By Ann Karras
The end of the semester is bittersweet. It marks the end of classes that have consumed your energy over the past months and become your life during the last few weeks of school. There’s a confusing melancholy to working hard for something that ends abruptly. You will carry the skills you’ve learned with you, but the cramming and memorization may not prove useful beyond surviving finals. University is organized to direct your focus within a particular field, to hone the skills required by your major and commit you to a specific subject. This leads to the development of a boring routine.
As a science student, I’m surrounded by students striving to enter research and medicine, which are highly competitive fields. This sense of competition narrows our focus, until school and a good GPA become the centre of our lives. Understandably so, as we only have so much time and patience. Under the pressure of success, the prospect of undertaking new challenges for the sake of adventure often seems unappealing. Don’t let that stop you.
University should not be the best years of your life, but the years in which you learn to live the best life possible. This involves taking risks, making mistakes, trying new hobbies and learning your limits. Branch out of your comfort zone to understand what is important to you and where your talents lie. Learning new skills and opening up to opinions that differ from our own alters the way we approach problems and interact with the people around us.
We all attend a large institution with a diverse student body. We have countless resources available including clubs, fitness classes, seminars and volunteer opportunities. Yet there still remains a segregation between faculties. Joining an established club or group feels intimidating, especially for the first time. However, the benefits far outweigh the awkwardness and uncertainty. Our many exercise programs are a good example. You might feel weird showing up for a dance class with a bunch of strangers, but physical activity boosts brainpower and happiness. Signing up for fitness class will help keep you committed.
Give people from other faculties a chance. Writing them off as stereotypes ruins the opportunity to broaden your perspectives. You might not change your mind about the oilsands or gay marriage, but talking to someone from a different background can refresh your own opinions and force you to question your preconceptions.
Don’t live your life like a story that has already been written. Your degree doesn’t have to define every aspect of your life. As a cellular and molecular biology student faced with endless memorization, I learned that the hard way. School can make you miserable. Fear, sadness and stress will consume you if you don’t fight back. Find things to do — give your mind and body a break from monotony. This year I took advantage of yoga in That Empty Space, the University of Calgary Fencing Club and volunteer opportunities at the Gauntlet. Now I can say I practice yoga, wield a sword and know how to “get loose.”
These activities also introduced me to people I would not have otherwise met, providing me with supportive relationships that helped me through a rough semester. If you are interested in trying something over the summer, a quick Google search will tell you the options available. So get out and start exploring the city before spring finishes breathing life into it. Meet new people, taste new foods and get to know the person you’ll be growing old with — you.
The Gauntlet wishes you a happy summer.