Reading Time: 2 minutes

A message to incoming students

Darren Sharp | Fulcrum Staff

Illustration by Mico Mazza

I CHOSE THE University of Ottawa because of scholarship money. Very little else drew me to this campus besides the fact that I wanted to get as far away from my hometown as possible. Still, I was happy to be here and excited to get the fresh start that I so desperately needed.

A year later, I’d lost my scholarship—like nearly everyone else I knew, I’d failed to meet the ridiculously high scholarship retention standards the U of O sets—and was left wondering if I’d made the right decision. What was keeping me at this university now that the free money was gone?

While you may have arrived in Ottawa based on money, proximity, a particular program, or a list of different factors, there are many other aspects that may end up keeping you here. Two years a go, I found myself bored of this city. I felt like I’d seen everything that it had to offer. I was ready to move onto bigger and presumably better things. I swore to everyone that I was high-tailing it out of here once school was over.

One day, while I was discussing this plan with my best friend, he looked back at me and said, “Why, man? We’ve built our lives here.” And he was right. As much as Ottawa was starting to grate on me, I’d come of age in this place. I had a social circle, a part-time job, a coffee shop I called home, a thrift store where all the old lady employees recognized me, a Loblaws deli woman who smiled at me and asked where I’d been when I didn’t show up on my usual grocery day. I had a community.

The reasons we come to a university aren’t the same reasons we stay—or, in some cases, the reasons we go. By its very nature, university gives us the tools to be flexible, to throw ourselves into new situations and to meet people we never would have met before. It’s important that we don’t treat it like a movie theatre, where we may not be enjoying the film but we idly sit through it anyways because we’ve already paid for the ticket.

It sounds cliché, but this experience will be what you make of it. Go out and form your community. If you’re still here three years from now, it will be because you have a favourite tree to sit under on Tabaret lawn, not because university administrators deemed you worthy of a scholarship.