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Where am I Now?

by Abbigale Kernya
Managing Editor, KBI Inspire Magazine


"I met friends who squashed the loneliness that haunted me for years. I found who I was alongside an openness to try new things even if it scared me terribly. This new chapter that came rather unexpectedly completely changed my life for the better."

 Abbigale Kernya

Nearly three years ago, I wrote a piece reflecting on my first year in university. I wrote about the fear that comes with opening a new chapter in your life, the constant struggle of wondering if you made the right decision or not, and the debilitating loneliness of post-secondary that I never heard people talk about before I went off to school.


Now, I am entering my final year in university, and I figured it was due time to reflect on where I’ve been since, and how different my university experience has been since I stepped foot in my first lecture hall. 


I think in all transparency, I need to touch on the biggest change I have experienced and had to navigate since writing my first piece about university to where I stand now. I only enrolled at Trent University to take their amazing study abroad program, and finally received my acceptance to study at the University of Birmingham around a year ago. Notably, I am writing this piece from my two-bedroom apartment I rent in Peterborough—a far way away from the overcast country.


So, what happened?


Well, I had worked my entire life to be able to study abroad and if I had known three years ago that I would choose to stay in Canada, I would have freaked out in disbelief. Change is inevitable, and though there are moments I come to wish I had gone and I have to grapple with the grief of wondering what my life could have been if I’d gone, I don’t regret my decision. 


Around the time I was attending meetings at five in the morning with study abroad advisors in the UK, I received another job offer working at my school’s student newspaper. Journalism was never something that I had considered—in fact I bluntly told many people when asked what I would do with an English degree that for certain, I wouldn’t work in journalism. However, this job offer was to be the editor of the paper—something I knew would bolster connections and build invaluable experience on my resume that would help increase my chances of securing a job in the future with a sort of dismal degree. 


I knew the moment I was asked to join my co-editors that my dream of going to England was dead…for now. It took me a while to officially decline my UoB offer, and still, it seems strange to me that I am content with my decision. The job has allowed me to move out of my parents’ house and, for the first time, I feel like I got the university experience I wished so badly to have felt in my initial reflection. 


I met friends who squashed the loneliness that haunted me for years. I found who I was alongside an openness to try new things even if it scared me terribly. This new chapter that came rather unexpectedly completely changed my life for the better. My grades improved, I was known to my professors, and I became so involved with campus life that I sometimes feel like I know almost too much of the inner workings of my university.


But, as much as I don’t regret my decision, I never stop wondering what it would have been like had I declined the job offer and gone overseas. 


No doubt I would have built long-lasting memories, but I also wouldn’t have been able to guess where my life took me when I chose a path rather unconventional to my initial plans. My life has changed in so many beautiful ways—ways I never thought possible, and ways that were never in my plans.


This is not to say I will never go to England (I’m hoping to go to graduate school there!), but I think it is worth noting that sometimes our plans don’t work out like we thought they would. Sometimes life will throw you a curveball and the best thing you can do is let life happen, and not live in regret. 


Now that we’ve established what has been going through my head lately on a personal level, I feel it’s also good to lay out some cold, academic facts that I’ve learned the hard way. 


Please, for all that’s good in the world, please go to your seminars. It is so easy to fall into bad habits in university. Mine was admittedly skipping seminars in classes that I found less than favourable, and in turn not only feeling like I was missing out on my degree, but also losing a lot of attendance marks.


There are of course times that skipping is going to happen—I once skipped class to get a tattoo, probably the most “You Only Live Once” moment I’ve had in my twenties, which I’m sure is telling of me as a person. 


The days that feel long and the days when the last thing you want to do is get out of your warm bed and go walk in the cold to your evening seminar are the days where you need to go the most. I spent too much time complaining about not wanting to go to class than I actually went to class and though my academic standing is good, it could have been a lot better. 


Routines are the most important part of setting yourself up for success. Once you fall out of your routine, it can be so hard to get back into it. When I find myself feeling down or uninspired, I do tend to take days off to reset my brain; a necessary evil to get to the greater good.


So many times my mental health was suffering these past few years, and the best thing I could do for myself was to not push it over the edge and completely drain myself. This said in context to my plea to not skip class is a give and take: sometimes you physically cannot go due to mental health, and the best thing is to take care of your mental to save yourself from a spiral that is nearly impossible to crawl out of.


The spiral for me and I know many other students sit on the line of “I feel guilty that I didn’t go to class and now I’m too anxious to go to class tonight.” Believe me, I know the logic is not there but when my brain starts going like that, I have to take a night off and do some self-care to reset my mind. 


I think most of all, what I’ve learned in university so far is that you learn by failing. You’ll learn when to implement routine and when to reach out to your professors if you’re struggling and when to pay your bills on time when you fail. 

Without failing, we will never learn what it’s like to succeed, and we’ll never know how to appreciate how far we’ve come. I’ve failed at a lot of things since I first wrote that piece after my first year, and I no doubt will fail a lot more times between now and when I’m crossing the convocation stage next year—and I can’t wait.

I am immensely lucky that I get to go to university and pursue my passion and a career. It has been to fulfilling to feel myself grow into an adult, and though I need to get better with deadlines and probably clean my apartment, I never could have imagined where my life would have taken me when I applied for school. I was so lonely when I wrote that first peice about school and now I don't think my heart has anymore room in it. The people that have come into my life since going to school have changed my life, and I wish I could tell little Abby, scared after her first year wasn't anything like she thought it would be that everything has a funny way of working out, and that life is just beginning. 

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