The End of My First Year University: Musings

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

At 3 o’clock on a snowy afternoon in April, I handed in my very last exam for the 2010-2011 school year and scampered down the steps of U de Moncton’s science building officially on summer break. Yes, readers in high school and younger, the final exam period is coming to a close for university students already. My first year at Université de Moncton studying in health sciences is completed.

Personally, I couldn’t be happier with the 2010-2011 school year and am greatly looking forward to the experiences this summer will offer and to my return to Université de Moncton this fall for my second year of health sciences.

To consider the first year a student spends at university as some type of rite of passage or universal experience would be naive.

The first year at university might also be the first year away from home for some, a year of (seemingly!) increased free time and fun, a year of sometimes arduous studying necessitated by a heavy courseload (guess which one of these descriptions of first year university applies to this now elated columnist?), a year of befriending new people and drifting away from friends  who are now faraway, or a year of soul-searching in the hopes of clarifying career plans.

Not everyone attends university for the first time at 18 and those who are under or above the typical age have a different perspective on freshman year because of their situations. Still a few days shy of my seventeenth birthday at the end of this school year, which I viewed as an exciting and challenging opportunity to explore my field of interest, I can attest that my interpretations of this year are in some ways unlike those of other students.

A student’s experience at university will also be heavily affected by the university, field of study, and program that he chooses.
And of course, if a teen chooses to pursue his education at another type of post-secondary education institution or chooses to enter the workforce immediately, he won’t experience university, although he may very well identify with some aspects of first-year university life.

I acknowledge these varied situations, however, I do feel that there are a few general words of advice that can be given to and used by most up-and-coming freshman students: university is an opportunity to meet new people, take on a new lifestyle (this column being dedicated to healthy living, I will remind readers that a new lifestyle at university can be a healthy one), and explore new ideas, whether in the context of classes or of everyday encounters.

In my opinion, the best way to deal with this whirlwind of an environment is to follow the tried-and-true advice I have often been given. Listen to everyone and seek to understand others’ viewpoints, but, at the end of the day, use your own reasoning and judgment to evaluate the situation and make the decision that supports your priorities and your views on life. This advice can be applied to banal choices like deciding how to spend your time on an ordinary day or to heavily-weighted ones like making plans for after graduation. Being able to focus is an immensely useful skill in any environment, university included.

That said, I wish fellow Monctonian students who are already finished for the year a good summer and those who are still in school, up against mid-terms, a good spring semester.

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on April 23rd, 2011.

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