• The Mentorship Spot

How Being Involved Improved My University Experience

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

By Waell Khalife


My name is Waell Khalife, I just finished my fourth-year double majoring in political science and criminology. I am on the Western men’s varsity basketball team and I’m responsible for their social media and serve as the director of basketball operations. At the moment, I also enjoy playing video games such as 2K and exercising.


What extracurriculars have you been involved in?


Like I mentioned, I’m part of Western’s varsity basketball team and I’m also a part of the Fashion and Lifestyle Society at Western. Because I have a heavy course load and the basketball season encompasses most of the year, I have to pick and choose extracurriculars wisely, so that I don’t over commit myself.


How did you decide which extracurriculars you got involved with?


I looked at the commitment level necessary for each one. I knew basketball would be a heavy commitment before going into it. For example, there was a stretch this year where we had away games for a month straight, so we were constantly on the road on day trips and overnights. On those days, I knew I had to ensure I had nothing else going on and that I finished my schoolwork early. Thus, I have to make sure I have no overlap between commitments which can be challenging. I chose the Fashion and Lifestyle Society because I enjoy modelling and I try to balance it with basketball and my schoolwork. Currently, the commitment level for Fashion and Lifestyle Society is low, but I’m hoping to get more involved with the club next year.


Being as busy as you are with basketball how did you know you would have time to get involved with the Fashion and Lifestyle Society?


I just took a risk! I wouldn’t recommend anyone do this unless you know what you’re getting into. At the time, I was looking for something else to get involved with so that I could have a greater breadth of experiences for my master’s applications next year. Knowing that, I just threw myself into it, and I enjoyed it.


How do you balance school, extracurriculars, and other parts of your life?


Time management is key. I usually set a time slot for everything. For example, in the morning I set two hours for the gym after which I go to the library and finish my schoolwork for the day. Usually, the next two hours I have classes or practice to attend. Once I’m done being on campus, I head home and meal prep for the next week or so depending on how busy I am. Sometimes, I don’t have time to go the gym or a practice, but I ensure that I don’t let that become a habit.


Do you have advice on how to stay consistent with your schedule?


It’s all about self-discipline and commitment. You have to ask yourself how much you value what you’re doing and committing to it.


What is the most useful time management technique you’ve learned throughout university?


I use the Pomodoro method where I study in 25-minute sessions with 5-minute breaks in between. Doing this four times a day has been the most beneficial thing I’ve learned. At the start of university, my grades dropped from high school, which can happen to many first-year students. However, studying more efficiently has given me more time and allowed me to do more. On top of that, I made sure to pace myself throughout university. A lot of students want to finish school in four years and get out. Instead, I would recommend taking your time and putting yourself in a position to succeed. For me, that meant taking four courses per semester instead of the regular five, which has helped me perform better. Overall, I would emphasize that you pace yourself and not see school as a sprint, but rather a marathon.


Looking back on your undergrad, what is one thing you’re happy you did and one thing that you would change?


I’m really happy that I took risks throughout university. I went into unfamiliar things with the mindset that I have a lot to gain and not being afraid of new situations. The worst thing I did was slacking off in first year. Doing so has come to bite me, I think.


How do you think not being as engaged in first year impacted you?


For a start, I didn’t have good grades and it led me to develop poor lifestyle habits such as skipping class and not being a good student. But as university has progressed, I’ve learned more about myself and how to develop a healthier lifestyle, which is really important to learn. Even if you’re not engaged in your learning as a student, university will help you develop a routine and healthy lifestyle.


What would you tell a first-year student who’s also found themself not being engaged with school and developing poor habits?


I would tell them to get involved in things outside of school because they may lead you to develop better habits and become a better student. For example, being part of the basketball team made me try to improve as a student for the sake of maintaining my average and staying on the team. At the end of my first year, I had to reflect on why I was doing the things I was and how they were impacting me in the long term. I had to think about what my goals in life were, which helped me focus. I realized that I wanted to do a master’s program, which made me self-reflect on how to better myself. After this, I tried to improve myself by exercising and studying more consistently with the Pomodoro method. I also started reading more and learning a new language. In essence, I would recommend that you try to better yourself every day.


As an athlete, how do you set effective goals?


I don’t focus too much on thinking about what I want to do, but I instead just try to execute. I think some people’s problem is they focus too much on trying to be motivated, instead of just going after what they want.


What’s one thing you wish you knew before university?


I wish I knew more about time management. It’s easy to say that managing your time is important, but it’s harder to do. When you start university, you’re encouraged to get involved in as much as you can, but you’re not told how to balance all of those commitments. Learning this on my own has helped me to have a more valuable university experience, at least in my opinion.


Interviewed by Rachel Snelgrove, transcribed by Adham Saad


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