Engineering at UofT is hard work. We put in more hours than most full-time jobs. It’s easy to let school take over, especially when it is midterm or exam season. When I came to Engineering the workload was a shock. I was forced, or at least I thought I was, to give up all of the things I had done for fun. My hobbies got pushed to the side and forgotten about. I stopped reading and didn’t even bother to get a library card in first year. I stopped drawing and painting, thinking that I didn’t have the time to spare. All of the hobbies I had enjoyed in high school were put off. I would pick them back up when I had more time I told myself, perhaps after midterms, or after that big assignment. The time never came for me however, I didn’t jump back into painting or a good book or anything that I truly loved to do. Engineering took up all my time.
After a year of mediocre grades and tons of stress I decided I needed change. My first year was the worst year I had in engineering. I was homesick, struggled to make good friends, felt overwhelmed by school, and considered dropping out. I felt like school was consuming my life. In my second year, I knew I needed to things differently. I changed how I studied and how I scheduled my time. I took days off from studying and went out with friends. I made sure to make time for the things I loved. Things that had nothing to do with school or engineering. I started reading novels again and drawing in between assignments. I forced myself to make time for the things I actually enjoyed doing. The amount of time I spent studying and thinking about school in general decreased. School was still a priority in my life, but I just made sure it wasn’t the only priority in my life. I became happier and felt less stress from school, even though second year was more academically challenging than the first. Throughout my second year, I started to feel the weight lifting off my chest.
Counter to my intuition, my marks soared. I was studying less than in first year, but I was back to my high school marks. Making time for the things that made me happy paid off. Engineering was still extremely difficult and stress-inducing but I’d learned how to deal with it more effectively. Making time in my life for things that had absolutely nothing to do with school such as reading a book, drawing a picture of my favourite character from a game, or simply hanging out with my friends allowed me to spend the time I devoted to studying more efficiently. It’s important to have balance in your life. School is important, but so is your happiness. If I wasn’t happy at school, I couldn’t do well no matter how much time I spent studying. Studying less and investing my time in my own well being paid off more than I could have hoped for.
Fast forward to a few years later, I have great friends, a growing portfolio of art, and several books on the go. I’ve become a tap dancer and am working towards creating a performance piece in the future. I also have the best grades I have ever had and I still don’t spend the same number of hours studying as I did in my first year. Learning how to balance my life was the best thing I ever learned how to do. Balancing life is part of becoming an adult. When we enter university, our time becomes our own. It is up to us how we choose to spend it. Finding out how to effectively use my time is one of the greatest lessons engineering taught me. Engineering doesn’t have to be four years of stress and sleepless nights spent studying. Most of us only go to university once, and it’s important to spend our time here as best we can.