Reflections of a soon-to-be graduating student

Jaden shares some of his thoughts and advice that he’s picked up over his undergraduate career.



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Jaden (he/him) is a fourth-year East Asian Studies major in the Faculty of Arts. A born-and-raised Edmontonian, as president of the KGK: East Asian Studies Undergraduate Students’ Association, Jaden is a leader, activist and advocate for Asian anti-racism, constantly working to nurture more inclusive and diverse communities. Whether it's singing, drawing, creating video games or, of course, writing, you can usually find Jaden engaged in a variety of creative endeavours. When he's not working, Jaden enjoys connecting with friends and travelling around the world, with the goal of using his creativity and passion as a platform to create a positive impact on the world.

It’s strange to think that just like that, four years have gone by: four years of forever friendships, riveting experiences and unforgettable memories. Truth be told, I didn’t have much hope for university; I expected to be inundated with nothing more than the mundanity of academics. Never could I have anticipated that these four years would become some of the most fulfilling years of my life so far. And just like that, I’ll be graduating in a couple of months and moving on to the next stage of my life. Thus, as I reflect on my journey, I’d like to share some pieces of wisdom and advice that I’ve gathered from my time at the U of A.

Have a strong organization system.

I know, I know, this first one is probably a given, but it can be harder than you expect. As early on in your university life as possible, you should really put in the effort to establish a system to help keep you organized and on track. However, it’s not just about implementing the system but making it a habit that you maintain throughout your degree as well. And honestly, it might not be something you figure out off the bat; it’ll likely take some trial and error, but once you figure it out, it’ll make the process that much easier.

I used two systems on and off, sometimes separately and sometimes concurrently. One was Notion, which is a digital service that can help you organize your life at a higher level as well as keep track of tasks. Of course, it can serve way more functions than that, but what I found particularly helpful with Notion is its various automation features, which made it easy to use. I also like using a bullet journal as I find it more personalized, and sometimes, it can just be nice to write something on paper. Regardless of what you pick, I encourage you to experiment with the options and settle on whatever works for you.

Don’t be afraid to take a lighter course load.

University is tough as is; exams, homework, essays on top of work, a social life and more can be exhausting and overwhelming. But I find that, in general, there’s been a bit of a shift. Where before, a lot of people felt compelled to take five courses every semester and attempt to graduate within four years, it’s a lot more common to take fewer courses during the fall and winter semesters and make up for it by taking an extra year or doing spring and summer courses. I find this to be an entirely valid and perhaps even preferable route, as it reduces the stress and pressure that you’d otherwise face taking a full course load.

I took the route of taking an average of four courses per semester and then a couple of spring courses. I think I had an easier and more relaxed time than I would have had I taken five courses, which allowed me to enjoy my university experience to the fullest. This lighter course load afforded me the time and energy to engage in other aspects of my life, such as extracurricular activities, while making it easier for me to maintain my academic performance in school.

Join and be a part of university clubs.

I’ve written a whole article about this before, but one of the most fruitful things I’ve partaken in was being president of my students’ association, the KGK. I think school clubs are an underrated aspect of university life. Joining a club, whether as a member or an executive, can open your eyes and help you grow as a person in a unique way. Oftentimes, clubs are centred around people who share the same passions. These passions can be the catalyst that connects you with others who can become lifelong friends and even family to you.

As President of KGK, I was able to accomplish many things: leading a team to run amazing events, meeting and befriending so many people and creating an impact on the lives of our members and a greater social impact. I am incredibly proud of what I was able to do in the last couple of years in my role, and this experience shaped not just my university life but my life as a whole. The splashes of colours that my club brought to me every day made my undergraduate years all the more fulfilling and memorable.

Participate in a go abroad program.

Something I will always recommend to everyone is taking part in an education abroad program. I did a summer abroad program, and honestly, I wish I could’ve done a longer one. Seldom will you find experiences out there that will allow you to simply experience living in another country. As you grow older, the opportunities to travel, especially for longer periods of time, may not be as accessible. Furthermore, the opportunity to attend university while abroad allows you to befriend other students, local and international, which may be harder to do if you’re living there while working.

An education abroad program can broaden your horizons and expand your perspective, helping you grow as a person and find new sides to yourself. In my case, I was able to experience living alone for the first time, immerse myself in a different culture and practice my language skills. Especially in a time when cultural awareness has become more important than ever, I felt like I evolved and grew more in that short summer than I did over the previous three years of university. And, of course, going abroad is fun!

Look deeper for what university opportunities are available.

University is a special place that often has very unique opportunities that can greatly enrich your life if you put in the effort to dig a bit deeper and do some research about them. For example, I was able to become a blogger for YouAlberta and a career peer educator for the Career Centre; where else would I be able to take on such cool positions? Not only was I able to conveniently work on campus, but I was able to gain skills in more niche areas that I don’t think would be as widely available elsewhere.

Another one that was one of the most valuable for me was the Computer Game Development Certificate. This program allowed me to explore game development as a potential career path, something I only dreamed of, and now it has blossomed into a path that I am earnestly pursuing! 

And what I mentioned are only a couple of examples; there are a bunch of other things you can look into, from interesting classes to CPR training programs to fun campus events to services like the Undergraduate Research Initiative and more! On top of that, many of these are free or discounted, so take advantage of the opportunities you can get only from university!

And that’s it! I hope that some of my advice can help; I sure wish someone told me these things when I was just starting. Time will pass much more quickly than you expect, so make sure you take advantage of the opportunities available to you on campus and make the most of being a university student! If you play your cards right, university can be an incredibly enriching and life-changing experience, so live your campus life to the fullest while you still can!