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Five Lessons Learned at York University

Written by Kimberly Cruz

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator (Unsplash)

Is this another list? Not quite. An acrostic poem like in elementary school? Potentially.

With the overload of information we receive daily, it is nice to simplify things 一whether you are studying for a test or learning a new skill. So here I am, sharing five lessons I have learned during my time at York University, and which you can later recall as Y-O-R-K-U.

1. Your instructors can inspire

As I was sitting in for my first semester courses at York, my mentality was that I am but another 9-digit student number in this lecture hall. Though, once you have adjusted to uni life, you will gain an appreciation for the breadth of knowledge that this world-class faculty holds in their specialized fields.

For an Introduction to Business course, we had to present our findings at every tutorial and despite being in a program in which one would expect that talking equates fuel, at that point in time, I was nervous. The encouraging TAs, however, would make it clear that they were once in our place, sharing what had brought them career and life successes, and acknowledging that students’ personalities differed from the next (and that was beautiful). As such, week after week, I would develop a newfound courage.

This is coupled with experiential learning, as faculty delivers a curriculum that blends classroom learning with real world experience. Therefore, establishing professional communication between your professor, TA, and/or instructor will allow you to better understand the material, in addition to keeping you motivated and accountable throughout the term.      

Alumni recount that there is an added advantage in York offering a plethora of courses that can be taken outside of your major. For myself and my two left feet, one of those courses was dance. The academic journey is made more fulfilling when you explore outside of your comfort zone, provided that you can trust that the high quality education transcends all York departments.

2. Open up to your peers

With an average of 15 hours per week spent in-class around your colleagues, it is not a surprise that they do have an influence on you, as you do on them. What I learned through group deliverables is that transparency goes a long way and often begins with opening up about pain points and what you would like to achieve. 

I feel fortunate to attend a school where I learn from the brightest people I know. When I look back, it was through these deliverables that consisted of collaboration and testing each other’s ideas and opinions that I was able to grow relationships to what are now my closest friendships.

3. Roadblocks make the journey 

I’ll keep this one short since I know we’ve all received advice on how to overcome roadblocks. Though what is special about my York experience is that it has taught me to embrace it as part of the journey, to the extent that I now believe that it makes the journey.

This past semester was unique for all of us here, and to this day, there are challenges in the face of COVID-19. Nonetheless, I appreciate all the planning and coordination that has enabled us students to continue on with our studies.

The transition to a virtual learning environment, whether through Zoom or Microsoft Teams, was remarkably smooth entering into the Fall 2020 semester. I know that for Schulich, faculty became cognizant that internships were rescinded and to better the situation, professors and advisors worked together to offer Summer 2020 courses at Schulich for the first time ever. The speed and scope at which this was conducted was unprecedented. So, thank you, for leading clarity and resilience by example.

4. Kindness is a strength

Yes, tuition and books carry a price tag, so it is a good thing that kindness is free to give. Offer up your seat on the bus ride to campus or open the door for students when you have a few minutes to spare. For all who have seen it, I included, these acts indeed put a smile on the many beautiful faces here at York. It echoes a signal 一a universal language一 that you are welcome here. As the York community is very diverse and home to numerous international students, kindness continues to elevate spaces to feel even more inclusive.

Vividly do I remember heading into the Peter Bronfman library to study, though this time I had tears running down my cheek. I had received news that a dear friend who had been fighting hard against cancer had just passed away. Feelings overflowed, and a student who I did not know took notice. Consoled me. And gave me a warm, and in that moment, powerful hug. As you spend four years here, there will be tough times though the support to look after one another’s mental health and well-being is pertinent in each York Lion’s heart. 

Kindness can be an integral part of your university experience. For myself, this has translated to care for our communities and our planet serving as a club executive on the Corporate Social Responsibility Society (CSRS) at York. Our purpose is to address the triple-bottom-line of people, planet, and profit; it is so wonderful that York has been supporting positive change in societal matters, such as for the past 15 years with our club. Not to mention the decades old clubs at York that have built the change-makers of today. So be kind, find what you enjoy at York Club Fest or through online social media, and get involved. 

You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.
– Sir Winston Churchill

5. Understand, then pitch

The pitch does not only pertain to students at Schulich or Lassonde 一in the business or engineering streams. It applies to all who walk the doors of York as you discover just how important it is to know your story. An example is when someone asks you, “so, why is it that you are studying what you are studying?” A stock answer will not do, but a good reason specific to you. That is something I spent all of my first year at York unraveling.

Crafting your story comes with experiences, and luckily there is an array of activities offered at York, from case competitions to leadership opportunities during Orientation Week. The best way to unravel this is to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and this can be in terms of your approach to data analysis to how well you understand the person in front of you. My pitch in first year is much different to what it is today, not only have I iterated this based on experience, passion, and career goals, but its delivery is different, and that is a testament to the confidence you gain here at York.

Without putting it into use, however, it is like a light without a spark. I am grateful for the York Career Centre with professionals having an open ear for one-on-one appointments, and who will get you connected with job and networking opportunities (so long as you are determined). Owning your pitch can certainly give you leverage in job interviews and in navigating the world. With all this, you will be marketable, showing how much stronger of an individual you have become from the moment you entered, to the moment you throw your cap up at York Convocation.

I hope this helps you see that Y-O-R-K-U spells out to be a holistic experience involving: amazing faculty; a strong community; purposeful development; genuine values; and the push to be career ready. I can confidently say that my growth, both professional and personal, is attributed to the accumulation of moments beyond my comfort zone at York University. Who knows, it may be the case for you as well.

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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.