Stories From The Arch

Photo of a cherry blossom tree on McMaster campus.

What I learned in my final year

It’s been a couple of weeks since I officially finished my exams and final assignments. As this chapter of my life has come to an end, I’ve had some time to reflect on the past year. What I’ve come to realize is that even after four years of being at university, my fifth year offered me a lot of new learning lessons and opportunities for growth.

At the beginning of this school year, I wrote a blog post called Dear First Year Me, in which I wrote about all the tips and advice I would give my first-year self as a final year student. Now, I want to share some things that I was reminded about in my final year.

  1. Try something new. Since it was my final year, I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone and for me, this came in the form of volunteering. During the second semester, I volunteered as an assistant stage manager for a play on-campus. By getting involved in the play, I was able to make some new friends and got a different perspective of the campus and university life that I would have otherwise never gotten!
  2. Grades don’t always tell the full story. This year, I was reminded that grades are not always the best or the most accurate indicators of happiness or success. Although my grades this year were the best compared to previous years, I was also the unhappiest that I had ever been due to other things happening in my personal life. And this brings me to my next point…
  3. Take advantage of the services available to you on-campus. At the beginning of the school year, I assumed that my stress was only due to being in my final year and having to deal with my course load and other commitments. By November, I realized that there were other issues that were affecting my mental health that I had been neglecting for the past few years. I realized with the help of some kind friends that using the counselling services at the Student Wellness Centre might be helpful. Talking about my issues with someone who was unbiased helped me think about what I was experiencing from a different perspective and also made me realize the importance of looking after my mental health by seeking out help.
  4. Your goals might change and that’s okay. My goals at the beginning of the school year for what I wanted to do after graduation were completely different than my goals today. My main goal was to figure out what industry I was interested in working in and have a job lined up by the time I graduated. I wasn’t considering the other options that were available to me and was instead focused on sticking to this arbitrary, one size fits all, timeline of success that’s prevalent in the society of graduating and then doing more school or getting a job right away, etc. From reflecting on my undergrad experience of switching programs multiple times and doing a fifth-year, I was reminded that this timeline doesn’t align with my past experiences, as well as current interests or circumstances. So, as the end of the second semester approached, I decided that I needed to take some time to explore my interests by taking a gap year or at least a gap a few months after graduation. Even though this isn’t the plan that I thought I would have at the beginning of the school year or even at the start of my undergrad, I’m happy that I applied everything that I learned from my undergrad experiences and make my decision based on adapting to my changing interests.
  5. There is life outside of university. Towards the end of my second semester, I was really upset that I didn’t get to enjoy my final year in the way that I had hoped to with everything else that was going on in my life, especially my mental health. A popular narrative that I was exposed to before starting my undergrad was that these years would be the best years of my life, and although there were many happy memories, there were equally tough times of being frustrated and fed up with being at university. Even though these past few years have been a great journey of exploration, learning, transformation, and growth, I also hope the best years of my life are ahead of me.

Image of Manveetha Muddaluru.

About the Author

Manveetha Muddaluru is the blogger for the Student Success Centre’s Stories From the Arch blog for the 2018 – 2019 year.

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