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University has taught me to… Get comfortable being uncomfortable

By Sam Taylor, 4th-year Concurrent Education, English major student

Now is the time to try something unordinary!

I am currently in my fourth year of my undergrad here at Queen’s. I think one of the most important pieces of advice that I learned throughout my undergraduate experience is to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” I actually just heard this saying recently at the Queen’s Conference on Education that I attended my first weekend back from Christmas break. It occurred to me that this saying holds true for a lot of occurrences over my past four years: I just never had a way of categorizing them. Here is how Queen’s has taught me to “get comfortable being uncomfortable” and made me a more open-minded and well-rounded learner because of it.

  1. Ask for help

During my transition from high school to university, I thought that, first of all, I knew exactly what I was doing on assignments, tests, exams, etc. Secondly, I was afraid to ask for help. The class sizes when you are in first year can be intimidatingly big. I was nervous, scared, and uncomfortable with approaching a professor or TA after class or even e-mailing them. One of my biggest learning curves from first year to second year was about approaching those individuals. The only way I was going to improve my grades or overcome the fear of talking to them was to approach them and ask for their help. Here are some good people I discovered on campus:

  • 1:1 Appointments
    SASS offers learning strategies advising, writing consultations, peer writing appointments, and ESL appointments that are one-on-one and confidential. Talking to individuals one-on-one about what you are struggling with academically can be difficult. But remember that they are there to help you succeed.
  • Other students
    If talking to a professor or TA seems too intimidating at first, start small and ask fellow students in your class for their help. Or ask them if they would like to approach the professor or TA with you if you are both unsure.
  • TA/Professor
    Write a list of things you want to ask them and approach them after class once most students have cleared out. Or, if this is still intimidating, e-mail them and work yourself up to talking to them in person.
  1. Try something new

Each year at Queen’s has presented me with different learning curves, and that is okay! I think that a lot of the time, university students (and I am guilty of this myself) get caught up in achieving the best grades in each class and forget about the journey along the way to obtaining this grade. For my first two years of my undergrad, I was stuck in the same routine. I was always taking humanities courses for both my major and electives, I studied at my bedroom desk, and I solely took classes in person. It wasn’t until I stepped outside of my comfort zone in my third and fourth year that I realized how important it is to continually grow as a learner. Here are some unconventional ways that I pushed myself as a learner:

  • Take an elective outside of your discipline
    Believe me, I know how intimidating this can sound. BUT, speaking from personal experience as an English major, the best thing I could do for myself was to take a non-humanities course after overloading myself with English courses during my second year here. I took BMED 271, and currently, I’m in BMED 471, which contains some quantitative learning. It allows me a break from essay writing, helps to expand my knowledge, and makes me a more versatile learner.
  • Try different types of learning
    Something new that I had not tried until I was in my third year, but found out that I LOVED, was taking online classes. Up until that point, I was nervous to try this type of learning because I would not have someone ensuring I completed the modules, lectures, readings, and assignments weekly. I found out that I truly enjoy this type of learning. It can set you up for success in the future too, where you could take courses online to keep yourself up to date in your career.
  • Study somewhere new|
    In my first year, I always studied in my residence room and in my second year, I studied in my bedroom in my student house. My friend and I both had done this and decided we would try to study downtown at Balzac’s, CoGro, Tea Room, etc. Experiencing a new study environment made studying more intriguing and allowed me a chance to learn to focus while there is noise in the room.

So what have I learned over my four years here at Queen’s? A LOT of things… but the most important thing that I have learned is to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Yes, the content I learned in my courses have been just as important to help expand my mind. But, the personal experiences in each of these examples that I’ve shared with you have assisted me in growing as a person.

My advice to you while you are here at Queen’s is to try something new. Suddenly, you will notice that what makes you uncomfortable will feel comfortable and you’ll realize you have grown more because of that experience.