Although transition and change are facts of life, they are often faced with nerves, fear, and a general sense of stress in the face of trading in the known for the unknown. Transition, in particular, has been at the forefront of my thoughts over the past 6 months as I have both experienced and focused on transition in multiple aspects of my life.
I recently graduated from the University of Guelph after completing my undergraduate degree and with it came a major transition from student to what I now call being a non-student, as no other title quite encapsulates how I currently feel. Having had the identity of student since I can remember, this transition can be especially challenging when the so-called student identity has been a significant part of my identity since I can remember. As a student staff, I remember attending a training session on the topic of loss and bereavement where we discussed how although most often associated with death, we often experience loss in various ways with varying degrees of influence on our lives, such as in the loss of an identity. A common response when individuals finish their schooling – at whatever point that is for an individual – is feeling the effect of losing the familiar structure of school and with it, losing the student identity. When interacting with strangers, family members, and others, conversations often revolve around the classes you’re taking, your student schedule, exams, breaks, and the dreaded “what do you want to do after?” question. The concept of “after” often translates to what it may mean to no longer be a student and although inevitable, it is not something that I concretely thought through as to what it may actually entail.
The second major transition I am currently experiencing is the transition to a new job in a new city – one that I had only been to one other time in my life. Fairly far from family and friends and the known parts of my life up until this point, this transition was and continues to be a challenge for me personally and professionally. It is not the first time that I have started fresh in a new place, but it is the first time that I have faced this type of transition without the constant of my shared student identity.
These reflections on transition are a consistent reminder of the parallel experience students face as a first year student especially, but also at all points in their academic journey. In my role as a Student Experience Coordinator working primarily with First Generation students, I am humbled as I reflect on my own challenges with transition and am reminded of the difficulty that transition can bring to one’s life. It is with this reminder that I aspire to provide the best possible support to students facing challenges with their own transition.
Thinking specifically of First Generation Students, a group of students that I have the pleasure of working with and supporting at Nipissing University, the transition can seem like an even bigger unknown, as they have no family to turn to who have gone through a similar experience. Being the first in your family to accomplish something so significant can be scary, albeit rewarding at the same time.
With this in mind, I have reflected on a few things that have been important for me personally in making the best out of the uncomfortableness that coincides with change. The first is that it has been important to remind myself that it can be challenging to choose the path that I have chosen; to chase after my goals and dreams and to not necessarily be accepting of what is easy or what is comfortable. The second is to reach out to my support network who I am blessed to have and who are willing to provide support for times like these, where I may feel like I need it most. In my personal life, these are often friends and family who, thanks to technology, can often be a phone call, text message, or skype call away. For students, this can extend to the many different resources on campus available to Nipissing students to help provide support in the face of transition. One thing that continues to be true is that there are always an abundance of people who care. Finally, it has been integral to be honest and open with myself and with those who I surround myself with that transition is difficult and the emotions that accompany change and transition are nothing but normal. At the same time, I need to remind myself that ultimately, we come out on the other side of change as stronger, more independent, and more capable of taking on the next change and challenge. Change and transition will always exist in our lives and through this transition, we find opportunity.
I’ll end this post with a quote from an author who I think summarizes it best:
“Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.”
Here’s to making my new normal.