A wave of nostalgia recently washed over me as I watched my girlfriend, Megan, graduate from the University of Toronto. It’s been two years since I was last inside Convocation Hall for my own graduation ceremony, and watching her gave me the chance to think back on my university days and where I am today.
It was interesting to see the ceremony from a different vantage point. Instead of being on the main level with my fellow graduates as hundreds of our family members watched from the second- and third-level balconies, I found myself on the second level seated beside Megan’s dad. There was a different guest speaker this time around, but the same dignitaries were present onstage, wearing the same ceremonial regalia. In many respects, the two events were similar enough to induce an undeniable and rather pleasant case of déjà vu.
During the two-hour ceremony, when the graduates were called up two at a time to shake hands with the higher-ups and wave to their families, I reflected on the immense value of my university experience. When I started at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga (UTM) campus, I was living away from home for the first time in my life. Living on campus with three roommates, students my own age, allowed me to stretch my wings and embark on a journey of self-discovery. Without parents and teachers pestering me to stay on top of classwork, I was challenged to motivate myself to finish assignments and projects on time. As a result, I gained time management and self-discipline skills that I lacked in my high school years.
If I hadn’t enrolled in classes at UTM back in 2006, my life would be completely different. I would have a very different inner circle of friends, for one, because my first-year roommates and I have remained close since graduation. I probably wouldn’t have landed freelance editorial work for acclaimed Canadian publishers McGraw-Hill Ryerson and New Leaf Media if not for my involvement in UTM’s professional writing and communication minor program. Without these endeavours in professional writing, I also wouldn’t have become a published writer (my first published article appeared in the January print edition of Career Options). As if these developments weren’t momentous enough, I never would have met Megan if we hadn’t taken a medieval art class together in 2011; after two years of dating, we now share an apartment. It’s astounding to think that none of these formative events would have happened if I had enrolled at Guelph or Trent instead.
The choices you make regarding your post-secondary education can affect the rest of your life, but remember: it’s never too late to pursue your ambitions if you end up changing your mind about the path you have chosen. I believe that things will more often than not turn out the way they were meant to be. In the meantime, however, it’s important that we do our best to make good use of the opportunities life sends our way.