The Mentorship Spot
Figuring Out Where You Belong in University
By: Amanda Ball
My name is Amanda and I will be starting my third year at the University of Guelph this fall studying Biological Science. In this article, I’ll be talking about my experience figuring out where I belong in university. As a bit of a background, I have changed my major/minor almost every semester since I started, and that is okay! I have also been heavily involved on campus as a student leader and now as a staff member. I worked for two years as President of my residence halls, advocating for students and working with university staff. This upcoming year, I will be a member of the residence staff, working to plan and implement programming for students.
“Belonging” is something I’ve always struggled with, but in recent years I’ve learned that my definition of “belonging” was wrong. I thought I would be happy and would “belong” as soon as I surrounded myself with people who appreciated me. What I have now come to realize is that there is no point in working hard to reach a goal that you’re not actually interested in reaching. In my case, that was veterinary school. As soon as I realized I wasn’t going to be happy on that path and made changes to my plan, I realized that where you “belong” is wherever you want to be. It is ultimately your decision where you want to go in life – you can ask others for input, but ultimately it comes back to you and where you want to go in life.
If I could go back in time to my last year of high school, when I was applying to universities and trying to pick a path for the future, I wish I had understood that I wasn’t necessarily making life changing decisions. I made all my decisions based on what I planned to do as a career, without thinking about what I truly enjoyed. My biggest mistake was getting caught up in my end goal instead of focusing on the present and seeing where it could take me.
As a student entering university, or even one already there, you can do so many things to figure out where you belong and where you will be truly happy. For me, this meant getting involved on campus to get a feel for what I truly enjoyed. After all, when you truly love doing something, it doesn’t feel like work anymore. There are so many opportunities on campus, many of which are more in-depth than you have ever experienced before. Trying something new will allow you to experience the good and the bad sides of it so you can see if it is truly where you belong. For me, this realization resulted in me switching majors to a program that allowed me more freedom to focus more on what interested me. I made this decision after planning courses for the future and realizing they were classes I had to take instead of classes I got to take.
Another thing I have come to terms with is the fact that things will never go as planned; what is important is what you make of the unexpected. For me, this means taking online classes this upcoming fall that I otherwise never would have because of my fear of sitting alone in lectures. I am taking advantage of a bad situation (COVID-19 forcing all classes to be online) by allowing myself to do something I have always wanted to (taking these courses which are outside of my comfort zone).
Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, ask for help when you need it! There are so many people available to support you with your academics, looking for jobs or internships, or with anything else you are struggling with. The only way they can help is if you ask, so be brave and take a leap of faith. You won’t regret it!
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