Finishing First Year

Image of UC East Hall

My first year here at U of T is wrapping up. It was in many ways everything that I expected yet far from it. The academic challenges were there, the homesickness was ever so present, and the weather was tough to muster through. Yet all and all, I’ve furthered my academic interests in psychology, become closer to my family actually as a result of the distance, and met incredibly kind and gifted friends.

Going into first year, my biggest concern was the academics. I knew what I signed up for. U of T is a prestigious and rigorous school, and I was reasonably frightened about taking my first university courses and maintaining a high GPA. Some of my friends back in Georgia even warned me (kindly) to have a backup plan in case things didn’t work out. Hearing that heightened my worries, but I knew they were looking out for me. And luckily, everything turned out well.

I’ve learned that you only get as much as you put in. With school work, I’ve spent hours jumping from one reading to the next that I sometimes need to remind myself to take a break. It’s become a habit and a worthwhile habit that has saved me from catching up in the late (or early) hours of the night. I haven’t been perfect and sometimes rush to complete my readings, but overall, I get the job done, and it saves me from procrastination when midterms and finals are near or assignments due. What matters is how much time and effort I put into the things I do in order to come close to obtaining the grade I aim for.

It’s not all work. It took some time, understandably, but I joined the Psychology Students’ Association (PSA) as a volunteer subcommittee member, and it was the perfect way to meet people. My position required that I directly interact with fellow volunteers ranging from fifty to one hundred students throughout the course of the academic year. Despite struggling to remember names, I always left the office with hilarious and lasting memories of our conversations. I’ve never found myself laughing more than when I was sitting in a comfy rolling chair in the office surrounded by other PSA members. It is very possible to make friends in other ways, but joining the association was the most direct route for me to finding like-minded people. I could interact with other first-year students who share the same concerns as I do and chat with upper-years about their experiences thus far and find out what advice they might offer. Because of their tremendous help, I’ve delved deeper into the field, searching for various possible ways to become more involved. PSA has not only been a place for socializing but also for learning about the undergraduate psychology community.

In the past few months, I’ve written a lot about the cold weather and my love for psychology. I’ve spoken about my fears and struggles when starting university, what I expected and what actually happened, but every U of T student has a unique experience. These are just my notable moments as a first-year student, but it’s fascinating to think about how others have felt about their first year thus far – what classes they enjoyed, what co-curriculars they’re a part of, and what they’ve learned about themselves through this huge new chapter in their lives.

By Elizabeth Chan