A letter to the graduating class of 2019

There’s no rush to figure it out — your time will come

A letter to the graduating class of 2019

My own post-grad period was filled with self-doubt which bordered on intense self-hatred, with confronting situations I thought I had already overcome, and with a desire for a seemingly-impossible better life.

If I have one piece of advice for those who are about to become graduates, it’s that you need to give yourself time. This can apply to any number of things: from finding a job, to getting into grad school, to figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your life.

You’re so young, and I know how ridiculous this must sound. I felt it was ridiculous too, but there is no rush to figure any of these questions out. I know it seems that way because you’ve either got people you want to make proud — looking at you, diaspora students — or you want to save the world as soon as possible. 

I want you to waste daylight. I want you to know that it is okay to spend time existing plainly, without a purpose. I want you to know that someday you will miss the times when you had nothing better to do than sit around and watch Netflix or listen to music. 

One day, you’ll be on a packed train, finishing up your morning commute, and silently cursing yourself for not reading your book in a more comfortable setting. You’ll miss waking up to the rain falling at 11:00 am. These moments that seem like curses of an uncertain period are actually moments you can spend starting to heal. 

You worked so hard in university, regardless of the cGPA you graduated with. Things will happen eventually; do not try to rush into doing things that may not be the best for you. Never try to bury your emotions — talk or write about them. Know that you are not alone in your fear of the future. The best years of your life are yet to be finished, and there is nothing more important for your well-being than taking care of yourself. 

Your time will come. And whenever it does, I know that you will make the best of it. Figuring yourself out is a learning curve; there is no use in wishing that things would be perfect immediately. I’ve learned that the best thing about the unknown is that, in a way, it will stay with you forever. Even when we think we have things figured out, things can change overnight. The best thing for you is, and will always be, to live your life without trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel. It’ll come to you eventually. Just trust yourself, and live your truth in the meantime.

So, for all the 2019 grads, take the time to go for a stroll around Toronto, especially if you’re planning on moving away. You’ll miss it.

What now?

A recent grad reflects on her time at U of T

What now?

It often seemed as though this day would never come. Somehow, I managed to survive four years at U of T. Soon I’ll walk into Convocation Hall and receive an incredibly overpriced piece of paper known as a diploma. At the end of my time here, I can’t help but wonder if it was all worth it.

I was obsessed with getting to this finish line, as if graduating with a 4.0 GPA would somehow solve all my problems and kickstart my ‘real’ life after convocation. I imagined fielding job offers, networking, and feeling proud of my status as a U of T alumna. Why else would I have put up with the countless long days and nights spent at Robarts? Why else suffer in the constant hustle to be at the top of the class?

Well… the gates of heaven did not open when I put down my pen after my last exam. Instead, I was filled with overwhelming anxiety. I kept asking myself, “What do I do now?” I’d waited for this moment for years, and now that it was here, I didn’t know what to do or how to feel. The truth is, U of T wasn’t all I had thought it would be. I spent most of my time here cursing its name and counting down the days until I never had to set foot on this campus ever again. But on that last day, I couldn’t seem to leave. I began to realize that my tunnel vision had made me avoid answering a lot of questions about my life and future. But now that there wasn’t anything left to work toward, all those questions came flooding in.

I used to look at fourth year students as though they were the luckiest people in the world. I watched with envy as I saw graduates taking pictures with their regalia in King’s College Circle from the window of the study halls in Gerstein. Surely, I thought, they must know what they’re doing. They must have their whole lives planned out and are just waiting to begin. Now as a fourth year, I feel more lost and confused than ever. Here’s the brutal reality: I still don’t know what I’m going to do with my life; I don’t know what job I can get with my social science degree; and I don’t know if U of T was worth all the stress and money. And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way.

Undergrad left me with a lot more questions than it gave me answers, but I also think that may have been the point. U of T checked my ego, showing me that I would need to work harder than I ever had to get any recognition for my efforts. It constantly challenged what I thought was normal or acceptable. I was pushed out of my comfort zone every day, and though I hated it, I think I’m better off for it. At least I hope so.

If there is one thing I regret from my time in undergrad, though, it’s that I haven’t enjoyed it as much as I should have. I regret simply looking at this time as a transitory phase, as a holding pattern until my real ‘adult’ life began. I didn’t take the time to make lasting connections. I knew I didn’t want to stay here, so what was the point in getting attached? I missed out on many opportunities because I was always stressed over the next test, the next paper, and whether or not that one “B” I got in first year would be the reason I wouldn’t get into grad school. The reality is that my adult life was, and is, already happening. It doesn’t start the day I get a desk job, and when I do, I will probably regret not having more stories about my life in undergrad beyond my all-nighters in the library. It may sound corny, but I was so obsessed with getting to the finish line that I barely paid attention to the race.

What I can say with certainty now is this: U of T will give you exactly what you give it. No one will hold your hand or act as your guide toward success. It will take a few all-nighters to get that coveted 4.0 GPA, but university is about so much more than that. Challenge yourself on purpose, find new passions, and get involved as much you can in whatever you’re interested in. University isn’t some waiting room to your adult life: it is your life. I spent most of my time resenting U of T instead of appreciating the opportunities it offered. Yes, U of T can be big and scary, but there is so much to discover, if you just go out and look.

Now, I always answer the classic job interview question, “what has been one of your biggest challenges?” the same way.

Going to U of T has been one of my biggest challenges, but I also hope it will end up being the most rewarding. Going here is hard. Not only because the classes are hard, but because growing up is hard. You lose old friends, you make new friends, and you change your mind constantly. It can often feel like school is literally plotting against you. But this is also one of the last times where we have the freedom to explore whatever interests us, where our main goal is to discover who we are, and find out what we want.  

You don’t need to have all the answers by convocation day. What I can say for certain is that I’m not going to enter Convocation Hall on my graduation day as the same person I was on my first day in my first year. When all is said and done, isn’t that the point?

Report finds Con Hall still feasible for graduation ceremonies

Committee concerns centre on crowding amid increased enrolment

Report finds Con Hall still feasible for graduation ceremonies

Despite U of T’s growing enrolment and the building’s limited capacity, Convocation Hall has been deemed a feasible location in which graduation ceremonies may continue, according to a February report released by the Convocation Advisory Review Committee.

The report was drafted over several months, taking into account the practicality of the university’s current system and examining possible alternatives for venue and logistics.

Convocation Hall has a capacity of 1,700 but current logistics indicate that graduating classes exceed this size, as the total number of graduates has seen an 11 per cent increase from 17,056 in 2013 to approximately 18,981 in 2018.

While the venue for convocation ceremonies remains the same, minor adjustments will be made to programming, specifically to shorten the length of the ceremony. Proposed changes include enforcing time limits on speeches, presenting graduates in alphabetical order as opposed to by level of achievement, and exploring the viability of live captions for the ceremony.

Alumni and recent graduates were asked to participate in a survey regarding their convocation experiences and ways to improve. Student groups were also consulted on possible changes.

Participants and stakeholders mainly expressed concerns regarding venue capacity and accessibility.

Alternate locations for convocation have included the Rogers Centre, Scotiabank Arena, the Enercare Centre, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and the Coca Cola Coliseum, all of which would allow for larger capacities and fewer ceremonies.

The Enercare Centre’s capacity of 12,000 people and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s capacity of 10,500 people would allow for six and seven ceremonies over three days respectively.  Major venues such as the Rogers Centre and Scotiabank Arena were restricted due to other priorities such as sporting events and concerts.

According to the report, there were 35 ceremonies at Con Hall in 2018 — 29 ceremonies in the spring over 11 days, and eight in the fall spanning four days.

Participants ultimately agreed that Convocation Hall played a major role in graduating ceremonies and traditions even if tickets and spaces were limited.

“The committee heard from a large number of people, in strong terms, that Convocation Hall plays a fundamental role in the U of T experience. We agree — that tradition must continue,” said President Meric Gertler to U of T News.

“When graduates and guests exit their convocation ceremony, they are not just on a sidewalk in downtown Toronto, but on King’s College Circle at the heart of the university,” said Bryn MacPherson, co-chair of the Convocation Advisory Review Committee.

“The U of T community really felt a deep attachment and connection to the whole experience.”

Changes are expected to be rolled out for spring convocation.