Dear new TWU student

Dear new TWU student,

I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. But as a person who has travelled ahead of you on the journey you have begun, I wanted to write to wish you a happy O-day and welcome you to the campus I once affectionately called home. I hope you’ll find it life-giving.

If you like, give me just a moment of your time for a couple pointers.

First things first. Fruit. It’s highly overpriced at the cafeteria. Get it from Willowbrook Farm Market in Walnut Grove. Soup is cheap and sometimes worth the savings so you can stock up on ice cream at opportune times like November when it rains the whole time. But it’s actually way better to just keep exercising. The gym isn’t far compared to other university campuses, even in the rain.

If you sleep well on those sad excuses for mattresses, I admire you. Extra foam mats?

I’m gonna sound like a parent here. That’s because parents have lots of hindsight. In this situation, so do I. If you do your pre-readings for class you won’t look or feel lost; confidence is half the battle: how will you ever feel good about learning if you haven’t applied yourself to your end of the bargain? Finish some papers early and the benefits are amazing. You’re less stressed and you have more time for refining it into work you can be proud of. My roommate created a clever schedule of his papers and dispersed them throughout the semester, successfully avoiding any all-nighters. Every percent actually counts. I didn’t graduate with distinction, but knowing I could have was a bit of a sore spot on graduation day; a mistake I won’t make again if I take further education.

Lastly, don’t give into the tendency to take your environment for granted. Look around – life is beautiful. Don’t allow yourself to complain: you have the most freedom you’ve had in your life up until this point, hopefully you’re studying something you’re interested in, and you’re part of the world’s 2% most privileged demographic. Keep perspective!

Have a blast. I look forward to hearing some stories one day.

Recommended classes:

The beauty of TWU is its liberal arts approach. You get to take a smattering of great electives!

POLS 101 – Intro to Political Thinking (Cal Townsend)

SOC 101 – Intro to Sociology (Gordon Chutter)

RELS 102 – New Testament (“RELS 102 with Kent Clarke changed everything for me.” – Jonathan Gibson) Prepare to have your faith cross-examined by a professor who won’t let you take your beliefs lightly.

ENG ___ (Holly Nelson / Lynn Szabo). The entire English faculty are world-class. Plus, they teach you how to write well, which pays off in every other course you will ever take, and for the rest of your life.

RELS 465 – Christian Thinkers of the Western Tradition (Cal Townsend)

HIST 403 – Engendered History (Robynne Healey). All the history professors at TWU are outstanding. You will have your eyes opened to the world like never before.

BUSI 280, 342, 377 (recommended by Business Administration student Jeremy Cockrill) I (Craig) didn’t take business, but I really wish I had.

Making the most of university

Published in Converge Magazine, March/April 2012 issue.

I look back on my time at university very fondly. There were moments of ecstatic joy as well as tension and even suffering. Despite all the apparent personal unsettling as I traded old friends and familiarites for new, the whole experience ultimately left me feeling more together and more certain of myself. The fire refined my self-concept.

After decades of aggressive higher-education marketing by our school systems it’s become clear that university might not for everyone, but it can be the opportunity one needs to come fully alive. Classes fired my mind into high gear as ideas I had were confronted, edited, and clarified. I was provoked to muse, freeing the deep thinker in me (kept partially in check for social reasons in high school).

The best choice I made was getting involved on campus. I got involved in student clubs and attended campus events and outings. They established a network of contacts and friendships and introduced me to new experiences that didn’t balance my life or encourage healthy sleeping habits, but kept life full of interest. My diligent involvement in student clubs and the campus newspaper, as wel l as service on student government offered resume material. Meetings and outings offered me weekly events to look forward to, and helped craft an identity as I pursued personal passions. Crafting identity is vital stuff for a young adult moving in a new direction. I made a name for myself on campus. I had an opportunity to be significant.

All long for significance. When I didn’t feel significant, I felt discouraged, particularly in my first Canadian winter when winter blues set in. Partially satisfied by class discussions, social events, sports, and campus life, I tried to keep myself occupied but would sometimes just engage in escapism. I would later discover the inner healing I needed.

Now having graduated twice, here is my advice:

  1. Make the most of the unique features of your university. I went on a travel study to Ottawa, spending time working in the political system. I used my institution’s small size to pursue student leadership and get to know my university professors. Whatever is interesting or quirky about your university can be something a potential employer or leader highlights about you.
  2. Second, while you are in university, don’t be too easily swayed by jobs that may pay better but are not in the field you want to pursue. These jobs could be interesting and could even open you up to new experiences, but many jobs today seek people with years of experience in the field, and the job market is too fragile and too competitive to risk losing your edge. Employers will prefer someone who can outperform her competitors in the required skill set.

If I could go back and do my undergrad years again, I would change two things: to not lose so much sleep over women, and not delay joining a faith community by evading it with church hopping for years. In the end, I learned to embrace who I was becoming and I’m glad I can look back with joy at the experience.