Coming to a huge university for the first time can be exciting. But, at the same time, it can be intimidating and lonely. In my first year, I felt like I didn’t have any friends or that I wasn’t going to make any friends at all.

But now that I’m in my second year at the University of Ottawa, I’ve looked at things from a more positive and hopeful point of view—or at least I try to. I’ve learned that it’s not easy to stay positive, especially when you get your first exam of the semester back and it’s not what you expect at all. Well, sometimes it can be a good thing, or maybe it’s something that needs evaluation. This means asking hard questions: what did I do wrong? And how can I improve?

With that in mind I sought to visit my student mentor once a week, and intrinsically planned out my study schedule for the month. I know it sounds intense, but I found it to be really helpful because I took the time to plan when I was going to study, what sections of a certain course I was going to focus on each day and so on. Though, I must admit, there were days where I didn’t feel like studying at all and I just started to guilt-watch The Office for the 10th time. 

Aside from exams and school, socializing for me has become more of personal goal. Since I’m involved in the theatre program, there’s always so much to look out for, such as upcoming shows at the National Arts Centre, on campus, or maybe at a small theatre company.

Recently, I overheard some of my friends say they were planning to see To Kill A Mockingbird at Ottawa Little Theatre during the weekend, and I became even more delighted when they asked whether I’d like to come. Hell, yeah! I thought.

Even though I live an hour away from campus, I still managed to go. This experience allowed me to just do things, go out, and have fun without using that as an excuse, even if I sometimes have to take two buses home.

It honestly took me a while to step outside my comfort zone and stop using my bussing situation as an excuse to avoid social events. Instead, I choose to embrace it. I’m not the only one commuting for an hour each day and, to be quite honest, I actually enjoy those bus rides. It gives me time to reflect on my day, as well as catch up on my nap time. In my first year, I hated being on the bus because I didn’t like how long the rides were. But now I figure that within that time I can get a lot done—if I choose to, that is.

Apart from the long bus rides and tedious exam planning, being in second year has helped me grow as a student and discover new things about myself as a person. I’ve learned to look at things with an optimistic eye, and to be grateful for everything that comes my way.