Archived: Why you should go outside your comfort zone during university

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The fall semester is about a month away, and that means at SAMRU we’re here like:

To those of you who are returning to us, welcome back. To those of you who are #New2MRU, thanks for joining us – we can’t wait to meet you! We get very excited and earnest around the start of the new school year, so I hope you’ll forgive us if we impart some advice you didn’t ask for.

I know I’m about to sound like a high school guidance counsellor sitting backwards in a chair so we can have a “hang sesh,” but it’s true what they say: the most important learning experiences of your time at MRU will probably happen outside the classroom. If you’re open to it, you’ll learn from your peers, your instructors, university support staff, even people you don’t particularly get along with. You don’t have to be buds with everyone, but if you can listen to everyone and then use all that information to synthesize your own opinions, you’ll be better for it.

Sometimes the experience of being around a bunch of strangers (many of whom think and communicate differently from you) for the first time can be uncomfortable. That’s okay – normal, even! Just think of your brain as a teen going through a growth spurt: if it gets awkward, that’s just because you’re growing and changing in necessary ways. If/when uncomfortable feelings come up, sit quietly with them for a little while, and think of it as valuable practice that will help you later in life. Learning how to experience conflict or discomfort, reflect on and process your feelings, and then act is a really valuable skill to have as an adult.

“But SAMRU,” you wail, “that’s all stuff I can learn out in The Real World (TM)! Are you saying I could skip paying tuition and still get the same quality of education?” Well, not quite. A university campus, especially our campus, is an environment designed to nurture you, to offer you a safety net so that you can try out the tight rope without fear. If you try something new and it doesn’t go well, or if you get involved in a conflict you don’t know how to resolve on your own, there are oodles of resources available on campus to help you deal. We try as hard as we can to make MRU a safe place for you to practice being brave, which will help you to get the most out of your classroom education.

I guess what we’re saying is…honour the unique opportunity afforded you here by putting yourself out there. Be curious. Volunteer. Show up to things. Get to know your Student Advocacy Office so you can be a better advocate for yourself and your peers. Become an expert at being a beginner. Ask questions when you don’t know. Engage politically with your campus and the world beyond it. I promise, Future You will be grateful you made the effort. You can get as much or as little out of your time here as you want, and it all depends on what you’re willing to put into it. Scary, right? Absolutely. But it’s also freeing, and when it all feels too hard, SAMRU’s got your back.