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Searching for Opportunity: My Job Hunt Story

Image by Unsplash, pixabay.com

In the summer of 2014, I had just finished my first year at university. Commuting was helping to save the family money, but it left me with little money for myself after I had to quit my job to accommodate the lost time travelling. I had worked at a Shoppers Drug Mart ten minutes away from my house, and leaving not only lost me my discount, but the ease that went into working every day.

I wanted to try and gain a position that had more to do with the profession I wanted to go into, which was being a doctor. I also wanted the ease that came with working close to home. So I opted to apply for a numerous amount of jobs – probably too many. I’ve heard from many since then that if you are applying to too many jobs at one time at the mall, things circulate and its likely to reflect poorly on you. I probably applied to about 10 retail jobs at the mall, but still holding out for an opportunity in research, I applied to about 10 more that I found on a school hiring website.

I found that using the resources given to me by my school was a huge advantage to the position I ended up receiving. You are technically paying for these services, so it is worth it to give them a chance. I would never have known where to get a research position after being in my first year – I barely knew where the library was – but using this school resource was a huge asset. Anyway, I had three callbacks from about 20 applications (such is life sometimes). I had a callback from a clothing store in the mall and two callbacks for research positions in psychiatry and in biology.

I ended up interviewing for the psychiatry position and the clothing store position, because the biology lab position ended up not working with my schedule. I was taking summer courses at the time and didn’t want to have something with too many hours. The research position was great because it was part of a program at U of T where there are a limited number of hours, which made it flexible for students. I had never worked at a retail store before so I was a little bit confused in the interview. Do I know what to do with inventory? No, I don’t know how to work a POS system.

It turned out that that job at the mall was the first job for which I had ever been interviewed and rejected. I always prepare well for my interviews – going over common answers that are typically asked, picking out my dress, relaxing myself before I get in there. I come with my cover letter, resume and references ready. It just eases my mind so I can perform my best. I guess my lack of experience kind of undershot my chances, so I ended up taking the position in psychiatry.

I’ve been working in that job for two years and I’ve learned a lot and made plenty of great friends. The fact that it is flexible helped me balance school and work and allowed me to meet different psychiatrists and employees at CAMH. The key to finding a good job is making sure that your resume is short and highlights all of your relevant accomplishments, preparing for the interview as well as following up after the interview, and just making sure that you are prepared every step of the way. You’d be surprised at the kinds of jobs you can find when you’re prepared!

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The Stigmatization of Online Education

Image by kshelton, pixabay.com

Image by kshelton, pixabay.com

Up until recently, my ideas about the stigma of online education were admittedly vague.

I earned my Master’s degree in an untraditional program. While I was in school I often found myself subtly defending the valuable aspects of online and low-residency education. I would tell new acquaintances about my studies and notice their unimpressed micro-expressions. A furrow here, a twitch there. It made them uncomfortable.

If their reactions seem unusual, perhaps it will help to place these interactions in the highly competitive academic city of Cambridge, MA just blocks away from the top Ivy League university in the world. This is my best attempt at making sense of the odd reactions I encountered then and continue to encounter to this day.

During my online graduate program, I generally met students from other universities who were in the midst of dedicating their lives to their studies, immersed in an academic reality where competition reigns supreme. Their words, not mine. A student in a highly competitive traditional academic setting has to climb the social ladder to make the best connections and get the best job after graduation. It might sound arcane, but it’s how the system works. If you put twenty highly ambitious people in a room together, things will get competitive. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this sort of competitive academic environment for sure, and every student must decide whether the benefits or the drawbacks carry more weight for them.

One negative aspect of this sort of academic sphere is that it so often fosters barriers between people – a sort of elitism that can’t be easily understood or untangled. When I’d go out to dinner with my roommate’s Ivy League friends, I’d find myself having to explain the value of my program before I could even be recognized as a fellow student, worthy of sharing in the discourse.

Of course most of us have to do this in our own ways everyday — whether in work, school, or social situations — it simply hadn’t occurred to me that my choice of program would add to the effect. And yes, I recognize the inherent privilege in all this.

It’s the awareness of that privilege that really inspires frustration when people expose their ingrained prejudices against online programs. I hadn’t fully butted heads with this attitude until I wrote an article entitled “How I Learned to Flourish in an Online Grad Program” on a higher education blog.

The article was benign at best, a simple description of why I chose an online program, the benefits as I experienced them, and a handful of practical practices to help online students thrive in their programs.

But, oh boy, did it ever piss people off.

While the article was far from perfect, I was surprised that the general idea of online education being competitive, and in some ways superior, to traditional academic institutions was so irksome.

One commenter, who taught in higher education for a period, took offense at my assertion that I chose an online program so that I could continue working to pay the bills. He took it (and the whole article, really) as an inherent slam against traditional universities, saying the need to pay one’s bills, which for me meant working full-time, was a weak argument that straw-manned online universities. Um, ok? I’d like to visit the worry-free reality he lives in.

In fact, the ability for a student to continue working while enrolled in an online or low-residency program is one of its most valuable assets. My dear commenter made a point to share his distaste for Arizona State University, which I’d mentioned as the forerunner for taking creative measures to bring online programs to the traditional university. Yeah, I guess partnering with Starbucks to cover their employees’ college tuition really is a crummy, “hack”ish thing to do.

The fact that he couldn’t understand the idea of utilizing one’s education as career training speaks volumes to the mindset. The degree that I earned was a Masters of Fine Arts in writing, and this gentleman supposed that if I really wanted a career, shouldn’t I have chosen a professional degree rather than a humanities degree?

One of the greatest gifts of my program was that it served as intensive training for balancing my daily work life with my creative work life. During the two-year period of my program, I worked two and a half jobs and learned how to prioritize my writing, every day, no exceptions. If that’s not career training for a writer, I don’t know what is. And that’s just my personal experience in my particular field of choice. There are endless similar stories out there.

I am hopeful that the voice of insecurity I’ve recently encountered is far from the voice of academia as a whole. There are academics in positions of authority who are working diligently to make education accessible to all people – even the ones who couldn’t historically afford the financial aspect or time commitment. What is the benefit of seeing an attack in every expression of someone else’s success?

The era of academic posturing is over.

Education that reaches across barriers has many different manifestations — from online ed to low rez to corporate partnership — and those who solely cling to familiarity will fall to the wayside as the nation’s collective level of education, awareness, and life experience surpasses anything any of us have ever known.

This article was contributed by guest author Katie Kapro.

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7 Ways Studying Abroad Will Prepare You For an Internship

Image by kychan, unsplash.com

Image by kychan, unsplash.com

Last January, I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. I packed up my bags and moved 6,074 miles away from my college in San Diego to study at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. During the four months that I studied in Milan, I traveled to 11 different countries and 22 different cities. While I was abroad, I experienced and learned something new almost every day. I did not recognize at the time that my experiences abroad would eventually help me in my career.

I am currently interning for eREACH, a marketing consulting firm in San Diego. My time as an intern has made me realize that I am a better employee because of how I apply the life lessons I learned abroad to my professional life. While there are countless reasons I’d recommend studying abroad to any college student, here are seven ways that studying abroad can give you a leg up in your internship:

1. You’ll Be Pushed Out Of Your Comfort Zone
To say I was terrified of moving to a foreign country is an understatement. I was so afraid of traveling alone that I had multiple anxiety attacks leading up to my departure. Today I am so grateful that I did not let my fears hold me back. If I had given up and stayed in San Diego, I would’ve passed up on the best four months of my life. Today I continue to push myself out of my comfort zone. I was nervous to apply and interview for my internship, but I didn’t let that stop me from doing so. It is completely natural to be afraid and feel anxious about trying something new – but don’t allow your fears to stop you from going after what you want.

2. You’ll Learn To Keep An Open Mind
One of the best parts about traveling is having the opportunity to try each country’s specialty foods. However, what some countries consider to a “delicious delicacy” might seem repulsive to the average American. I am absolutely nauseated by snails – but while I was in Paris I kept an open mind and I tried escargot (also known as cooked snails). As it turns out, escargot was one of my favorite dishes that I tried while I was abroad! Some of the best experiences in life can be the most unexpected. For this reason, I make an effort to keep an open mind at work. I listen to the ideas of my co-workers and I am always willing to try something new. It is easy to think that you always have the best ideas, but two collaborative minds are better than one.

3. You’ll Develop More Effective Communication Skills
One of the most difficult challenges I faced abroad was learning to overcome the language barrier. It was easy to get flustered and frustrated when I couldn’t communicate with the cashier at the grocery store or ask for help when I was lost. I learned that if I first made an effort to speak the native language and then ask for help in English, the locals were much more willing to assist me. There are also many other methods of communication including hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language. If one form of communication didn’t work, I would try to utilize a different method. This experience taught me that not everyone communicates the same way – and that’s okay. If I feel that a coworker and I are experiencing miscommunication, I make an effort to reach out to them in a way they can understand.

4. You’ll Improve Your Time Management Skills
Traveling to eleven different countries in four months requires a great deal of planning. From purchasing plane tickets, to planning transportation to and from the airport, to booking hotels – all while being a full time student in Milan, I became an excellent time manager. I learned that the key to time management is staying organized. It is now easier for me to balance school, work, and my personal life with my newfound organization and time management skills.

5. You’ll Learn To Be Flexible
Not everything went exactly as planned while I was abroad. I traveled to Santorini to see its famous sunset, but it was overcast the entire time I was there. I was supposed to visit the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, but the line was a five-hour wait in freezing temperatures. Experiences like these taught me to be flexible and go with the flow. Sometimes at work my ideas are rejected or a project doesn’t go as planned. Instead of getting overly upset, I’ve learned to be okay with plan B.

6. You’ll Be Re-Inspired To Learn
Before moving to Milan I was feeling burnt out on school. I no longer had the passion to learn new things – I just wanted to get my degree. Living in Europe exposed me to a new kind of hands-on learning. I studied art by getting a first-hand look at the works of greats like da Vinci, Michelangelo, Degas, and van Gogh. My history lessons included visiting Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin and the colosseum in Rome. After being re-inspired to learn new things, I am much more engaged at work. I inquire about things I don’t understand and I genuinely want to learn about and understand the world of marketing much more than I did before.

7. You’ll Gain More Self-Confidence
At the end of my four months in Europe I was no longer nervous and afraid of everything that made me almost bolt off of the plane back in January. I learned that I am capable of so much more than I had originally thought. My new self-confidence has translated into my professional life in a number of ways. I am able to interview better because I am confident in my skills and abilities. I am also not afraid to speak up about my ideas at work. Most importantly, I’m not afraid of failure. I treat my setbacks as learning experiences and I choose to grow from them. After moving 6,074 miles away from home, nothing else seems quite as intimidating anymore.

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience that can benefit you for a lifetime. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and start learning!

This article was contributed by guest author Alissa Young.

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Are You Excited to Graduate?

Image by Merrimack College on Flickr

Image by Merrimack College on Flickr

“Are you excited to graduate?”

That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Over the past six months, almost every single person in my life has broached the topic of graduation at one point or another. After being asked about it so many times, you’d think that I’d know how to answer the question by now. But the truth is – I have absolutely no idea. At first, this realization was a terrifying reality that I had to face, and I sought out to discover the answer. However, upon undergoing some significant soul-searching, I thought to myself – maybe it’s okay to not know how to feel.

Graduation represents the closing of one chapter in life, along with the opening of another. Understandably, it’s natural to be bombarded by a surge of different emotions. Of course, there is the initial excitement that comes along with saying goodbye to midterms, finals, huge assignments, and those infamous all-nighters that left you feeling like a zombie for days on end. But at the same time, there comes the sadness associated with saying goodbye to familiar faces, a safe environment, and that comfortable routine that you’ve been living in for four years. Moreover, there comes the overwhelming fear that stems from not knowing what exactly the future is going to bring, as well as the stress of becoming what feels like a tiny fish in a sea of recent grads searching for jobs. And let’s not forget the pressure connected to becoming a real adult, taking on much heavier responsibilities, and nearing important milestones such as getting your first full-time job, potentially moving out, and better yet, getting married and having kids.

With that being said, it dawned on me that I was getting way too ahead of myself. And I think that coming to that realization is what is essential in moving forward in a stress-free and happy manner. Having obtained my Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from a prestigious business school, I have been told time and time again that a successful student is one who obtains full-time employment either a) in September of their final year of school or b) no later than twenty minutes after graduation (I say this with little to no exaggeration). But is this realistic? Not at all. I’ve finally come to understand that I’m still only twenty-two years old, I have the rest of my life to work, and I don’t have to get hired the day that I graduate in order to be successful. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t find a job right away, and I shouldn’t feel bad about wanting to take the summer to relax, travel, do the things that I enjoy, and figure out what exactly I want to do moving forward. I know so many people who just rushed into accepting job offers without truly considering whether or not it was a job that suited their interests and passions. Through my academics, work, and extracurricular experiences, I’ve learned that it is important to do what makes you happy. If it takes a little longer to figure out what that is or find a job that incorporates your passions, then that’s okay.

So where do I go from here? I’m not entirely certain yet. But having this great revelation has evoked one more feeling out of me – hope. I’m hopeful for my future and I look forward to finding my professional calling – whenever the time is right.

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5 Things I’ve Learned Halfway Through University

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Photo by uniinnsbruck on Flickr

Reaching the halfway point of my university career has been a bit scary. Those two years flew by and soon enough the next two years will be done as well. I find it important to reflect on the things I’ve learned throughout my first two years both in and out of the classroom, and in regards to university as a whole. More importantly, I believe it is essential to highlight the skills I have learned in regards to studying, and how newcomers to university can learn from previous mistakes that I’ve made. Having finished my second year of university and reflecting back on my time of studies, there are many things I feel should be highlighted for new students.

  1. Start the semester strong – Being able to do really well on those early midterms and essays makes a difference. Rather than being pressured to ace your final exam or essay, do well on the earlier work to reduce the stress you’ll have later on.
  2. Find YOUR best way to study – Not everyone works well in study groups or at the library; I know I didn’t. Finding the manner in which you work the best and sticking to it will help you excel in school. By the end of first year it may already be a routine!
  3. Manage your time for other activities – Constant studying will exhaust you and it’s important to do other things while on campus – playing sports, joining clubs, seeing friends, attending parties. Make sure to leave time for fun and don’t constantly think about what’s due next week.
  4. Get enough sleep – Especially for those living on residence, getting the proper amount of sleep can be difficult sometimes. Ensuring you’re well rested for lectures and not being lazy about attendance is good habit to keep throughout your four years. Don’t get too immersed into the party life and staying out late on school nights; your studies should still come first.
  5. Take advantage of the resources on campus – Every university, no matter their size, is equipped to help students deal with the problems they’re having. And even if you’re not in a pickle and just looking to find a job or some information, your school will have the right people there to help you.

I hope these tips help you get through your first two years of university and avoid some of the mistakes that I made. University is a great time – be sure to enjoy your stay!

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The First Year Struggle

Image by Uwww.audio-luci-store.it on Flickr

Image by Uwww.audio-luci-store.it on Flickr

As most of you know, the first year of university is always the hardest to adjust to. The addition of taking care of yourself, making new friends, learning how to get around campus, and school can sometimes be too much to bear. Some kids get the luxury of living on or close to campus in order to make sure that they stay focused on school, but in my case, I was commuting three hours a day to and from the campus.

I would like to attend medical school after my four-year undergraduate. It is well known that medical schools are very competitive and require extremely high marks to even be considered. I had always known that I was meant for medical school and worked hard to achieve 90%+ all throughout high school. I enrolled in life sciences and knew that I wanted to do a double major in neuroscience and psychology, but of course, I wasn’t so fond of the prerequisites to get to that stage. Taking math and physics wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do in my first year, especially when I thought I would finally be studying what I liked.

So after the drowning I call first semester, I looked back on my grades and was shocked. I had never seen numbers like this before; I really didn’t even think they were possible. I had heard that medical schools liked to see an upward trend, so I was dismayed and hurt, but tried not to think about it. Having your grades stripped from you when that was all you had was a huge thing I had to overcome – I defined my worth by how “smart” I was and getting past that mindset was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

After I saw my grades, I kicked myself into high gear. I started working hard, keeping up with assignments, and realized the mistake I made taking a bunch of unnecessarily challenging courses. As if that wasn’t enough, all our lab/practical hours were cancelled and grades had to be shifted around because our TAs went on strike. One of my classes was even cancelled because they were picketing in front of the building. At the end of my second semester, my grades weren’t as high as I wanted them to be, but I accepted it. I knew that there were reasons for the discrepancies but I still saw a huge improvement in my marks from first semester. I had enjoyed my time in my second semester and even though I wasn’t where I wanted to be, it had nothing to do with my place in the university. It was very eye-opening and taught me what I needed to do in order to achieve MY best – not what everyone else considered to be the best.

I’m now taking a summer school course and my marks are astoundingly better than what I was getting during my first year of school. My work ethic precedes my first year grades and I know that if I apply what I learned during this year to the rest of my years in school, I will be exactly where I need to be. The important thing to note from my story is this – adjustment and success takes time and work. You can’t expect to start a new job or do something new and be amazing at it right away. Your learning may not look good on paper – but the lessons that stay engrained in your memory are worth much more than marks or experience to put on your CV. Work hard, stay positive and make sure you enjoy what you are doing. Though I had a rough start, I’m sure my lessons and new attitude will carry me much farther than just to medical school.

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5 Tips for Roommate Survival

Image by Matt Radick on Flickr

Image by Matt Radick on Flickr

Moving out for the first time can be intimidating, and for many university students it’s a completely new experience. I remember my first day on residence was nerve-wracking. It was my first time away from home and I would be living with three complete strangers. Would we get along? Would they have bad habits that would cause problems? Could I potentially annoy them in some way? I went into first year residence with an open mind, and I learned many things in the process, especially in regards to dealing with roommates and solving our problems. Here are a few tips that I have for creating good relationships with your roommates.

  1. Clean up after yourself: Whether it’s after cooking or taking a shower, your roommates will not want to see your mess and will definitely not want to clean up after you. Remember that these areas are shared spaces and that it is your job to clean up after you’re done.
  2. Sharing is caring: Don’t be afraid to share with your roommates. It’ll show them that you aren’t self-centred and that you see them as friends. Better yet, they may share things with you as well!
  3. Speak up if you have a problem: In first year, I had two roommates who never spoke about their problems with each other. This caused tension between them for half the year. Don’t let problems fester and boil over. If you have a problem with one of your roommates, bring it up and find a way to solve the issue immediately.
  4. Respect your roommates’ space: Your roommates are sure to have schedules that aren’t similar to yours and have belongings that are off limits. Respect their space and in turn they should respect yours as well.
  5. Divide up the chores: If you’re living in a dorm or a house, chances are you will have to clean the place once a month. Create a schedule where each individual has to clean an area and where the work is balanced between all of the roommates.

If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it should be that communication is key between roommates. You’re going to be living with these people for at least eight months, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure that living with each other goes smoothly. A toxic relationship with your roommates can ruin the residence experience and also affect your grades. If you put in the effort to have a good experience, your roommates will certainly do the same. Treat your roommates the way you would want to be treated, and in turn you will have a great first year with them.

For some more tips on how to get along with your roommate check out this article. 

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Five Things I Learned in my First Year of University

Image by GotCredit, Flickr

Image by GotCredit, Flickr

  1. Readings will pile up – fast.
  2. Between attending lectures, tutorials, extra-curriculars, and writing essays, readings were sometimes pushed aside in my first year. However, I realized the importance of readings, not only for refreshing my memory, but also to help supplement the lecture material. It’s important to stay on top of readings – it really helps with studying. Plus, I paid for all my textbooks, so I decided I may as well get the most out of them.

  3. Many opportunities and resources will become available.
  4. University is full of different opportunities. The first few weeks, I was overwhelmed by the number of clubs and resources available. I took advantage of the writing centres on campus, which help to organize and edit essays and assignments. I also joined a mentorship program for first generation students as a Mentee. I participated in many learning and social events and met frequently with my Mentor. Through dedicated participating, I will be a Mentor-in-Training for next year, which I am extremely excited about!

  5. Balance is key.
  6. Between all the opportunities I took and the school work I had to do, balancing life was sometimes a struggle. Creating a schedule became my solution. I planned out when I had time to study before, between or after classes, and when I had free time for some fun. Sometimes one area of my life took over more than others (have I mentioned that time I had four essays due in the same week?). But as I said, balance is key.

  7. Budgeting will lessen financial worries.
  8. First year brought many expenses for me, from tuition to textbooks to transportation. I was lucky to win a few scholarships that helped to cut down on some of the costs, but budgeting throughout the year was helpful for the rest of my expenses. I took advantage of student discounts – there are thousands out there! I also planned out how much money I should be spending each month and which expenses were necessary. For example, although it’s awesome to eat out, bringing lunch to school is much cheaper.

  9. Being hard on yourself will get you nowhere.
  10. I thought that I could juggle absolutely everything this year. I was so excited to take advantage of every opportunity and to learn as much as I could in subjects I loved. When I started to get overwhelmed with everything I was doing, I wondered if there was something wrong; but it just came to realizing that I’m not superhuman. I learned to say no when I didn’t have time to help out with extra-curriculars. My first year of university has been the most thrilling experience for me. After reflecting on my year, I’m ready to take on second year!

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Working the Clock: University Time Management is Easier Than You Think

Image from http://www.gratisography.com/

Image from gratisography.com

As I walked into my first day of university classes, I flashed back to all the warnings I had received from my high school teachers over the past couple of years.

“Time management is vital once you enter university,” my Economics teacher would tell me.

“If you can’t balance your time once you get to undergrad, you’re in for some trouble,” warned my English teacher.

So as I opened the door to my very first lecture hall, I was fairly intimidated. Could I handle all that was about to come at me? I was already working part time and playing in a hockey league; before second year started, I was about to have a second job. Was this all going to be impossible?

The answer was no.

After some early struggles in the first few months as I adjusted to a heavier course workload, it dawned on me that life was leaving more than enough time to bear down and study, if I only wanted to take advantage of it.

I learned to “work the clock.” Yes, I finished work every Friday night at 10:30 p.m. But instead of heading home to watch two hours of HBO and crash like most of my colleagues (the job involved lifting fridges), I would lay out my books and make notes as I had a late dinner. I gained two hours a week right there.

Saturdays, which were typically a night that I got together with friends (balance), I would spend the time in between working my second job and getting ready to go out reading a few chapters. Not only did it calm me down after another busy work day, but I felt refreshed before heading out to see friends, and I’d knocked down another two hours of work.

I would do the same before hockey on Sunday nights, and spent about 50% of my free time in between classes at school doing work. The other 50% I spent with friends, which I found recharged my batteries and gave me the energy to prepare for another few hours of schoolwork that night.

After graduating, I was hired full-time by that second job of mine; the time management skills I had built during university had helped me take on various projects in the office that led to the offer.

Was I busy during my university years? Absolutely. Yet eliminating excuses and finding the time to work and the time to relax led me to a career path that I’m quite proud of, and looking back, I don’t ever remember feeling as if there weren’t enough hours in the day. There are. You just have to use them to your advantage.

How Mental Health Affected Me In High School

Image by Henry Shi, Flickr

Image by Henry Shi, Flickr

 
When I was in high school I was a straight-A student. I was the kind of girl who got upset if she got a B. I remember complaining to my friends that I only had 93% in Geography when I thought I had 95% in the ninth grade. One of my friends gasped, feigning horror. “OH MY GOD, YOU ONLY HAVE A 93?! GUYS, CHELSEA ONLY HAS A 93,” he yelled sarcastically. Looking back now, I can see how lucky I was, but back then I felt like my grades were the only thing I had going for me. I was the smart one. That’s what I was known for. And then I became known for something else.

At 16, the vast majority of my friends shut me out for reasons that I can’t quite explain. I started dating one of the guys in our group, they all hated it and wanted us to break up – we did (a few times – they were not exactly conducive to romance) – and then just like that, all my friends were gone.

I didn’t like school already – although I was good at it, I had social anxiety (I didn’t know it at the time) and I couldn’t talk to anyone outside of my little group of friends from elementary school. Now that they were gone, it felt like my social anxiety had gone straight from 0 to 100 – I felt like everyone was always staring, whispering behind my back and judging me, because half the time they actually were. If I didn’t like school before, I hated it now. I had to sit through classes with my former friends, and though I moved seats to get away from them, I could still hear them talking about me at times. I had to watch them talk about all their exciting plans that I wasn’t a part of, at a louder volume than necessary because they were kind of obnoxious, just in general.

It was hard for me to focus in classes with people who hated my guts sitting a few feet away from me. I saw the school counsellor, who was very helpful – it was nice to have someone to talk to. But that didn’t change my reality, and by the end of grade 12 I might have failed without assistance from my counsellor and teachers. I had wanted to go to the University of Toronto, but I felt so scared of everything now, like the city would eat me alive. I ended up going to Brock University because it felt like the safer choice, but it was not for me.

Even my graduation wasn’t what I thought it would be. A lot of kids who have a hard time in high school have a fantastic time at graduation because they’re so happy to be out of there, but I had the opposite experience. I was the type of girl who dreamed about prom – I used to make sketches of what I wanted my dream dress to look like, and true to form I spent $1000 on a ballgown (maybe not the wisest decision, but it was the only thing I could do for myself). And it was a nice night; one of my best friends that I still had from out of town came down just to take me, so I didn’t have to go alone. But I didn’t get to ride in a limo and take beautiful pictures and go to an after party with everybody else. I wanted it to be the best day of my teenage life and I still felt excluded. Someone always had to remind me: You do not belong here. You are not good enough.

Still, I thought that things would get better in university. They had to. That was how it always went – the loser in high school gets super hot and then goes on to be crazy successful and everybody’s boss, a la Elle Woods (except with popularity instead of brains). It was a chance to start over – no one there knew who I was, and I never had to tell them. Unfortunately, I would be disappointed yet again.

Stay tuned.