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vchan last won the day on February 4

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  1. It's important to recognize how much our mental health impacts our overall well-being and quality of life. May 3rd-9th is the CMHA Mental Health Week campaign, where CMHA is encouraging individuals to express and understand their emotions, no matter how uncomfortable they may feel. During this pandemic, many of us have experienced low feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation, making mental health more important than ever. Throughout my time in university, I struggled a lot with my own mental health due to the constant pressures of trying to balance school work, extracurriculars, social life, co-op jobs, relationships, and other external factors that made up my life during that period. I had many instances where my social anxiety blocked my efforts to improve my life, whether that would be personal or professional. I was constantly stressed and felt like I was underachieving in everything I did thanks to my own perception that others around me were always doing better, and that I was never going to catch up. That was a personal flaw I didn't realize I was doing at the time; instead of worrying about how others were doing, I could've chose to be more mindful and remind myself that I was just fine and how many things I could actually be grateful for. Today I'm a lot more self aware of my emotions and how my past experiences shaped me as a person. Speaking with numerous mental health counsellors, during and after university, taught me how to understand and cope with my emotions in a healthier way. That was a big factor in how my mental health had the chance to progress over the years through the good and bad days. They didn't encourage me to ignore and filter out all the bad things in my life as I had been previously doing, but rather how to cope with the anxiety and impulsive thoughts when they occurred. This is not to say I don't have days where I experience regression. Your mental health journey isn't always going to be linear, and it's okay to take a couple of steps back. I am able to be more self aware of my actions and not let my emotions surpass a threshold where I do or say things I may regret later. Overall, I recommend reaching out to any mental health services your school offers if that is something you feel you can benefit from. I personally find that speaking with a professional can always offer you an unbiased perspective on certain issues, and the feeling of being in a place free of judgement makes me feel safe and more open to talking about things that people in my personal life, such as friends and family members, may not always understand or show compassion for. Not every counsellor is going to be a good fit with what you are looking for, so be open to finding someone else, or even something different if that's what you need. Take care and stay safe!
  2. One of the main reasons I chose to attend Waterloo was because of the co-op program that was offered to its students, granted it was offered in your program and you were able to keep up a specific GPA. The prospect of working 4-8 months in between my study terms sounded very exciting, as there were a lot of benefits that could be considered: 1) Expanding your network by increasing the number of professionals you meet within your industry 2) Having relevant experiences to add onto your resume 3) Getting to travel to new cities/countries if you chose to work abroad 4) Applying to a variety of jobs to figure out what you are truly interested in 5) Earning money to help pay for tuition, rent, and other finances during university 6) Getting experience with job interviews and resume writing 7) Improving skills that can be applied to any job such as communication, organization, teamwork, etc. With all the benefits of a co-op program in mind, there are also downsides to consider before choosing to apply to one based on my personal experiences: 1) Applying to jobs and preparing for interviews takes a lot of time and effort, especially when this is done during a study term 2) The first co-op term could be extremely difficult - Lack of previous work/volunteering experiences can be a detriment to employers even if you are enrolled in a co-op program 3) Co-op guidelines - Not being able to apply to work that is unpaid (volunteer), mandatory to find a job by a specific deadline, cannot work for family businesses, and other factors that could prevent you from finding opportunities that arise 4) The stress of not receiving interviews or being turned down by an employer can be taxing on mental health during the study term 5) Finding that the job does not meet your expectations Although my own personal experience with co-op was not always easy, I can't speak for everyone. Perhaps you do one interview and get the job on the spot, maybe you apply to 100 jobs and still haven't received any interviews. It's important to remember that you need to focus on yourself and what your personal goals are when deciding on entering a co-op program.
  3. It was the summer of 2013, I had just graduated high school and was ready to start my new life as a university student. I was so excited to be living away from home for the first time and experiencing what it would be like to make all of my own choices without requiring permission from my parents such as going out late, eating whatever I wanted, hanging out with my friends, and other typical activities teenagers liked to do. I think a lot of students can relate to the sentiment of living as their own person for the first time and truly figuring out who they are outside of high school and their respective towns. I for one was ready to dive into the full university experience, knowing I was living with a couple of friends from high school, I wasn't too worried about living arrangements. It was myself and three other girls living in a suite divided into four small rooms with a small kitchen, dining area, and living space with two bathrooms. I have to say we got pretty lucky with our living arrangement, as we never went through the experiences of sharing communal bathrooms or living off a meal plan exclusively since we had a kitchen. We were also in a fairly new dorm so it was cleaner, but also one of the few that included A/C so we could stay cool during the first few weeks of September. I thoroughly enjoyed the space and was grateful we got the privacy that other dorms didn't exactly have, but there were definitely a few downsides to the dorm as well. 1) Privacy - I know I stated this as a positive, as it was more quiet than other dorms available at the university, but it also took away from the socialization aspect of the "college experience". To elaborate, each room in our building was its own suite, meaning that you were mostly surrounded by the other three roommates that you had. Unless you actually made an effort to go out and meet the other people living on the floor... you were pretty isolated. Sadly for us, most of the people on our floor kept to themselves, so we didn't get much of a chance to make new friends. 2) THIN WALLS - As someone who is a light sleeper, accustomed to the quiet suburban lifestyle with minimum noises and distractions at night... let's just say I didn't sleep much for the first couple of months. 3) Chores - Splitting up chores is not always easy when it comes to living with a new group of people. Sometimes you need to have difficult conversations about how someone might be slacking in one department, or how you feel like you're doing most of the work. To be honest, I was guilty of slacking in some of my duties as well. University is hard and your schedule gets turned upside down when you have to balance not only your studies, but also cooking for yourself, cleaning, grocery shopping, and finding time to unwind and enjoy the hobbies and extra curricular activities you like to do. My only advice is give yourself time to adjust and hopefully you can figure out a routine that works for you! Those are just some of my experiences living away from home from the first time. Although it wasn't perfect, I still had a great time in first year learning how to live on my own and meeting a lot of new friends in the process. It taught me how to be more independent, balance my schedule, and figure out how to communicate with others about things that bothered me. Living OFF campus is a whole other area I will get into for another post.
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