I am not afraid
Author: Cosmin Dzsurdzsa
I blundered through my first year; in fact I enjoyed it so much I decided to give it another go. I come to you now as freshman 2.0, new and improved. My faculties have been dusted off, my program updated, and I return feeling better than ever. Fall 2014, here I come. I am not afraid.
Let me explain my first encounter with the big fish called the University of Waterloo. It managed to swallow me up and spit me out shortly after, covered in the slime of disappointment. I left a bad taste (and a hefty tuition) in the institutions mouth. Now to clear things up, I didn’t exactly fail any of my classes; I was forced to withdraw by a series of unfortunate events.
What began as a fantastic year, where I was eager, full of excitement and ambitious, quickly took a turn for the worse. I had begun the first year sprinting, diving into extracurriculars, exploring volunteering opportunities and even going to lectures beyond my scope of understanding. You can call it the naiveté of youth or just simply stupidity. Either way I was having a great time. I stayed relatively on top of my work load and followed through with assignments towards midterms. Then midterms arrived.
Midterms came and went. I frantically tried to salvage some dropping marks and then I crashed. Not figuratively, I literally crashed into another vehicle. So there I was having to deal with an accident, the unforeseen consequences of insurance and my faltering studies. I was beginning to sink deeper into the ocean of burdens and a weight was strapped onto my feet.
If this were a movie, I would have had a cinematic montage of recovery. Unfortunately each day went by as slowly as the rest and I kept sinking. Luckily, instead of just reacting, I acted of my own accord. Immediately after I crashed, I had warned my undergraduate advisor that this would greatly affect my studies. His concern and helpfulness guided me to a brighter ending of this story.
I went from advisor to advisor, explaining my situation, weighing my options, and dropping a few classes. Coupled with an accident, family and relationship struggles served to knock the final nails into my coffin. I was lowered into a six foot hole with a thud and I thought I was done for. I was going to be a dropout; somebody who tried and failed. I thought my world was ending and I envisioned a cynical old man who always talked about who he could have been.
Then, I was offered a way out: withdraw from your course load and begin anew. I was on track to fail a majority of my classes, so I jumped at the offer. My advisor walked me through the process, explained the required paperwork and even personally vouched for me.
My first request was denied; I required proof. I found myself in the registrar’s office gripping course override forms and an accident report. Shortly after, I received an email saying my withdrawal was completed successfully. I was out.
I would remain a student in the records and would have to apply for re-admission come July. Things finally began to relax for me and the weight was shedding. Unfortunately, I was going to miss a year, but I wasn’t too upset. Many people do not begin post-secondary education until they’re 19 and the experience has made me more realistic about my goals.
I took the time off to reorganize myself, work full time, and fix my car. The point is there’s always a second chance if you search for one. If I had remained silent about my situation and had not reached out to the many resources available at the University, I might not have had the opportunity to return.
I look forward to being back, to meet new faces and to offer a perspective for those who are in the same situation. If you’re a first year, you’re most likely feeling a combination of anxiety and hope; hope that you will succeed and the anxiety of possible failure of not meeting your expectations. Life will be hard on you, university will be hard on you, and people might be hard on you, but you don’t have to be hard on yourself. I sincerely hope that every incoming student enjoys their time here this year and if there’s one thing left to say it’s: do not be afraid.