Looking Back: A Graduate’s Perspective
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Written By Mylynh Nguyen
Hi, my name is Mylynh Nguyen! I graduated in June 2018 with a Biology degree from the University of Waterloo. I had the opportunity to work in an agricultural lab, pharmaceutical marketing and teach abroad! I am currently working in the pharmaceutical industry in the patient support program sector. My friends describe me as someone who enjoys meaningful conversation and good company. I want to be of services to others and hope my advice will resonate with you. As a side project, I created guides for the top universities in Canada on resources I wished I knew about. These guides have links to academic support, career resources, housing information, study tips, free food and textbooks for your university. My goal is to help you transition to university so connect with me on Instagram @advicewithmy.
What was the toughest part of university for you?
The toughest part was the pressure to do well and feel the need to have everything under control. Surrounded by brilliant individuals, it was hard not to compare my own success to others. I felt pressured to achieve high grades, apply for medical school and have my career path figured out.
How did you overcome this?
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting involved in university. I taught Business English in Taiwan, volunteered for international peer mentoring groups and was part of Let’s Talk Science. I no longer felt pressured to confine to a linear science path and follow the medical school route. If I didn’t challenge myself to try something new, I would not have discovered my love for teaching and talent to lead others. With every new volunteer experience, I learned important skills that influenced who I am today. It was a peaceful realization to let go of the pressure! So, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and get involved. You can only learn about your strengths and weaknesses through your own experiences.
What’s one piece of advice you feel would help someone who goes through a similar situation in their future?
If something piques your interest, give it a chance and join. If you don’t like it, you have the flexibility to join another organization. It can be an overwhelming experience but try it out! Have experiences outside of your studies as it will differentiate you from others. The best feeling is meeting like-minded individuals with the same interest and passion. You’ll also build a strong support system to keep you motivated during hard times.
How do you push past situations in which you feel you’ve failed?
I had a vision of how first-year would pan out but it didn’t play out how I imagined it. I felt demotivated by the grades I got and the lack of connections I made during my first year. I felt like a failure because in my mind I felt I tried my hardest and I was sacrificing sleep. It was only after I spoke to older students in my program and academic advisors who provided me with new insight. I realized I was focused on the meticulous details and not studying effectively. In retrospect, I did not understand the course objectives and the big picture concepts. People with more experience helped me manage my time schedule and to study smarter. Sometimes we need an academic advisor to help us fix our old habits and learn new techniques to be better.
How do you recommend university students seek out support (academic or otherwise) if needed?
University websites can be overwhelming so let’s connect and I can send you the guide for your university. For academic support, it took some time before I found the right community. Every academic advisor is different, and you never know who’s advising style will resonate with you better. The university has many resources so reach out and someone will help you. There are residence dons, on-campus tutoring for first-year classes, library workshops, and all year-round academic sessions. Please make use of these important resources to make the most out of your academic experience.
Having recently graduated, what do you feel was the most important thing you learned in university that has helped you post-university?
The most important thing would be the connections I make during my studies. Start sooner than later to build a meaningful network and help others when you can. Attend your professors’ office hours and talk to your TAs (teaching assistant) for advice. Networking and finding the right people matter as they will be your biggest advocate once you graduate. You may need help one day and your network can connect you with a future employer or even help you cope with daily life struggles.
Looking back, what would you have liked to add or subtract from your university experience to make it better?
I wished I was aware of the academic and career resources available on campus. After graduating, many of the resources are not free and it was hard to set up a meeting due to work conflict. The career centre has great resources for your job search, LinkedIn profile and career advisors to help you with your resume and interview skills. I completed assessments which help me better understand my strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. I felt pressured from my surroundings to do well and I wished I connected with my career advisor earlier. They helped me understand it is a shared experience and I was not alone in this fear and pressure. At the end of the day, it is helpful to ask yourself what you need to do to get different results and this will help guide you in the right direction.
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