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University can be the time of your life if you forget about your expectations

Illustration by Jennifer Vo

I couldn’t put my finger on where I had gone wrong. I partied like crazy during 101 Week, got close with a group of people on my residence floor, went out regularly on the weekends, and was genuinely inspired by several professors. I felt like I had done everything I was supposed to do in university.

But by the end of first-year I still felt dissatisfied, like I had missed the elusive point of it all. I finished the year confused; did I actually have an awful year, or was first year just really overrated?

I’m not going to blame pop culture for giving me the wrong impression of university life. If you think the love of your life is going to be some misunderstood heartthrob on the football team who’s had a crush on you ever since he saw you take off your glasses in an essay writing lecture, you’ve got a pretty ugly reality check coming your way.

My expectations for first year came from my close friends and family. My brother is 16 years my senior and he spent the majority of his university years playing rugby in the U.S. and partying like he was in an American Pie movie. And thanks to the plethora of social media we have access to today, I also compared my own first year experience to my friends’, many of whom had gone to schools in so-called university towns that are notorious for school spirit and partying.

All these photos and stories led me to expect an ideal that was impossible to reach. I had screwed myself into thinking I had botched my first-year when I actually had a great time. I figured if something wasn’t photo-worthy as the best experience of my life, it had to have been a mistake.

But you’re going to have days and nights where you don’t want to go out. There are going to be people on your residence floor and in your classes who you just don’t get along with. There are going to be parties that aren’t great, people who don’t know how to kiss, and days when you just want to be in your bed back home. All of that is normal and can be just as good as the rest of it.

I figured this out when I came back to Ottawa last month. On my first night here, I drank wine, laughed hysterically, and slept over at a good friend’s apartment. I caught up with old friends over beers, danced like a psycho at a club, and made plans to do it over and over again.

Coming back here after the summer, I realized that I actually had a good time last year. I made more friends and memories than I gave myself credit for. I started focusing less on having a great time that I could show off on Facebook and Instagram, and more on doing things that just make me smile.

So to the first years: You’re not a loser for thinking that every party you go to could be the greatest party you’ll ever attend, that every person you meet could be the best friend you’ll share coffee with in 20 years, and that every cutie you pass on campus could be The One, or the greatest hook-up you’ll ever have. Just don’t forget that you’re not a loser for not wanting to play beer pong every weekend