I was seventeen when I began my first year of university, a symptom of having a late November birthday. I was the type of high school student that wouldn’t shut up about leaving for university, living on my own, making new friends, and tasting the independence I was so desperate to experience. I remain and always have been a dreamer and an idealist, forever seeing the good in things. In a world of possibility, I wanted to try everything and learn from anything and anyone.
The day I received my first university acceptance was one of the happiest days of my life. I spent months meticulously researching school after school, program after program, and scholarship after scholarship. As a classic type-a individual, I loved to study and plan for any and every outcome. I have had my sight set on being a lawyer since I was fourteen. But what if I wanted to get my Master’s, my Ph.D., and become a professor? What if I actually wanted to become a teacher because of the tremendous impact my high school had on me? Or, better yet, I become a conflict reporter or a foreign correspondent? So many ideas, possibilities, and opportunities, and I wanted to prepare for everyone, just in case, I changed my mind.
I worked very hard during high school. I graduated with one of the top ten highest grades in my graduating class of around three hundred people. All the long nights spent studying and missing sleep and parties to complete homework would all pay off when I was able to move away from school and have that classic university experience I had heard so much about. Then the pandemic hit, and all of my classes were online, and it made little sense for me to try to get a room when my degree became my computer, and I could complete it all online.
On the first day of university classes, I remember sitting in my room, looking at the same walls I had looked at for years prior, trying to make sense of the world around me, and desperately wanting to explore and learn more about it. I felt a profound disillusionment with my life. I struggled with understanding how university courses worked, what a syllabus was that everyone was talking about, what TAs did precisely, and realizing that professors were nothing like my high school teachers said they would be like.
As I looked at my computer, feeling sorry for myself, I realized what an incredible learning opportunity was before me. I could still do most of what I wanted to do, just from the comfort of my own home. Yes, I was disappointed, and I had been looking forward to the first year since I began high school, but I was still fortunate. I had a home to study in, a laptop to learn from, scholarships to help with my tuition, and a part-time job to assist with other expenses. I was always looking for new opportunities and ways to expand my knowledge, so I got to work. Endless workshops, scrolling on LinkedIn for an unhealthy amount of time, and networking and reaching out to anyone who would listen to me. I knew I wanted two things: to make the most of my university experience and end my undergrad with an acceptance letter to a Law School or Master’s program. I was determined to do precisely that. Resilience will take you a long way.
I was happy with my grades. I joined every club I thought looked fantastic. I filled out application after application for engaging programs and volunteer opportunities and landed myself an incredible internship. But online school was still very lonely, especially during Ontario’s on-again, off-again lockdowns, “emergency breaks,” or stay-at-home orders, whatever you prefer. I missed seeing my friends and seeing the way their eyes would glow and widen before they told a joke. I missed class discussion in politics courses when you had the opportunity to pick the instructor’s brain on anything from the Fall of the Berlin Wall to the Arab Spring. The online school taught me it’s okay not to be okay and admit it if you wish things were different.
It’s important to understand that life is ever-changing, and things will not always end up the way you want them to. It will be devastating. But most times, it’s something you can’t do anything about. So you must persevere and look for a new way to fight for what you want.