In terms of my overall University experience for term one, I would have to say I think it went pretty well! It was a huge learning experience both in terms of courses and living on my own for the first time. With courses, it mainly had to do with the workload which is much higher than what was expected in my high school classes. Coinciding with this the semesters are much shorter in University and they seem to go by in a flash.
The quality of work that professors expect is much higher than what was expected by high school teachers and It can be startling at first.
Every single one of these issues caught me off guard at one point or another. For the workload, it happened during the first week of classes when I got all of my courses syllabuses. Seeing the entire semester laid out in front of me, if I am being honest, freaked me out. I thought about only taking four classes instead of the five I was enrolled in.
Seeing that I had to write four or five papers per class was something that made me extremely nervous! I used to writing maybe four full papers in total over a semester and a bunch of smaller writing assignments. I worried that I would not be able to complete every assignment I was given and make them have the quality that I expected of myself. Luckily before I acted on this impulse I talked with my parents and decided to wait a little while longer before I made any decision. I ended up sticking with the five courses and could not be prouder of myself for not giving up. My second realization concerning how short the semester really is in university compared to high school hit me only recently. I think it started when I was receiving my final projects and talking to my parents about when they were going to be picking me up to go home for Christmas. I was so invested in what I was doing in classes and my own little world that the end kind of came out of nowhere and surprised me. When I was in that bubble, however, I received my first couple marks back and that is when it occurred to me how much more the professors expect of you compared to high school teachers. I was always an A level student in high school so when I saw that I was getting some B’s it almost broke my heart. It took me some time but eventually I accepted that for university a B was actually a pretty good grade and that I should be proud of myself for trying. I am still settling in and it will take some time but I will improve as I continue my university career, just like I did in high school. For writing some areas I need to work on that surprised me the most were how much the word limit was enforced in many classes, and how often I spent reading over my papers cutting down hundred of words. Additionally how grammar can be a major deductor of marks, and how truly awful mine was. I am still working on this aspect but am trying to familiarize myself with more proper grammar rules and notice them when reading through a piece of writing.
On top of all this, I had to learn how to live on my own for the first time. This brought me a lot of challenges including missing my family who I am very close to, having to decide how to use my time all on my own (not outside advice or family events) and a feeling of isolation and being completely on my own. As well I had to live with a bunch of strangers until I got to know them. I had to try and open up about my feeling to people who I had only known for a couple days since I did not know who else to go to and my parents were not around.
However, I conquered all these problems and believe I came out a better person because of it. I did this by letting my guard down and doing everything I could to be open and get to know the people I was living with no matter how acquired or uncomfortable I felt. My parents definitely drilled the idea into me that if I did not push myself I was never going to feel comfortable or feel apart of the community. I did things that I never in a million years would have normally done and tried to meet everyone on my floor and talked to people that I bumped into around campus.The girls on my floor became people I am extremely close with and am glad I got the opportunity to know. However I do take alone time every once and a while, when life feels overbearing, to take care of myself as best I can. I learned how to survive on my own, typically got grades that are higher for a first-year university student and started to open up towards the people around me, I still have a way to go but I am getting there. I think what surprised me about this experience was the fact that I was able to get through it and succeed. I am stronger than I thought.
In terms of writing some things that surprised me would be how limited the instructions were for some of my writing assignments! As mentioned in one of my previous posts, I was used to high school where papers are explained in great detail, University does not do this and gives you more room for interpretation. Professors only require that you talk about the given topic and that you are able to back it up with proof and analyze it. Along with this the amount of writing required for assignments required shocked me! Most of my assignments first semester University were a paper of some kind and if it was not it was a creative adaption assignment for example. Even these projects had to be backed up with a written reflection explaining my concept and ideas. Coinciding with this The length of each assignment made me take a second look every time. Most of them for my first year were 500 to 800 word assignment, from what I was told in high school I was expecting two thousand. The fact that the word limit is smaller helped me accomplish all the tasks since it gave me more time to work on each one individually and edit it many times.
The advice I would give to an incoming student would have to be, expect to be caught off guard and feel as if you are up a river without a paddle. This is a normal feeling that everyone gets and the best thing to do is embrace it. Use the resources that are given to you on campus! I understand the nerves that these can bring and believe me when I say it took me a while to use them but once I did not only was I able to get help in whatever area I was asking about, but it also helped me to feel more connected to the school. I realized that I do have people who want to help me and that I am not alone. I just had to move my feet in order to get it and stop expecting it to come to me.
Another great support system on campus are the upper year students! The Sats at St.Jerome’s and Dons want to become your friend and give you advice and from personal experience, I can vouch that they really make you feel more at home and that you have people looking out for you, even when your parents are not around.
These are general tips for university but now we are going to get into the nitty gritty and talk about advice for writing is particular. Write shitty drafts. This is something that everyone has to do in order to complete a well-written paper. Do you really think Jane Austin just sat down and wrote Pride and Prejudice on her first try? I highly doubt it.
You have to create a starting point for yourself and edit from there. Another tip that took me a while to implement into my writing is limiting wordiness. Read through your paper and see if you state the same fact multiple times or even the same word. I once wrote a sentence that said “globally across the world” and made a pact to never embarrass myself like that again. Grammar is also extremely important. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the basic grammar rules so that when you come to university you have less of a chance of losing small marks for grammar mistakes. By doing this it allows for your arguments to not be overshadowed by these mistakes. Lastly, do not let a writing block get in the way of your writing. If you let that happen then you will never be able to keep up with all the writing assignments that will be coming your way in the fall. Also, I forgot to mention earlier, be prepared to be told that your work is not perfect and that you almost need to rewrite your entire paper.
Yes, this can hurt at first and be extremely disheartening but it is honestly for the best and the professors are TA’s are telling you this because they want you to succeed and are trying to help you with this in the best way they can. The comments are not meant to be hurtful they are meant to be constructive. Help you to grow both in your writing, academically and personally. the most important aspect of writing is rewriting.Coinciding with this point, write what you love. Sometimes it can be difficult to write a paper, especially when you are not engaged or interested in the topic you are writing about. Make it interesting for yourself! Turn your paper around so it is engaging for you, that way you will enjoy what you are writing about.