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A recent U of O graduate shares her regrets and successes as a student

“You’re going to do great things.”

That assumption was written in every single card I received on the day of my graduation from the University of Ottawa this past June. My family gushed over my accomplishment, frequently highlighting that it’s a first in our family. Their tears and grins irritated me because they were so proud of something that—in my eyes—seems like such a lackluster feat.

Many of my conscientious peers—the ones who took the time to get to know their professors and who could recite every line from classic novels like Jane Eyre—were deservingly called up to the stage to collect their diplomas and awards with cum laudes, suma cum laudes, and the even more prestigious magna cum laudes following their names, indicating they had graduated with honours.

Long before I was called to the stage, I came to the realization that my 6.2 grade point average would win me nothing more than “Victoria Caroline Dudys” followed by the sound of faint applause.

Okay, I graduated. So what? I could have done better. I could have studied harder and gotten As instead of Bs. By the end of the ceremony I was ready to strip off my itchy tights, let my hair down, and guzzle some free Caesars during lunch with my family.

Staring into my drink, I thought about the things I should have done to better my university experience. One thing I regret is not taking enough time to soak up the academics of the world around me. For three or four years you are surrounded by so much intellectual stimuli, including professors, classmates, and textbooks. Teach yourself to indulge in all of the potential learning out there. Make yourself aware of issues you and others have to face on a daily basis, like mental and physical illness, poverty, sexually transmitted infections, and all the other hardships that come with the territory of being human.

Over my four years of university I had maybe reached out to two or three professors for help or just for general conversation. I was intimidated by their knowledge and allowed my fear to get in the way of an important part of school. Learn from my mistake and get to know as many of your profs as possible. They will not only help you do better academically, but will also teach you interesting things you would never have learned in your lecture. Profs have so much to say outside of what they can cover in class. I wish I had reached out more.

It wasn’t until weeks after my grad while rummaging through my email inbox that I began to understand exactly what I had accomplished during my time in university. I was reminded that I had written an article for the Fulcrum, one that—all modesty aside—many others deemed to be important. I received an email from a reader thanking me for writing about the topic I did, telling me how much she learned and how grateful she was to have read it.

Something I wrote seemed to help make the lives of some fellow students easier, and the feeling of pride I had after seeing my hard work published bubbled out of me like an excess of detergent in a dishwasher. I didn’t have straight As, but I changed the minds of others while doing something I love.

Maybe I did waste a little of my university experience on partying, succumbing to my own fears, and giving in to laziness. I still accomplished a heck of a lot. I made plenty of lifelong friends, learned how to fend for myself, and pushed myself past emotional turmoil I never would have imagined facing before university. But best of all, I have found passions I wouldn’t have found otherwise, and I feel pretty damn confident about who I am and where I want to be in life.

Take advantage of every opportunity the U of O throws at you, and hopefully you’ll make it through like the magna cum laude student you have the potential to be—with a sense of self-confidence that will surely carry you through adult life.