From Tears to Cheers: My First Day in Edmonton

Starting a new journey in your life can be a very difficult and stressful process. Read the story of how the first day at U of A went from Juan, one of our storytellers, and how he reflects on that day two years later.

Juan in front of U of A sign

Juan on the U of A North Campus

Change is something I’m used to. The biggest change in my life was moving to a different country by myself to study when I was only 17. Since then, I’ve learned that change is part of life. I have changed many things throughout my life: my study habits, my major (more times than I would like to admit) and my outfit each day, to name a few. You must be fluid in life, so on a random day, I impulsively applied for a master’s degree at the University of Alberta.

I remember August 24, 2020 like it happened a couple of years ago (because it did happen a couple of years ago). It was a day full of change: I was changing provinces, schools and career paths. All I had with me were my possessions, which could fit in two luggage bags and some boxes, and my best friend, who conveniently had a minivan (she was always destined to be a soccer mom). Ready for the day, although scared, we started our 5.5-hour journey to Edmonton with Rihanna as our soundtrack. 

While driving to Edmonton, all I could think about was how I was leaving the last five years of my life in Saskatoon and how a new chapter was starting. Although everyone was describing me that day as “nervous,” what I felt was more along the lines of sheer and utter panic. While I am used to change, I don’t like it. I was panicking about where I was going to live, if I was going to make new friends, if I was going to be able to finish my master’s in two years in the middle of a pandemic (spoiler alert: I wasn’t). 

When my friend dropped me off and got ready to leave, all those feelings intensified. To make matters worse, my apartment keys did not work. In a panic, with tears rolling down my face, I had to do something truly frightening: talk to someone in person.

Once I was in the Residence Services office, I realized something: No matter where you are, or how unfamiliar you are in your environment, there will always be someone willing to help you. The warmth that I felt that day didn’t stop in residence. From random strangers on campus helping me find buildings (why is campus so big?), to my master’s supervisor telling me the best restaurants in the city, to the quick waves as you pass someone you know, my panic slowly turned into comfort.

Two years later, I look back at that day and laugh because past me would be very happy to meet present me! I am an SRA in residence, surrounded by amazing friends in a vibrant, outgoing and engaged community, while also doing research in a field that I truly love. In short, life is good.

If there is one thing that I want to leave you with, it’s this: Change is scary, yes, but it can also be exciting. After all, would life be fun if everything had been figured out already? So please, welcome change as much as you can because two years from now you may be in the best chapter of your life so far looking back on that tearful day when you changed and give cheers to it.

Juan Garcia Rivas

About Juan

Juan Garcia Rivas is currently a Senior Resident Assistant for HUB mall and Graduate Residences. He is doing his Masters degree in physiology, studying the importance of vitamin A during development. In his free time you can find him binge watching an anime, playing games on his Nintendo Switch, or going to the gym.