Letter: From a fifth year to all first years — be brave

I spent the majority of my degree scared and complacent. I decided that spending two years taking science courses and getting terrible grades was the greater alternative to admitting that I may be better suited for arts. Why? Because everyone makes fun of arts degrees, so I let that stop me from admitting that I’m creative — a dreamer with skills that are better suited for arts. Now, I’m a psychology student and my grades and my soul sleep better.

If I could offer you one piece of advice, something I wish someone had drilled into me when university started is this: be brave. I know, I wish it was something more mind-blowing and complex. But being brave in itself is difficult. It’s so general, so let me try and break it down for you.

Try new things

Be brave and seek out new experiences. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable, embrace it. Growth and self-discovery are facilitated by stepping outside your comfort zone. So go join clubs, attend parties and first-year events. Be proactive and make the effort to do things that scare you. Don’t do what I did and pretend to be too cool for novel experiences. For so long, I wondered why I felt like I hadn’t grown since high school. It wasn’t until I started getting involved in the community that I started to feel that sense of self-improvement I had longed for. I was — and still am — so afraid to try new things because I didn’t want to fail. Now, I’m constantly forcing myself to operate outside of my comfort zone and it’s scary but great.

Listen to your intuition

Be brave enough to value your own opinion and gut feelings above others. Only you know what’s best for you. Don’t spend years studying something that a) you weren’t good at and b) you didn’t enjoy. If there’s something that feels off, don’t let the fear of judgement prevent you from staying true to yourself. I know it’s cliché and I still find myself struggling to adhere to this, but do your best not to care what people think. Doing what you think you should do rather than what you want to do is overrated and not in service of yourself.

Be open to new experiences

So what’s the difference between being open and trying new things? To me, the difference is in passivity. When I suggest being open to experiences, I mean going with the flow, letting things happen and sticking around long enough to watch them play out. You never know who you may meet, memories you may make and experiences you may be exposed to. Try not to write things off right away and keep an open mind. I shut out so many experiences because I thought it wasn’t something I’d be interested in. For example, I had no idea how interesting writing for virtual reality was until I took a creative writing course. Rather than turning my nose at it because I’ve never been interested in video games, I kept an open mind and it really sparked an interest in me.

Be brave. It’s something I have to tell myself everyday. If you’re not pushing yourself, you’re not growing. I know it’s only the first few weeks of school, but time flies. I remember being in first year, I couldn’t see the end of my degree — it seemed impossibly far away. Now, I’m here and it’s unreal. Truth be told, I wish I had realized and implemented my own advice years ago. So here’s me, doing my best to reach out and pass on what I consider to be the greatest thing I’ve learned over my years at UBC. Good luck and be brave!

Adry Yap is a fifth-year psychology student.