A look into the mind of a first-year at U of T.

By: Elissa Chee, Staff Writer

Photo source: University of Toronto 

It’s three days before the OUAC deadline. Two phone calls later, and I’m convinced: I am going to U of T. My fingers tremble over “Accept.” I shut my eyes and try to embrace the terrors I’d read on Reddit, the warnings from my classmates and seniors. Before I can process what I’d just done, the refresh logo disappears, and a green confirmation message stares back at me.

One click and it was over. For so long I’d been ruminating: Was U of T really right for me? I was determined to pick the optimal decision, one that would guarantee the outcome of my desires—grad school, law school, the career of my dreams. I wasn’t sure if I would find that at U of T. I didn’t know if I was willing to commit to the uncertainty and pressure that would come with it. Was I right for U of T? And then I’d made up my mind, gave my sister a dramatic speech about choosing my happiness over anything else, and accepted my offer to the University of Tears. 

I’m all giddy about it the next day. I think about it during the entire ride to school—it’s a feeling that starts from within, spreads throughout my body, and illuminates my smile. I expect that when I tell my friends and teachers, they’ll share my surprise. Yet, none of them do. Some meet me with sympathy, acknowledging the next four years of torture I’m about to endure. Others laugh, knowing I was bound to pick this decision all along. Regardless of who I tell, the sentiment they express is the same: You have a natural proclivity for choosing the most difficult path for yourself. You’ll be fine. Remember, there is no wrong path

I was obsessed with perfection. Maybe that’s what I thought made me right for U of T. Except, in the first month on campus, I convinced myself I couldn’t achieve that here.

When I meet up with my high school friends, I’m proud to display my U of T and Trinity College identities. I also keep up with many of my former teachers and convince them I’m happy and doing well. I tell them I’m loving it here. I Facetime my grandparents from my dorm, and I’m beaming. They comment on how happy I look. I am—I can happily romanticize the life I’m living here. There is a palpable pride in the Trinity College identity. Walk into the quad and you’ll feel it. The sun shines brighter, the grass is greener, even the wasps are mostly docile. 

Everything is perfect. All except when it comes down to work. I am afraid my work won’t live up to the standards it’s supposed to. The first month at U of T has revealed that the hardest part of the work here lies not in the content but in the time management. And I just can’t get anything done.

It’s a jolting experience to go from being the most vocal person in the room to being scared of the nakedness in your own voice. My thoughts are unpolished, and I laugh nervously when contributing to our Trinity One class discussions. Twelve years in the same school had built up an armour of confidence within me—a type of invincibility. But here…

I’m surrounded by elites. I’m shocked when my classmates ask me for my opinion. Orientation week led to a new discovery: apparently, I was an OSSD kid—silly, I thought. I’d never been referred to that way. OSSD had always been a norm—it’s what we all did. But here and now, I am surrounded by a new castle of IB and AP geniuses. 

I envy my classmates. It isn’t that they’re perfect. It’s that they’re perfectly confident. They own it when they don’t understand things, and they articulate themselves with an understanding and eloquence I could not muster. Professor Kessler told us during the first class that by the time we finished his course, we’d be equipped with the skills of fourth years. We were all impressed. It was highly motivating. Yet I couldn’t ignore the little voice inside my head that wondered if that included me. 

It’s the second week of university and already, Sociology stands out as my favourite class. To prepare for this week’s lecture on education we watch a series of Youtube videos. We examine the mental barriers students face that make academic pursuit extra difficult. The message is hitting too close to home. And then we watch Carol Dweck’s TedxTalk on “The Power of Yet.” I’m taken aback by how precisely she’s described my situation. The intimidation I feel when contributing to class discussions is what she describes as the feeling of being “gripped in the tyranny of now.” 

But Carol Dweck provides me with hope. “The power of Yet” reminds me that I’m not at the extent of my abilities. “Yet,” she says, is endowing children with a growth mindset. It’s teaching them to engage with difficulty and not to fear it. Every thought I contribute in class and every word I write now are part of the process of deep engagement—learning, failing, and improving. 

It’s six weeks into university when I dare to raise my hand in our Trinity One class again. I speak nervously, but with more confidence than before. I finish. My friend leans over and gives me a fist bump. The professor acknowledges my contribution and the conversation continues. Class ends and I walk out, pleasantly surprised to be greeted by the cool autumn air. I look back at our Trinity castle and pause. U of T—Trinity College. I find myself laughing a little. I’m here. And I think I could manage this.

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