First year is a rite of passage. It marks the physical transition into post-secondary as well as, for many, a vital mental shift in perspective from teenager to adult. It is a scintillating time of new experiences, expanding horizons and getting to know oneself. It also usually contains some of people’s steepest learning curves in life. It involves plenty of uncertainty, novel methods of social interaction and above all else a complete shift in lifestyle. On top of all that, this year’s cohort is tasked with navigating all these new experiences from a distance!
Nonetheless, as it always does in the face of adversity, society perseveres. Within these uncharted territories, some truly unprecedented and special opportunities will present themselves. First year was tricky for me. My boyfriend of two years dumped me two weeks prior, and I was feeling a lot of pain and resentment. Residence move-in saw me draw inwards and become quite introverted. I was not in a mental state to put myself out there and expand my social circle beyond my roommates. Although my situation can in no way be compared to beginning university virtually from home, I can share my findings on how to navigate a less-than-ideal transition gracefully and perhaps something can be taken from it. One thing I wish I knew in first year: university, like any experience, is what you make of it. In the risk of being cliché, you get out what you put in. I, despite my depression, did not take advantage of the mental health resources available to me and did not seek support from anyone I knew. I thought I could solve my problems by trying harder and forcing myself into uncomfortable situations. I cannot stress how wrong this was. I eventually realized, once the proverbial lightbulb turned on in my head and I started to look into it, that I had options to help me get out of my spiral. In my experience, McMaster is one of the most supportive and inclusive universities for its students. There are countless life-changing mental health and student support systems in place for members of the Mac community, whether you’re looking for career or academic advice, mentorship, counselling or even just guidance. You are NOT supposed to have it all figured out or go it alone. In the face of the challenges this pandemic is posing on its incoming students, the university has doubled down on student support services, such as Horizons, Archway, the Youth Wellness Center, etc.! Not to mention a great number of student-run initiatives such as the McMaster Student Union’s Women and Gender Equity Network, PRIDE Community Center, Student Assistance Plan, and Ombuds. Note: All of these resources are available by phone and their links are below. Nobody is too cool to get involved, and when you find a way to do so that suits your interests, you will find wonderful people that you will connect with just as I did, whether you meet them in person or online. If I could go back, I would tell myself not to judge anyone immediately; first impressions aren’t always spot on, and people are always more nuanced than they let on. Everyone has a story to tell, as long as you have the courage to ask them about it. The world is your oyster; you’re starting university, anything can happen!
Some useful support resource links:
Written by: Elsa Bassi