The day that someone tells you to reconsider whether or not you should really be enrolled into Advanced Functions in grade 12 is the day that you learn a little something about yourself: you defy the Asian stereotype and math is not for you. So forgive me if I don’t remember the Pythagorean Theorem (I tried Ms. Fernandes) or follow the science-based path that my siblings paved out for our family name (1 doctor, 1 to-be-med student, and a teacher!! – holy crap!). And to my first year 8:30AM psychology class in Hagey Hall: I was there – but not really.
Without further ado, here are the 8 things I really learned in my 4 years of university.
1. How to be independent & responsible for myself at 22
“Sure we can go out but I can only spend $20. I’m watching my money. Like how the adults do it.”
“I’ll do laundry when I have no more underwear.”
“Yeah, so what if I’m having pasta for the second week in a row? Food is food!”
“No, look harder. It’s not a mess of a room, it’s an *organized* mess of a room”
2. Taking a book out of the library and actually using it for something (more than a paperweight)
As of July 2015, I am proud to say that I finally learned how to do locate, check out, and use an academic book at both Waterloo’s library and Laurier’s library. So yes, I guess you could call me a pro.
3. Survive without sleep
Sometimes it just happens because there’s not enough time in a day or days in a week. Exhibit A: I once had to write a paper that was due at 10am – the same day that I had to wake up at 5:00am to work an 8-hour long Black Friday shift in the mall. Sometimes, you just have to forgo the sleep…
6. Effectively napping
…or you develop effective napping techniques. It’s all about relaxing and letting your mind drift off, where ever you are. Even if you sleep on 2 chairs and drool on a stack of Big Boy Pajamas at The Children’s Place.
5. Find the simple pleasures in life
This was huge lesson that I learn from my Global Youth Volunteer Network family in Canada, Morocco, and Uganda. Our time together doesn’t need to be glamorous, we just need a light heart, good laughs and better company (corny, I know).
6. Hoops come in all different sizes
One of my professors passed along an analogy that was shared to her during her doctorate thesis. There are all types of hoops that we need to go through. Some are “assignment” sized hoops that last for a week, others are a bit larger – like a “thesis” sized hoop. Figure out the hoop size, give it your all and jump through it. Keep trucking along and remember, that it’s just a hoop – there will be more to come.
7. It’s okay to fail
I had my first run-in with failure in grade 5 when my wonderful mother (she really is!) decided that my youthful, summer days would be better spent inside the Royal Conservatory of Music, learning advanced music harmony, counterpoint, and analysis instead of soaking up the sun with my squad. Failing advanced music harmony (twice, in grade 5 and 6) scarred me for awhile. Needless to say, I was scared of failing and scared of disappointing other people. Over the years, I’ve learned that I’m human and I make mistakes. Learning from these mistakes and failures pointed me into the right direction and proved to be more useful to me than, for example, holding an interesting dinner conversation about musical harmony, counterpoint, and analysis.
8. Learn as much as possible from the people you meet
From their words, gestures, laughter, smile, tears and even their silences. Everyone has a wealth of stories to share, lessons they’ve learned, and things they’ve seen and I am honoured to have learned from such amazing friends, family and mentors over the years.
So maybe I didn’t have the conventional “4 year degree” but along the way, I did find a “5-year-university-experience-full-of-trial-and-error-but-it-was-and-will-be-worth-it”.