- Damon Tarrant
Eight Things I've Learned Halfway Through My Undergrad
1. You're going to change your mind, and it is pretty likely that you're going to change your mind a few times; just go with the flow.
I learned that you're going to grow with your degree, and it is better to study something you actually care about rather than something you thought you would care about. I went from a criminology major and a possible psychology minor to a criminology major and a political science minor, to a criminology major and an archaeology minor, to finally double majoring in archaeology and criminology. It wasn't a smooth process, and I definitely took classes that I didn't need (my heart aches for the lost money, lol). However, I know that this is what fits best for me, and I really like the division of archaeology and criminology. Once upon a time, I also thought about maybe attending law school after my undergrad because I was enamored by my intro-level law classes. However, after I took criminal law I realized that I would never enjoy law school and now law school is not even an option on the table for me anymore. Honestly, when it comes to your undergrad, it is all about the process and finding something you actually enjoy, which sometimes could involve realizing that university may not necessarily be something you enjoy. Getting A’s doesn’t necessarily mean you are enjoying something. Actually enjoying something and simply doing well in something are two very different things, but that's for you to figure out.
2. Politics are secretly everywhere; usually, they're not a big deal.
In particular, this year has been a big learning curve with a lot of insight into what my future may look like and how political everything really is. For the most part, it's politics with a small p, so nothing too important, just something to take notice of here and there. However, sometimes it's politics with a big P, and those can be nerve-racking on the best of days. In my big P cases this year, I was lucky enough to have some friends and mentors who were able to help me through it. The biggest lesson I think I learned was that disengaging is always an option, and it's typically the option that defuses the situation at least a little bit. Politics come and go; I wouldn't let it scare you too much.
3. Organization, procrastination, and why I choose absolute chaos.
My organization strategy is making an agenda I look at approximately once and then forget it exists. Sometimes I make to-do lists depending on how forward-thinking I am that day. What I would suggest is finding something that works for you. Not everyone needs or wants a super trendy agenda and life tracker; for some people, that does not do anything helpful for them. Find what works for you, and don't force other people's life hacks onto yourself. In terms of procrastination, I personally don't concern myself too much with my procrastination problem. Don't get me wrong, it can be stressful, but I am definitely writing this blog six hours before it is due (currently 3 am). Still, I also know that I'll have it done by the due date, and worse comes to worst, I'll catch a couple extra hours of sleep tomorrow.
To conclude, what works for me tends to change daily. If I procrastinate until the last minute, I try to leave at least enough time for me to finish the assignment, even if that means I'm stuck writing an essay for eight hours straight. Brutal, but that's life for you.
4. You may be more science/math orientated than you think.
I came to SFU very content with an arts degree, and I still am. However, if I could turn back the clock, I might have tried out a few chemistry or biology courses. I came into criminology fully expecting my weakness to be anything math or science related. Now here I am three years later, and the class I'm enjoying the most this summer is my statistics course, and I want to pursue graduate-level studies in biological anthropology (which is a predominantly quantitative discipline). Side note: qualitative research is still excellent.
5. Counselling is an option.
SFU offers students a counselling plan and I've been pretty lucky thus far because the person I’ve been meeting with roughly on a monthly basis is fantastic. I find that the counselling really helps me readjust my perspective if it ever gets wonky. I would suggest maybe giving the SFU counselling a try, especially if you are ever feeling a little overwhelmed. Also, if the person you initially meet with isn't a proper match, you can always ask to meet with a new one.
6. Student groups/peers
This point won't be too long because I'm assuming most criminology students know why peers matter. I have been involved with three formal student groups on campus so far. Something I've learned is that through these student groups, you can find excellent support systems and friends. The work may sometimes be extremely stressful, but I find that it is usually just a good time. However, you do have to find the group that matches what you're looking for. If you're looking for more of a typical undergraduate frat party type of situation, in that case, the law/political clubs will probably not be sufficient for that (maybe try to get to know some people on sports teams, they tend to know where the parties are). However, if you're looking to meet hard-core studiers who want to pursue grad school or law school, the law/political clubs might be a better direction for you. If you're going to try out student groups, try a couple out and see what group dynamic you like best.
7. Eventually, you start to get the hang of things… sometimes.
I'm technically starting my third year in Fall 2021 and I've recently realized my overall school stress has decreased a lot compared to my first semester. My first semester was brutal. I would regularly go days without sleeping. What was I doing? Couldn't tell you. It was my worst semester too, so I am not really sure what I was doing. However, here I am now, two years later, taking more advanced courses but feeling way more relaxed. That is, until you realize you forgot a discussion post that's due in 20 minutes...
8. I don’t know; I'll come back in a couple years and let you know what I learned in the second half.
Thanks for reading, have a nice day!
PSA: Just wrapped up the last edit before I send it to the editors, currently only 4 am.