shoulder influencing your decision. It’s all you. Every day, every hour, every decision, what you do is entirely up to you.
This is the kind of freedom that is all encompassing. You should savour it, appreciate it, but also understand the responsibility that comes with choosing your own path. I’ve found over the past few years here that it’s quite simple to go through the motions of University. You come to campus, you go to class, you go home, you hand in your assignments on time and you show up for exams. Do this for enough years and yes, you’ll get your degree.
Here’s my advice: don’t let that be enough.
Demand more, ask more, take more, create more, and learn more than you ever could in the classroom. How? The opportunities are endless. Attend an event on campus or in Toronto, join a student group, talk to your instructors outside classroom hours, start your own creative project, explore the city, take on a part-time job or internship, volunteer, take interest in the people around you, ask your program advisor about opportunities, explore your field, explore other fields, the list goes on and on and on.
Say yes to opportunity. Say yes to possibility. Say yes to change and growth because that’s why you are here. And the best part? You’re the one who makes that decision.
Let this privilege inspire you to do great things and that’s exactly what you will do.
You have the power to choose your own path, let it lead you farther than you ever planned to go.