Growth in degrees

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It feels like eons since I’ve heard a “Check, one, two...” Neonbrand via Unsplash

Looking from the beginning to the end of a BA

The return to on campus classes was a time to signify a new beginning after almost two years of the same repetitive nonsense. For many students, the concept of going to school in-person meant that they’d be able to get out of the house, get some fresh air, get their steps in. and socialize with their friends and colleagues. Although I was absolutely dreading the return of in-person classes, I found myself being excited once I was immersed in them.

I personally believe that school is one of the best ways to build a routine. I need a routine, but more than that – I need a to-do list, otherwise I cannot function whatsoever. By the time we had returned, I had forgotten what in-person school life felt like, but I am slowly reminded of the aspects of in-person school life that I always loved, one being how easy it is to stay healthy. I enjoy going on walks across campus. I love taking the long way just so I can get my steps in. For someone who does not always have the time to go to the gym, getting steps in is the best way for me to remain fit.

Back in 2018, I was a first-year student. I was a nervous wreck, I was afraid of failure, and I had absolutely no confidence. As a fourth-year student today, I am much worse than that.

Kidding. I believe that I am no longer the scared, naïve little girl I was back then. University is trial and error. It is a time for you to figure out what works and does not work for you. The more classes you take and the more you are challenged, the more your academic confidence and self-esteem grows. You cannot improve without failing.

I am grateful that I was able to experience college life by not starting my degree in the middle of the pandemic. During my first year, I would journal everyday about the stress and pressures of university. As a daughter of first-generation immigrant parents, I am the first woman in my entire family generation to pursue higher education. I don’t have anyone I can consult when it comes to the nitty-gritty of university life. Being an only child, the burden falls onto me.                                 Furthermore, I was in a brand-new space with brand new people. Everything was extremely new to me, and I found that extremely difficult. I can’t begin to describe the buckets of tears that I cried during my first year. I must have cried an entire ocean. Over the years, I have had to train myself to be resilient enough to accomplish everything that I do in school.

I am not the most confident person, but I do notice some improvements. For starters, I have built a strong cohort of colleagues and people I know I can consult with if I need advice. Secondly, I find myself slowly coming out of my shell and having the courage to speak in front of my classmates and professors. I used to avoid speaking in groups and would keep to myself. I still avoid speaking as much as I can, however I am not afraid to do so anymore.

One blessing that comes with being close to completing my degree is being on friendly terms with my professors. I think having a mentor is crucial to the success of every student. It’s important to have someone you can go to for academic advice, outside of your advisors. The best way to build long-lasting connections is to engage with your professors.

University comes with a lot of adulting. For most, adulting comes with a side of
growing pains and tears. The problems I had in my first year seem like nothing to me now. In some ways, I am shocked that I was stressing over things that did not deserve to be stressed over. In my first year, everything affected me greatly. I would stress and worry over the most idiotic things on earth. My philosophy as I get older is to pick and choose the things that are worth stressing and crying over. This might sound ridiculous, but I save my mental breakdowns and worries for things that matter. Between the pandemic, university, and life in general, I cannot be bothered to give space to every issue. There is a difference between ignoring your problems and picking the ones that matter. Although, I am sure a therapist might tell me otherwise.

One of my favorite places on campus is the Luther College chapel. There is a tiny journal at the entrance. A few weeks ago, I was in the area, so I decided to go upstairs to the chapel for some peace and quiet. Upon entering the place, I found the journal. As I looked through it, I found entries I wrote along the years from 2018 up until now. As I was reading them, I saw how I wrote about all the problems I was facing each year.

It was a very humbling experience that forced me to evaluate my life and my progress. I saw the young girl who started university with all these hopes, dreams, and expectations. How naïve I was. Today, I am not as naïve as I once was. I know better, and I’m aiming to do better in every single aspect of my life. I was always worried about how things would turn out, and lately, I am learning that with time, everything will fall into place. It always does.

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