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Life Science at University of Toronto (St. George)

Ona (Year 2)

What did you wish you knew before going to your university? What made you choose this institution over all others? What are advantages and disadvantages of your institution or campus? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your university. 

I wish that I knew the difference between university and high school: not only a brief description like "the workload is going to be heavier; the atmosphere is going to be very different" etc., but how to develop a healthy and positive mentality to deal with the changes and the new lives. Unlike high school, there are many opportunities in universities. It is very important to reach out and explore the opportunities on your own. Being open-minded is one of the most important lessons I have learned outside the class, alongside effective time management and organization skills. 

What did you wish you knew before choosing your specific program? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your program?  List any advice for incoming first-year students about your program of study.

(I have just finished my first year, and have not experienced much after choosing my specific program. I cannot comment/ give useful advice for this question) 

What was your favourite university experience? 

The best memory of my first year in university, besides having fun with friends, is when I have finally gotten used to the new environment. I have never been good at adapting to a new environment. I spent a much longer time than most of my friends on understanding how and what "university life" is like. When everyone else was already on the right track, knowing what they wanted to do, I was still puzzled about what I should do, what I could do, and what I wanted to do. I was lagging behind and because of that, I hated myself. Yet, soon I realized that blaming myself is not going to change what had already happened. I wanted improvements. I started taking action. I tried my best to replace the old/bad/inefficient habits with better ones. I started to pay attention to how my friends studied, and how they arranged their time efficiently to finish all their tasks. I embedded their good habits into my outdated methods, to give things an upgrade. As the ways of how I organize ideas and things changed, the way of my perspective of viewing things changed as well. My attitude towards learning changed, and I have changed from a passive learner to an open-minded learner. I now have gained the courage to take steps out of my comfort zone and to explore all the potentials out there. I am more willing to encounter unknowns. In my first year, getting used to the new lifestyle is the most heart-lightning experience. With the desire of improving, I have opened up the gate of "chances" for myself. It is not like I got a 4.0 GPA, but now I find joy and fun in exploring the university, the sea of opportunities of knowledge, learning, career, friends, self-improvements, inspirations, etc. 

What was your least favourite university experience?

Speaking of the worst university experience, it would definitely be writing a 9 a.m. test. The only thing that could be possibly worse is writing two or more tests/ exams on the same day. As a commuter, I take almost an hour and a half to get to campus. I usually do not get enough rest and get even more tired during the commute. Luckily enough, I have met friends that would let me sleep over during the midterm weeks and the busy weekdays. The time saved up from commuting all went to my time on my friend's bed - saving me all the way from dying right away in the exam center. 

What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?

I have only had a year of the university experience, but still have some tips that might be useful. A new problem requires a new resolution. The university is full of opportunities, not only learning from the professors or the TAs, but also from your peers. Observe and learn from them. Improve yourself from learning both the others' good and bad. e.g. My old way of notes-taking is far less effective than my friends'. I have learned some skills and some software that helps me with making notes and organization. School can be overwhelming and time-demanding. Yet it is not the only thing you need to worry about. Be open-minded: being able to take everything as a chance to learn and improve will allow you to walk further from where you are. Explore down the stream, greet opportunities with a rational and tolerant mindset, instead of shutting them out. You can be the one earning, and also the one losing. 

If you were able to take electives, what was your favourite elective? If you were not able to take electives, what was your favourite course and why?

I don't have any classes I particularly like because there is always novel and interesting knowledge in every class that I have taken. Subtracting the midterm/ exam part, they are all interesting to me. 

Additional Comments

Be open-minded, do not be scared of new changes. Anything on your way can become a part of your knowledge.



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