Finding Yourself in University

Besides being a pathway to a degree, university also offers an opportunity to explore your identity and sense of self.


While most of us are at university to study and get a degree to support our future career, university also marks an entry into adult life, occupying a unique space between parental supervision and the obligations of adulthood. It is often the first time young adults have the freedom to make their own decisions, explore their identity, and decide who they want to be in the world. University offers several opportunities to find yourself, including engaging in student groups or organizations that champion a cause you care about, or discovering new forms of self-expression through art, fashion, or music. There are an infinite number of pathways to take during your university journey and whether you are deciding on your major, determining which student group to join, or exploring your identity and sense of self, you have the reins. Personal growth and getting closer to becoming your most authentic, happy self is the goal to keep in mind no matter what path you are on.

There is a common fear of choosing the wrong path or changing your mind, but that is more than okay! These fears are valid but that doesn’t mean they are always accurate. When it comes down to it, it’s always better to know that you don’t like something than to regret never taking the shot. In my own experience, most of my growth came from getting involved on campus. In my first year, I threw myself into working part-time as a Resident Assistant, joined six different student groups, and co-founded the U of A’s Black Students’ Association. This was one of the most hectic yet exhilarating times I have had during my university experience. While I had a great time involved in all I did, if I could go back and change things, I would try a few things at a time to truly sort out what I enjoyed and what I had the capacity for. When it comes to exploring opportunities on campus, it’s important to find a balance with your academics, life, and extracurriculars to not burn out. In my experience, I grew the most when I intentionally charted out my progress and redirected time for the interests I hadn’t yet explored. 

As for the main reason you’re attending university—getting a degree— your course load also offers a perfect way to explore your interests and potential passions. This could look like trying different courses to decide on your major, or taking a subject you are interested in but don’t want to major in. Even if you’re sure you want to take a certain degree to enter a specific career field, most majors offer students the freedom of choosing option courses alongside their course requirements. I started at the U of A in the Faculty of Science, majoring in Psychology. It took less than a week to realize that the major was not for me, especially not taking that Stats 151 prerequisite. At the same time, I cherished my option courses in Political Science and Womens’ and Gender Studies, leading to my decision to take them as my majors. Now, I can’t imagine myself in any other major. Sometimes our initial expectations change as we get to know ourselves and our skill sets better. Try to remain open to change and explore new paths to create a vision most aligned with who you are. 

Discovering what you like takes some trial and error. Yet, even when you choose wrong, you always gain a new insight or skill from trying something you do not enjoy. Along the way, make sure to be present and remember you’re not alone in this. You are surrounded by people who are also just getting their first taste of freedom, so you might as well stop and compare notes. Some of the tips that have helped me are staying positive, reflecting on how you honestly feel about whatever you want to grow in and letting yourself fall sometimes. Again, it’s about the journey, not the destination, and we are all constantly becoming our best selves.

About Rain

Rain is a fifth and final year double major in Political Science and Womens’ and Gender studies. They love everything to do with social justice, competitive sports and anime.