The Lessons I Learned From My First Semester of University

Mental Health
Mental Health

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started my first semester. I hadn’t been in a classroom of any kind for over two years. High School was not my forte; I barely went to class, avoided doing homework at all costs, and obviously my grades were sub-par. I applied to university as a mature student and was accepted because of an exam like essay I wrote for the school this past summer. In the gap years after high school I worked long hours at multiple jobs to save money to travel. My travels heavily influenced my interest in continuing my education. Meeting lots of people who were in university all over the world really inspired me; I admired how they carried themselves and the interesting things they had to chat about. I felt second rate to these new friends of mine. When I came home I immediately inquired into what it would take for me to enrol. Of course I felt the regret of not trying harder in high school but luckily for me: I just needed to wait another three months before I had my chance to reestablish myself intellectually.

The Beginning Of The Semester

A couple of weeks ago I finished my first semester in a journalism program. I took a couple of communication classes, an introductory psychology class, and an introductory sociology class. I did well in all of them, and my GPA is high enough for me to get a couple of scholarships for next year. A sense of pride is something I’ve rarely felt throughout my life, but I’m starting to get used to it, and I just need to keep up the hard work. The semester had its ups and downs and I had my share of slumps. To my surprise, my nervousness and anxiety about being in school again was unjustified. I found everyday of class to be a fresh start. When I was struggling with a few certain topics, I realized the best way for me to start understanding was to just think of every class as a fresh start. Doing that relieved that feeling of being lost and adrift. It’s possible that this process was only successful because they were first year classes, they were not too advanced or demanding. I presume that eventually I will find out the answer to that conundrum.

The Middle Of The Semester

Writing my first true research paper was more demanding than I could ever imagine. The act of citing a paper gives me a headache. My studying techniques did me well; no failed tests and on one mid-term I had the highest grade in the class. This experience could also be a result of the classes only being first year courses. I will also find out soon enough if I am right or wrong about that guess. Before the year started my girlfriend gave me some simple yet strong advice: “make sure you do at least a little bit everyday.” She was right. Not a day went by without me studying at least a smidge. My pessimism and constant laziness took a hard hit when I realized that she was right. I finally learned that success can come if you work hard for it. I spent some time drowning in a few of my regrets after that life lesson.

Pen on notebook

The End Of The Semester

My first experience with finals was nothing compared to the horror stories I’ve heard from friends. I only had three exams and they were spread evenly out over the two weeks. At this point in the semester my motivation levels were quite low. I spent a lot of time justifying to myself that it was alright to put on a Netflix show for background noise. Some more time justifying that playing a silly game on my phone for hours was not a problem. For my sociology final, I was incredibly confident because it was my strongest class. I prepared for it but definitely not as hard as I should have. Fast forward two weeks when I received my grade: as you can imagine it wasn’t an A. This was another stiff life lesson. To never take anything, for granted. I thought I knew myself pretty well, but realizing that I had to learn that lesson the hard way was humbling.


It’s comforting to know that in only four months of being a student, I grew exponentially. Hard work is necessary to keep growing as a person. You have to work on yourself each and everyday. The work doesn’t have to be large projects because they work on themselves and present them to you when they want to. What’s important is to work a little bit everyday, even if it’s just a smidge. It’s a great feeling to realize and understand that everyday can be a fresh start if you want it to be. For those of us that struggle everyday, it can be a comfort to know that tomorrow is another chance, and another opportunity to try. Nothing can be taken for granted, no matter how confident one can be, success is never guaranteed. These life lessons that I’ve learned have transferred far beyond my life as student. I try my best to incorporate them into every day that I live. I can only hope that I continue to learn valuable knowledge academically and emotionally. I’m thrilled to see what else university has to teach me about living.