First Year Reality: Learning to Regain Touch with Yourself

University is tough. By the end of first year, two of my closest friends had dropped out. 

In an article from The Globe and Mail, Lucy Fromowitz, University of Toronto’s assistant vice-president of student life, says that:

[first years] are overwhelmed with an incredible amount of reading, they [have] to listen to lectures and take notes and record the important information.

This is something high school failed to prepare us for.

The reality of first year was that it was going to be overwhelming. And it’s true, I was overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed and rapidly losing touch with myself.

I didn’t realize that I should have been asking for help. Universities have so many resources for students to utilize in order to improve academically and mentally and I did not take advantage of the things I was provided.

You should:

  • Attend professors’ office hours
  • Seek out Facilitated Study Groups
  • Focus on your own success
  • Ask questions

In first year, you need to learn to be okay with struggling, with failing, with receiving lower grades than high school, with wanting to step outside of your comfort zone.

Fromowitz says, “Our most successful students are not the ones studying 24/7; they are the ones who are getting engaged with the university community.”

MISSING: My Identity
If found, please return to owner aka Jessica aka me

In high school, I maintained an overall 96.5% average. I played sports, was editor-in-chief of the yearbook and held my position as Vice President on the student council for two years. Leadership roles were my calling and I didn’t enjoy anything more than planning holiday school dances. I graduated top of my class and thought (read: knew) I was ready to take on whatever university had to throw my way.

Riding high on the wave of my high school achievements, I landed at UTM ready to ace my classes and take on the world. But my gosh, was I ever wrong? The reality of first year hit me faster than my naïve self was prepared for.

Transitioning into University and Forgetting Who I am

The reality was that university was not like high school. I found myself struggling to stay afloat in the sea of unfamiliar faces, intimidating professors, and endless assignments and readings.

I knew how to swim, but not through these currents.

Midterms came fast, and they came powerful. I began earning lower grades than I was used to. Each day I would rush home from school to spend hours perfecting my assignments to only end up with results that did not meet my expectations. I gave out my email left and right to various clubs I wanted to join, but my thumb automatically hit delete for each “Club Meeting this Thursday!” email that filtered into my inbox. I kept to myself.

This wasn’t who I was.


Losing My Identity and How I Rediscovered it

What happened to the girl enthusiastic to try new things?
Join new clubs? Step into leadership positions?

Over the next few months, I lost touch with myself. I lost complete connection with the girl I was in high school and the person I hoped to grow to be: outgoing, determined, and successful. Pictures of my friends enjoying life living on residence at other universities filled my Instagram and Facebook news feeds. I started asking myself what I was doing wrong. Why it seemed that I was the only one struggling…I mistakenly thought that I was alone in how I felt. But I want you to know that it is okay to feel lost and overwhelmed during your transition into university.

You’re not alone!

The truth behind those photos is that everyone was struggling. The university world is so completely novel to us incoming high school graduates sometimes we forget that it is okay to stumble, trip and fall.

All that matters is our strength to get up.

Flash forward to second year and here I am, although still struggling to discover who I am, I can look back on each experience of my first year as an opportunity for growth. With my friends and family constantly supporting me, and my desire to pursue my program of study fueling the fire within me, I decided to focus on my success and the ways in which I could better myself. I stopped obsessing about what I saw on social media because I learned that what I saw was only a tiny representation of someone else’s experiences.

My passion for my courses outweighed the disappointments I faced and only encouraged me to fight harder to achieve my goals and dreams. I have begun volunteering as a writer for the school newspaper – something I was too afraid to try in first year. I also reclaimed my passion for leadership by volunteering this August with the student union as an Orientation Leader.



What Can You Do to Adjust to the Reality of First Year?

Do you find yourself drowning in the sea of university? Do you feel lost after the transition from high school?

I want you to try and channel your extra time and energy into ONE extracurricular that sparks the fire within your heart. One hour spent attending a meeting, organizing an event, or learning something new only takes up 4% of your day!pie-chart2

Now go on… get out there… gain experience and meet new people who share your interests…

Just because you have lost touch with who you thought you were, does not mean you won’t discover a connection with an even greater version of yourself.

You’re still here? GO! Reconnect and grow with your lost self!

I’ll be here, waiting to hear all about your experience. Please leave a comment or message me to share your first year journeys.

And remember, there is life beyond the textbooks too,



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