Things I Wish I Knew in First Year

–FIMS Students. OPENWIDE Volume 16 Issue 1

Kennedy Ryan | Media, Information, & Technology Graduate
Headed to Humber’s Marketing Management to work on advertisements you’ll probably study

This will all mean something one day. I promise. Ignore the smirks about your reading lists – they’re just jealous that you get to take graphic novels seriously.

Try to get everyone you meet to tell you a story about themselves.

Ask the person who’s making your coffee how their day went. Your university experience shouldn’t begin and end with your fellow students – realize that your university runs on the labor of so many people.

I wish that someone had told me that I didn’t have to do it all at once. First year feels so big, and Western has no shortage of activities – so it’s hard to balance everything.

Seriously – take care of yourself. I know, I sound like your Mother, but first year is your last easy year. 

Get (enough) sleep. Try to make friends with people who you think you have nothing in common with. Soon enough, they’ll prove you wrong.


Kevin Chao | Media, Information, & Technology Graduate
Headed to UBC Law School to save the humans

Don’t worry – four years ago I had the same “I don’t know what to do with my life” panic that you’re familiar with. Fortunately for both of us, we chose FIMS: something interesting yet broad to keep our options open. And by 2019 we’ll have both come out the other side with a new understanding of our world and ourselves.

Your amazing professors and equally remarkable peers will introduce you to different perspectives, and through them and the pursuit of your own interests, you’ll be naturally drawn in the right direction. In my courses we critically examined the social injustices brushed off by our hypermediated society, and discussed how important our mindsets were for positive change. It was only then that I considered human rights law as a potential career, and this September I’ll begin studying at UBC’s law school.

For the next four years you’re going to attend many mind-opening lectures and write many essays to be proud of – that’s to be expected. But what may come as a surprise is how you fall into a community, engage in the world differently, and discover the values that are truly important to you.

Sure enough, your panic will probably become “I know what I want to do, but how do I get there?” 

At that point you’re in the same boat as the rest of us, but at least you’ve got a heading and some paddles.

Spend your next four years pursuing your interests and getting involved. Lean in and enjoy the ride.


Monica Abadir | Media & the Public Interest Graduate
Running to University of Toronto to master in Social Justice Education

It’s hard to believe I’m writing a retrospective piece on my time at Western, rather than reading one right now.

I suppose the last thing you learn is that time really isn’t on your side–it will catch you by surprise, go right over your head, and swipe your feet from under you. I wish I had known that in my first year.

I’m not sure what tangible advice I would give my first year self, but what I do know now is that feeling uncomfortable is learning.

The most rewarding times of my undergraduate journey were times I hated; times I was forced to be self-reflexive and consider my own thoughts. Embrace these moments. Take courses with professors who create these moments. Don’t run away from classes that look intimidating. Understand that everything you read and discuss are all connected, all things speak and listen to each other.

Something I learned in my final semester of university is how to trust my own words, or at least listen to them. I spent so much time in my undergrad, as so many of us do, trying to sound like the humans we were reading and learning, that by the end I had no idea what I sounded like or what I believed in.

Take time each day to recoil into your thoughts, and then uncoil and write them out. Share your ideas. Although some thoughts may be fleeting, you will find that these times are the most revolutionary.

Tim Blackmore (go to office hours–these will be the greatest moments of your life) taught me this, amongst a million other things.

Most importantly, I think, is to show empathy. Recognize your privileges, and consider those around you. Be thoughtful of others. I really don’t have much else to say–I am in no way qualified to explain how to have the most fulfilling time at Western. But what I do know is that when I finally looked up, I engaged with some of the most kind, creative, and thoughtful people I have ever met. And for those moments, I really don’t have the words to describe.


Kevin Hurren | Media, Information, and Technology Graduate
Assisting in USC propaganda as Vice President Communications

Who are you? No really, who are you? That’s the question at the forefront of university orientation. Others will ask where you’re from, what you’re studying, what shows you watch or where you like to shop but these queries are just variants of a singular question – who are you? Now that you’re here can you answer that honestly? I know in first year I couldn’t. I wasn’t able to differentiate between who I was and who I was told to be at that point – by my parents, my high school friends, the media, and my own insecurities.

What’s exciting about your time at Western is that you don’t have those same pressures. Your parents have (hopefully) given you some space, you’re in a new social environment, and as for the media, this program will help you discern value from vitriol. But this kind of self-awareness is not a passive process.

You will not wake-up in your residence single bed and, like an Oprah-moment, realize your values, ambitions, goals, and motivations. These take work to cultivate.

For some, it’s as simple as engaging in course material. You are part of a faculty that rewards critical thought and individualism so take advantage of that and take part in discussions, regardless of whether or not you know the answer. Others find self-awareness in involvement – joining clubs, councils, committees or any collective that will strengthen their voice. What I find most helpful is creation – create art, paint, draw, play music, design clothes, design websites, write for the paper, write for yourself. These artifacts can be the best reflection of your holistic self, so make sure to find time to type, brush or write yourself into the world.

After all, university is not about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.


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