It’s no surprise that UBC is a highly competitive university. Every year students from all over the world are pooled together to attend this highly recognized institution. Although, when you are submerged in an environment where everyone is of the same caliber as you, the standards are a lot higher. For many, you were probably that BIG fish in the small pond. High school might have been difficult at times, but for most it probably never reached far out of your comfort zone; one could perform at their maximum and succeed. But here, you’re essentially surrounded by the best of the best and no longer do you have that big fish status. Guys, the pond has turned into an ocean and it is sink or swimmmmmmm. Haha alright..sooooo….a little cliché, but it does the job.
There is always that stigma of university. Before coming to UBC people always told me to manage my time, stay organized, do this, do that…. And I was conscious of the changes I would soon face, but I also knew I could never predict what was to come until I experienced it myself. Having been here for a month (wow, time really flies….) I’ve noticed a lot of those changes. Which brings me to my point, how does one deal with the small fish syndrome? If you’re like me, you might have found a challenge in adapting to academia in terms of standards. I don’t want to assume everyone struggles with this, but it’s probably on a lot of people’s minds. Keeping up with the work and material is manageable, but it’s that mental barrier that takes time to conquer. It’s easy to doubt your own abilities when you’re surrounded by people who have set the bar really high.
Some things I found that have helped:
Visit the UBC Learning Commons, where a plethora of resources are available to you. On the website you can find tips on: how to take notes, asking questions/communicating with your TA and Professors, writing resources and more. The Learning Commons is there to promote student success in a variety of ways. Take advantage of it, and get on track so you can avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Set personal goals that work for you, your pace and your style of learning. Setting goals early in the game can save you a lot of energy and help you make efficient use of your time. Having goals for yourself sets the bar and keeps you focused. The course load or type of work can be really demanding in your first couple of weeks, especially as you’re still learning to adapt. Some of my biggest weaknesses are not knowing when to stop and having to deal with abrupt changes. I have tendencies to worry about things I can’t control, and overwork myself, which has lead to some pretty stressful moments in the past. But by setting personal goals, I was able to map out what I was being asked of from my classes, what I wanted to contribute, how to do that and subsequently, how to succeed.
Try not to compare yourself to others. Some may say find that competition motivates them but comparison can be quite self-defeating. You are here to experience life and learning and to find something that you are passionate about. Don’t worry what others are doing, its too counterproductive.
Remind yourself why you are here and honor that accomplishment. You have made it this far for a reason, and that is something special.
You may not be able to change the things that you face but you can certainly remain positive and in that, find ways to cope. Being that small fish is all apart of the process, and although it may not be what you’re used too (like in my case), you have to make the best of it, or make it work for you.