By: Michelle Angkasa
Dear Past Self,
You’re driving home from the University of Waterloo, after a long morning of touring the campus and residences. After a few frantic months of applying to different programs, and then obsessively refreshing your email to check if your acceptances have come in, you’re finally here. As you wandered around the Environment buildings, you tried to imagine yourself there. There was a sense of coming home, a feeling that you could picture a future where you spent your days in these classrooms, listening to these profs, alongside thousands of other aspiring young students. You see yourself in those bright faces, and even on this overcast and foggy day, the campus is strikingly green. You can almost ignore the geese.
You’re going to experience a LOT in the next few months. You’re going to graduate from high school, and be forced to abandon the comforting familiar rituals and habits of the past four years. You’re going to move away from home for the first time, leaving behind your best friends and favourite hometown haunts. You’re going to have to uproot your life, pack it into a few dozen boxes, and try to build a home amidst strangers in a strange place.
You’ll have the opportunity to completely redefine yourself: to shrug off people’s established perceptions of you, to start a new chapter of your life- turning the page on what you and others have written about you. You’ll have the chance to become the insufferably passionate environmentalist you always knew before (and yes, of course that means neurotically sorting your roommates’ recycling). You’ll be able to make mistakes, sleep at ungodly hours, and take full credit of your accomplishments. You’ll strike out on your own, and continually surprise yourself by looking back and seeing how far you’ve come.
You’ll find a home in the Faculty of Environment. They’ll feed you well with delicious vegetarian food, and fill your mind with fascinating research about everything from sustainable food systems in rural China to multimodal public transport. You’ll meet people from all walks of life, all united under the banandana of Environment (and an unwavering loyalty to reusable water bottles). You’ll be constantly inspired and impressed by what your peers have accomplished, and their tenacity to pursue their respective life missions. They’ll become friends, mentors, confidants. You’ll forge relationships with people who’ll help you grow, who’ll lead by example, paving the path for you to find your own niche.
You’ll write. More than ever. You’ll read lots of great books, watch captivating documentaries, listen to prestigious academics speak. You’ll engage in debates and lively discussions, emerging with new knowledge and perspective. You’ll come home every night having learned something new, and marvelling at how much is going on at the University. You’ll even crash other Faculties’ events, and thankfully, only get kicked out of a few of them.
Your first year at University will be incredibly eventful, but it’ll be over in an alarmingly short time (oh yeah, there’ll be a global pandemic, but don’t worry about it!). By the time you pack up your apartment and head back home (for the last time in six months), you’ll feel unrecognizable. But don’t worry, you’ll be returning soon. It’s all just begun.