There’s a First Time for Everything.

16 Sep

This has been a week of “firsts” for me. I have discovered that there is so much more truth to the old saying, “there’s a first time for everything” than I had ever before realized. I know now that there really is a first time for everything, that that “time” seems to be now, and when they say “everything”, they really do mean everything. This week, I moved out of the house for the first time. It was the first time I had ever sat in a university lecture hall. It was the first time that I sat in a classroom with more than thirty other students. It is my first time living in a city consisting of more than nine hundred people. I rode a city bus for the very first time. I used an oven for the first time. But most apparent to me, and perhaps the most tragic of all, it is the first time that I have gone more than a week without having cable TV.

I have to admit, all these changes have been difficult to get used to. But feeling a little overwhelmed was something that I expected. However, when I first moved in to residence at UTM, I discovered something that I had not expected. You see, I was told that I would be living in a townhouse with three other girls. I was excited to hear this news because I figured that living with other people would give me three new instant friends that I could go to the various residence orientation activities with. Basically, I was trying to be really positive. I pictured myself arriving at UTM, moving into my townhouse, and getting to meet my three new housemates. But instead, I arrived to find that I would be the only one in my townhouse moving in that day. I’m not going to lie to you, it was nerve-wracking being in a new place, all alone, when I had comforted myself with the thought that I wouldn’t be alone. But it worked out well enough; the residence orientation consisted of fun activities that I got to do with my neighbours and community members. My Don was also very nice and helped me to feel a little bit less lonesome. So all in all, I am not sorry that I chose to move into residence. It was a good experience and I would recommend it for any prospective students out there.  

So once this little residence fiasco was over and done with and the rest of my housemates had moved in, my anxiety level dropped significantly. I was getting used to my surroundings and comfortable living within my community. But then came that day that most students dread: the first day of classes. The night before, I was nervous. The morning of, I was nervous. I felt a bit like I was back in grade nine again. You know, that time when you bravely journeyed from a life of cubbies and crayons to those crowded, bustling halls of high school? When I flashback to my first day as a new “niner”, I remember feeling pretty small and like I didn’t quite belong in that new environment. I was excited by a new challenge, but I was also a little sad because the friends that I had known for my whole life were in none of my first semester classes. And that is exactly what I felt like during my first day of classes here at UTM: a little nervous, a little lonely, and a little small. But, I am comforted by the fact that within a week or two of high school, I had made lots of friends, went out of my comfort zone and joined a sports team, and the building felt very familiar. So the main thing that I’m taking away from this memory is that it only took a couple of weeks for me to feel at home. I remain confident that like high school, the strangeness and newness of UTM will wear off shortly and I’ll feel more at ease.

Even with a comforting memory to recall, I still found myself having to deal with these pesky nerves. The good news is, on my anxiety scale, I moved from about Level 7 Anxious on my first day of classes to about a Level 3 near the end of the week. That first day was a little rough. I found it more difficult than I had expected to switch my brain from beach/sun/tanning/fun mode to study/work/academics/class mode. I also found myself dwelling over the fact that I was starting a four-year period in a brand new place, with brand new people, brand new teachers, and brand new classes. Not to mention that those classes held hundreds and hundreds of students, which is very intimidating. I even became a little paranoid sitting in front of rows and rows of my peers in these giant lecture halls because I just felt like everyone could be staring at the back of my head, or my laptop screen, and I would never know it. This led to me feeling a bit distracted, and so then I became stressed-out thinking that I wasn’t paying enough attention to what the Professor was saying. But, luckily for me, I paid attention enough to hear from more than one Prof that the average grade for a first year student is about 65%. Needless to say, none of these experiences helped to ease my nerves.

So it’s time for the million-dollar question: how did I finally relax? Well, besides treating myself to my comfort food of choice, (extra cheesy pizza), I came to an important realization: I was officially a University of Toronto student. That first day of classes marked the start of my academic career at one of the best schools in the world. It honestly feels pretty good to be a student at a globally recognized and world-renowned university. One of my housemates is from Nigeria, and it is amazing to think that one of the reasons why she chose to come to U of T, (on the other side of the world let’s not forget), is because she was aware of its reputation for being one of the best schools out there. There are lots of students from other countries that I have met here, and it just proves that the University of Toronto is a prime institution with an outstanding global reputation. To think that I am a part of this school and its legacy makes me feel incredibly proud. All the stress and the changes that I went through seem worth it when I think about what they actually meant; they were like initiation into the best kind of exclusive club, and only by working through them was I able to gain access to a world with many exciting possibilities.

There have been a lot of first-time experiences that I have had this week, but now I know that I have also had one last-time experience; it is the last time that I will think of myself as simply a university student, instead of a true UTM student.

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