I had one goal when I started my freshman year at the University of Toronto Mississauga: End it with no regrets. As I’m jotting down these words, I’m literally chuckling at how ridiculously fast the four years passed. And I remember every single bit of it. I’ll always remember it.
First semester of first year was terrible. I hated it here. I was missing home, I didn’t like my courses, I wasn’t doing very well academically. I didn’t know how to get involved. I was just lost. I wanted to be a journalist, that was something I knew. But I found the professional writing program, which was basically the only thing I liked in Canada at the time.
In the second half of my first year, I took this writing course where my professor once told me that I just didn’t have the writing style it takes to be a good writer. I don’t think he meant it, because he was a very nice professor and I still talk to him now, but it really affected me. I remember crying and thinking that if the one thing I liked wasn’t working out, then why am I still here? I thought about quitting. I thought about transferring. I thought about going back home even. But I didn’t. I challenged back. I believed in my goal.
Three years later: I interned at one of the world’s top media networks: Al Jazeera. I became the news editor of the campus newspaper, The Medium. And I blog for the U.S. Huffington Post.
If you asked me before if I thought this would happen, I would have probably laughed at you for even asking. I kept denying it for so long, and I used to make fun of whoever tells me I’ll miss this place. But the truth is now that we’re one week away, I’ll actually miss it. Very much. Because nothing would have happened if it weren’t for UTM.
I’m nowhere close to where I was four years ago. I’m not the same person. When I started, I was only that girl crazy passionate about positivity and world change. Yeah, naïve, I know. UTM has taught me so much. It opened my mind to the real world. I learned to talk, to fight my fears, to take risks, to admit my faults, to enjoy the moment, to discuss, to argue, to debate, to ask, to not be afraid, and well, that it’s okay to cry from stress— all the time.
I found myself here.
Then comes what’s extremely cliché, but I’ll call it one of my life-changes: The Medium. And I won’t say this only because I worked there, but because The Medium helped me find out who I am and what I want. I joined the campus newspaper in the last three weeks of my first year, and haven’t stopped writing since then. And being an associate news editor for two years and this year’s news editor was the best thing that happened to me.
It’s the family that I made in this Medium office that will forever be associated with my undergrad years—or what people call the best years of your life.
Running after articles, following-up with writers, editing, writing up to three articles a week when needed (while trying to maintain a good academic standard), complaining about not getting responses, coming to the office every Sunday with this family, singing the craziest songs there are, and whining when I get more responses only when I get home after I’m done work. That rush every week, although stressful and exhausting, was enough to be the highlight of my fourth year, if not the highlight of my whole undergrad.
If anything, since there’s this one week left of school, I know one thing for sure. Or two actually. The first is that I absolutely have no regrets. There’s nothing that I’d go back in time and do differently. There’s nothing that I wish never happened. And I’m very, very thankful for this.
The second is that, yes, I know my long-term goal, but right after graduating, I absolutely have no clue what’s going to happen. I have no idea how I’m going to get started in my journalism path. And I realize I’ve spent so much time worrying about this, but now, I’m not any more. Because at this moment, and because of this campus and because of this work, I believe dreams are achievable. I’m still going to fall in every pit and make every mistake there is possible, but I am going to reach it.
Why? Because I believe in what I want and its message. I believe I’ll get there someday. I believe if I hope to motivate people, there will come a day when I manage to share, even just on Facebook, positive posts that make someone’s day. I believe in my goals.
And I’ll forever credit this to the four years I spent here. I am ready, no matter what the future is keeping in store for me, I am ready to challenge it back.
So if there’s anything I’d close my remarks with, it’s that university isn’t just about academics. There are so many things, beyond what you can imagine, that can be achieved. Talk to as many people as possible, work on your fears, go out of your comfort zone, get involved, fail and get back up, chase your passion regardless of what every person says to bring you down…you’ll safely graduate, saying “I did it! I graduated. And I absolutely have no regrets.”