I have to be quite honest about something. When I applied to the University of Ottawa, I didn’t think I would be accepted. My grades in high school were mediocre, and applying to a school in Ottawa—which was last on my on my list—didn’t boost my confidence at all.  

A couple months later, I received my letter from the University of Ottawa, with an acceptance in the general arts program. I was surprised and grateful.

In my first year, I was working towards my general arts degree. I always felt embarrassed to tell people what program I was in because I was afraid they would think I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. And, because I’m an Indian student, people often thought I should be in the science programs not in the arts.

But, the more people I told about what I was studying, the more people thought that I was making the right choice (barring my parents). I was told that it’s better to take general studies, so that you know what you’re interested in from a broader point of view.

I honestly started to like my program. It wasn’t because people were telling me that I made the right choice—okay, maybe it was—but it was also because I had plenty of options.

As my first year progressed, I began narrowing my focus. I started to realize what I was really interested in, and it sure as hell wasn’t biochemical engineering. I started to take a liking to communications and theatre. This became quite evident because my grades were higher in those courses. Well my grades weren’t that high in my first year, because effective studying didn’t really sink in at that time.

In the middle of my first year, I thought about how I could switch my program. I mean, I could take more communication and theatre courses, but for general arts, those are not mandatory.

So, I visited my academic advisor at least several times a month because I desperately wanted to change my program. She told me that the program I wanted to switch into required a certain GPA. Did you hear that? I think it was my confidence that just flew out the window.

How was I supposed to get there?

I attended some “effective studying” workshops and started going to the gym—well, at least attempted to—but I was still in the same boat.

As my first year ended, I looked back and realized I was being too hard on myself. I was setting all these expectations for myself and when I didn’t reach them, I felt disappointed and slightly depressed.

Flash forward to my second year: I am now taking courses in communications and theatre and I love it. I am still in the process of switching to a communication major or minor in theatre or visa versa.

But for now things are looking up, and to quote the great Maya Angelou: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”