Lessons learned by a graduating student

Photo by: Andrew Neel on Unsplash

I’m just a few short weeks away from finishing my undergraduate program and want to share some lessons I learned that can help get you through your time at Brock and not the type where I learned about maintaining eye-contact when talking to employers.

Before sitting down to write this article, I scanned the Internet for student advice pieces to see what others are saying about the topic. Many “student advice” pieces seem generic and focus on lending advice to set students up for success once they graduate, such as outlining the “true meaning of networking,” whatever that means. But, let’s face it, when you’re a first or second-year  student in a four-year undergraduate degree, your entrance into the workforce is not likely to be your only priority: first, you need to get through the gruelling and seemingly never-ending cycle of class, assignments, exams—repeat. 

Give people a chance

It’s a common thing to do in first year: you’ve just started in a new environment and your instinct is to find people with the same interests, characteristics, and goals as you. While this is mainly harmless – and actually good for finding “your people” – don’t let yourself fall into a pattern of being judgemental and/or blocking out people who aren’t exactly like you. 

Maybe there are people in the same program as you who have a completely different vibe from you. What’s the harm in striking up a conversation before the start of a seminar? Being receptive to friendships or even just acquaintances is a good character trait to have as you never know who you’ll meet or what you will learn, and, most of all, it will make the isolating experience of being a student less lonely. 

In my time as a student, it seems that the people who struggle the most – whether it be with grades or just mentally – are those who choose to judge or gossip about people instead of being intentionally kind. I’ve found, especially recently, that no matter where I am on campus, there are people talking badly about others. Don’t get me wrong, I get that it’s a fun, even normal, type of conversation to engage in, but it’s important not to get  trapped in a cycle of negativity and instead be open to meeting new people.

Capitalize on Brock-related activities

Everyone gets absolutely berated with this one when they start a Brock: it’s no wonder, the school prioritizes student satisfaction and experiential learning. However, it is actually great advice. Partying, hanging out with friends in your dorm, or going shopping are all fun times, but capitalizing on Brock-related activities can really benefit students. 

Going to the homecoming hockey game, participating in the grape stomp, or even just joining a club are good ways to not only meet people but also take advantage of the free activities that Brock has to offer. By becoming immersed in this sort of social life, campus can feel like a place that you want to be rather than it being a chore to drag yourself there for classes every day. Of course, some people aren’t as privileged to make this decision – such as if they have work or family commitments – but even then, there are many after-hours events with low time commitments. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I decided to join in on my roommate’s Anime Club party she was hosting – a club totally outside of my interests/comfort level – and it was a super fun time and introduced me to people I would have never met before.

Find study spaces that work for you

This one is something that I really wish I had figured out sooner. Is it fun to study with your friends in the library? Yes. Does it mean you are going to be productive or produce work you’re proud of? Probably not. Of course, sometimes these types of environments can be good for students, but it’s also important to find spaces that work for you and your study needs. 

I’m not just talking about the conventional study spaces, either. The library, Cairns building, market, and Plaza can offer good study spaces, but there are also some hidden gems around campus that can be a nice change of scenery. One of my favourites in the warmer parts of fall and spring is the picnic tables down by Alphie’s Trough. Especially in the fall, when the leaves are falling, people are passing by on the hiking trails, there’s a great  WiFi signal, and few people sit there to study, so you won’t have a hard time finding a table. 

Another hidden gem is the upper floors of Welch Hall. On the third floor, in particular, there is a table looking out over the bus loop that has enough space for two people or one if you need space for papers and textbooks. It’s a quiet area – especially in the evening – with nice lighting, bathrooms nearby, and outlets, and you’re not far from General Brock if you need a study snack. 

Heading off campus to study might also be a good option. There are a few surrounding Starbucks locations that usually offer good study atmospheres, or, my favourite, Mahtay Café downtown.

Wherever it is, take time to find the best study environments for you that are actually conducive to getting work done. Last week, I even discovered that the Brock saunas are good spots for reading.

Get involved in the surrounding community

Outside of Brock, there are many ways to get involved in the St. Catharines community that can help make the region feel like home, especially for students who are new here. There are so many activities happening around, most of which are welcoming to students. 

If you’re into politics, campaigning for municipal, provincial, or federal candidates can be a way to meet people and make a difference in the community. There are also various activity-related clubs and recurring events that happen, like open mic nights at Mahtay or the Corners Run Crew – an inclusive running group that anyone can join. 

Take it from me, four years of university feels like a lot, until suddenly, it’s over. Whether you take this exact advice or not, don’t wait until the last minute to make the most of your university experience.

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