Finding Your Place at Western

A Student Walking Towards the UCC on Campus.

Written by: Kitt Kong, recent graduate from the Urban Development and GIS program
Image source: Unsplash, Nathan Dumlao

I still remember the day I got my offer of admission in the spring of 2019. I had taken a gap year because truthfully, at the end of grade 12, I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet. Oddly enough at that point in time I hadn’t seen Western’s gorgeous close-knit campus, yet I knew for some reason that Western University was where I wanted to be. Sounds like a cheesy love story, I know. After accepting my offer, I was super excited to leave Toronto and do my own thing. However, I was worried about fitting in with thousands of other students there. After all, the school had an enrollment of about 30,000 students.

Growing up, I was the “floater” friend. That meant that, while I had multiple groups of friends, I felt like I didn’t truly belong with any of them. Not that they weren’t my friends, but I saw how much closer they were to each other without me. That led to me worrying about this same fate trailing me to my venture to London, Ontario. This was due to my family moving around a lot when I was younger, causing me to hop schools every few years.

September soon rolled along, and I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness. I kept repeating in my head everything I was going to do because I planned it all out to perfection. I thought I was going to adjust to university without any problem: do well in school, make friends everywhere I go, and have time for everything I wanted to do on the side. I got hit with the reality of transitioning, and the difficulty of maintaining balance in the busy schedule of first year.

It was only when I let go of my feeling of needing to control everything, that it all started to fall into place. I stopped forcing myself out there in spaces I was uncomfortable in, and I made connections in various places, some even unusual. I sought opportunities that resonated and aligned with my goals. Often traced with anxiety, throughout the learning process, I accepted that this experience just is. It will push you out of your comfort zone leading to personal growth and will be different for everyone.

Some of the obvious tips for finding your place include attending orientation events, making social connections at parties, and joining clubs you find an interest in. You’ve probably heard them many times before in preparation because it is good advice. Pretty much, they’re all telling you to be yourself. But what if you don’t know yourself and what you like? After all, university is a good time to explore yourself and what your ambitions may be.

In my experience, I took the time to explore my interests, socialized with many different people and focused on improving myself. I came into Western pursuing PPE – Politics, Philosophy, Economics. I ended up with a degree in Urban Development and Geographic Information Science. I loved the geography electives I ended up taking and found my passion for architecture. I decided to say hello to people in classes, Western Recreation Centre, all across campus and made the most amazing group of like-minded friends. Through this experience of self-discovery, I also found ways to improve upon myself, from working out to broadening my understanding, learning the diverse perspectives of the community.

I took the time to identify what made me feel good, whether it was friends or activities I really liked. A common example is that there’s often a huge pressure to go out, but it can be draining if you aren’t that type of person. Listening to and understanding your emotions is critical, leading to acceptance.

With all this pressure to perform, please remember to be gentle with yourself. There’s no need to force yourself to conform to groups that don’t add value to your life. Finding a balance is difficult in your first year, so you have to prioritize the things that are important to you, possibly even finding connections between them. There is no hurry so be sure to take in everything in your first year including just the mundane occurrences, as it will fly by. Isn’t it contradictory that you shouldn’t rush into your experiences, but the year will fly by?

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