Well, you made it. You are here. Now what?
Entering university is exciting but it can also be intimidating. I know because I have been there and have taught hundreds of post-secondary students just like you.
The first thing you need to do is breathe. You are at Western for a reason. The hard work you have put in during your high school years has been recognized. You were admitted because Western believes you can succeed here and beyond.
Easy for me to say? Maybe. After all, I do not have to worry about new classes, people I have never met and professors with more degrees than LeBron has championships. Added to this is the fact that you may be living away from home for the first time, far from family and friends. But hold on. Like I said, I have been where you are now – albeit a few years ago – and I can give you some advice because of this.
First, London is a city that will offer you a wonderful university experience and the opportunity for more. We have a downtown full of great restaurants and vibrant arts and cultural institutions including theatres, art galleries and museums. Green spaces are plentiful too, not only in the downtown but across London. After all, we are referred to as the forest city for a reason. Experiencing the city in these ways will make you feel at home. This is absolutely critical for easing your transition into student life.
On that point, get ready for some of the best years you will experience. Friendships that will last a lifetime and professors who will inspire you to learn more about the world you live in and ask the kinds of critical questions that can make it better.
There are more than 250,000 Western alumni and they are making contributions to our economy and society both nationally and internationally. They do so, at least in part, because of the experience of learning provided by Western and its affiliate colleges at Huron, Brescia and King’s. It is your turn now.
At the same time, you need to take responsibility. I mentioned above that I have taught post-secondary students. Those that succeed are those who work the hardest. This does not mean that you can never leave the library – note: if you have been in Weldon for more than 10 hours, you really ought to go home. Yet, you should take your studies seriously. Choose courses and programs you are passionate about. Keep track of your assignment deadlines in a calendar. Talk to your professors and teaching assistants.
Contribute to class discussions and come prepared to learn every day. Find organizations in London that promote a cause or idea you care about and volunteer. If you do not know your passions yet, do not worry, you will soon because the university experience has a funny way of making that happen. Doing these things can help prepare you not only for a career but will instill the discipline needed to succeed in life.
One last point. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed: readings will pile up, exams will be difficult and you may not always achieve the grades you want. But life is about learning and growing from such situations. All too often, students keep these stresses to themselves. What is known — and what my experience in the classroom has made clear — is that challenging circumstances can be overcome most effectively when students reach out for support. This can mean speaking to your instructor about how you can do better or it can involve accessing the mental health supports available on campus. There is no shame in this. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
This is a new chapter. Embrace it. When you do, you will give yourself the chance to transform as a person and gain new opportunities that will define your future.
I wish you the very best in your post-secondary journey. If my office can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Peter Fragiskatos is the Member of Parliament for London North Centre, and a Member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Prior to being elected in October 2015, he taught political science at King’s University College at Western University. He holds a Masters of Arts degree from Queen’s University and a PhD in International Relations from Cambridge University.