Here’s 8 things I really learned in my 4 years of university (so far)

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.

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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

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“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)

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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

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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

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…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

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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

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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

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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

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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”. 

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My university experience (as told by .gifs)

I started my university career hoping to have the classic 4 year experience . One where I’d “live, love, laugh” or “eat, pray, love” or join an all-girls acapella group and dual it out with the German vocal powerhouses. In all honesty, I expected to come out of university knowing exactly what I wanted to do, to be settled down, and financially secure.

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Fast forward to now and you can go ahead and add in another year of university and toss in:

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Some tears
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Frantic nights
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Sleepless mornings
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Love lost
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…and new-found love
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Disgusting amounts of sushi
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New friends (and foods)
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Trips to the hospital
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New jobs
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Trips around the world
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Phils & Duke nights
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New hobbies
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Rough mornings
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Some light reading
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and Netflix nights

I’m not sure I can remember all of the types of tress on campus (sorry ENVS 200) and please don’t ever ask me if the means of several groups equal (sorry to my stats prof). So, given my university experience, what did I really learn after spending 4 years in University? And how did I survive? (It helps that my program was mainly female as well…#nodistractions)

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Well, it definitely helps with friends around…

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Catch my blog post tomorrow to find out what I actually learned in University!

Thank you, Rita Pierson

This woman speaks powerful truths about the world of education and the role of teachers. If you haven’t seen it already, I encourage you to watch her TedTalk, Every Kid Needs A Champion before you continue reading (guaranteed to give you a few laughs and your daily dose of motivation).

Is this job tough? You betcha. Oh God, you betcha. But it is not impossible. We can do this.

How does education relate to development? In some ways, it’s quite obvious. Education is when an individual or a group of people impact the masses – big and small. As is development. Education is learning that is structured by theories and disciplines. As is development. Education can be a chaotic mess. As can development. Educators can be left hopeless, confused, burnt out and unmotivated. As can development practitioners.

There’s another side to it too – a correlation that focuses more on the beauty of education and development than the faults of the structure.

It’s about the value of human connection; of relationships.

Rita Pierson, TedTalk extraordinaire, says it the best: “Can we stand to have more relationships? Absolutely…we come to work when we don’t feel like it, and we’re listening to policy that doesn’t make sense and we [work] anyway. We [work] anyway, because that’s what we do.”

Relationships, the most meaningful of them, are twofold: we are enriched as we are enriching. Limits of relationships extend past the boundaries of education and development. It happens in our everyday lives and demands to be enriching.

This serves as an important reminder for my upcoming 8 month placement in September. Connect well and connect often – on a real, human, personal level. Drawing inspiration from Stephen Covey, Rita insists that the secret to relationships is that we should seek first to understand as opposed to being understood. Or it could be even simpler, like apologizing. So thank you, Rita Pierson. It’s a lesson duly noted.

You ought to just throw in a few simple things, like seeking first to understand, as opposed to being understood. Simple things, like apologizing.You ever thought about that? Tell a kid you’re sorry, they’re in shock.

Rephrasing Rita’s closing statement may be the best way to close this blog:

“Every person deserves a champion, someone who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insist that they become the best that they can be.”

****************************************************************************************** Feel free to share your thoughts on this TedTalk below! Even better, share one of your favourite videos – funny, inspiring and everything in between.