How did you decide to go to SFU?
I attended the sessions presented by the different universities and visited the campuses for their information sessions. In high school, I joined a summer film camp at the SFU downtown campus, where I was mentored by other SFU Film students. Because my experiences with the camp, that’s how I became interested in attending SFU.
What has your journey been like in university?
I started in the Art, Performance & Cinema Studies program at SFU’s School for Contemporary Arts. I learned in my first year that fine arts weren’t for me, so I took time off from school to work. During that year off, I was diagnosed with mental and chronic illnesses, which presented me with a new set of challenges. I came back to school part-time as a World Literature major. This program felt like it was a step in the right direction. Since then, I’ve transitioned over to the English program and taken on a minor in Counselling & Human Development.
What does an average week look like for you?
Since I take 1 to 2 courses per semester, I have a more flexible schedule. I’m then able to control my schedule so that I have more time to rest and take care of myself. I work, volunteer, and attend meetings for student groups and clubs. I’ve had a great time as part of the Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance.
Why should people consider university?
University isn’t for everyone, and there’s no shame in not wanting to pursue it. However, if you’re interested in attending university, you owe it to yourself to try. Attending university has introduced me to like-minded and diverse groups of people. It teaches you about yourself, about employment and volunteer options, and about your community.
How can I deal with feelings of uncertainty and being overwhelmed?
Remember your journey is just as valid as anyone else’s, no matter where you go or how long it takes. Sometimes it’s easier to figure out what doesn’t work for you before discovering where your interests lie. Try breaking down your large intimidating goals into a series of smaller, manageable checklists. Go as small as you need and take things day by day.
What if I’m not ‘smart’ enough for university?
Some of the most intelligent and insightful people I’ve met were the ones who didn’t follow a ‘conventional’ path. Universities have academic advising, programs, peer tutors, and academic writing resources and services to help you achieve academic success. Failure can mean you have to re-evaluate your path and start again, but it never means your life is over. It’s also important to remember that there are multiple types of intelligence and all of them are important.
Postsecondary isn’t accessible for me -- what should I do?
You and your perspectives are valued and need to be heard. Admissions advisors and recruitment coordinators are valuable resources. Universities have a variety of financial aid and resources to help you thrive, such as Health & Counselling Services, the Centre for Accessible Learning, and BIPOC-specific supports and healing spaces.
What has been the biggest lesson from your post secondary experience?
Don’t let the stress of your plans consume you - they rarely work out (at least not in the way you expect). There’s no single/correct way to be a student, or a person for that matter.
What do you wish you had known before starting university?
The importance of prioritizing my wellbeing and avoiding comparison. Before getting diagnosed, I burnt myself out trying to keep up with able-bodied folks around me. Productivity culture is a major influence for everyone, but it doesn’t have to be a specific way. Your worth as a person is a complex and nuanced entity that cannot be dictated by any single trait such as your GPA or performance. Focus on enriching your life and learn from your mistakes.
Any last thoughts?
A useful tool has been my book of inspirational quotes that I refer to whenever I’m feeling down (there are a lot by Uncle Iroh from Avatar the Last Airbender). Finally, allow yourself to get excited! You get to begin building a life that you love. Go forth and find what makes your heartbeat!
This blog was originally posted on the SFU Surrey-TD Community Engagement Centre website on October 20, 2021.