Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry.

The moment you begin your post-secondary career is an anxious, yet exciting one. This moment is a squirm in your seat, take a deep breath (now one more, for good measure) moment, a butterflies swarming in your stomach moment. This moment, right now, is the beginning of the next chapter of your life.

You will be writing this unpredictable chapter while navigating the most tumultuous year in living history. You are facing barriers that no other student has ever faced. Scary? Absolutely. Exciting? Even more so. 

As intimidating as it may sound, I encourage you to accept this new, uncharted and at times scary frontier with open arms and an open mind. 

Keeping a positive attitude while entering your first year of university while enduring a global pandemic is a big ask by any standard. Yet, I am asking you to do exactly that. 

I urge you to celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. When you finally figure out how Sakai works, or you make your first friend in an online course, celebrate. When you submit your first assignment or write your first midterm, celebrate. These milestones cannot be undermined. You worked hard to make it here and you deserve to feel proud of everything you achieve at Brock. 

Alongside your triumphs, celebrate and acknowledge the roadblocks you have overcome since the onset of 2020. Maybe you missed prom or experienced commencement from your childhood living room, but you persevered and you made it (and, take it from me firsthand, prom is so overrated). Aside from these disappointing setbacks, you have successfully navigated an unprecedented year on a much, much grander scale. 

You have been confronted with some unbelievably heavy topics in recent months. You are currently facing the realities of living during a pandemic and watching communities across North America come together to support anti-racism and protest the mistreatment of marginalized groups. 

Despite the incessant tidal waves that have crashed onto the shores of 2020, you still managed to make it here, you still managed to invest in yourself and in your future.  That is something you should be incredibly proud of. 

Right now this may sound impossible but I hope we, as Badgers, can focus on all the positives that will come out of this year. Students and staff alike are nervous for online classes to begin, but there is a bright side (and there is always a bright side) to this alternative learning style. Online classes will require a lot of patience and resilience. Building these integral skills while attending university will be a life-long asset in the workplace, in higher education, even in your personal life. 

This year may be tough and far from over, but 2020 will make us stronger than ever before. 

Because you are reading this, I can only assume you are up for the challenge of adding your first year of university into the mix of life-altering events that have come to define this year. But I cannot emphasize this enough: you will not be facing this challenge alone. There are plenty of resources available through Brock that will help make your first year a successful one.

When life returns to normal (whatever normal may be), I am confident that we will quickly begin reminiscing on the days we could work in our pajamas, when we could write an assignment while hanging out with our siblings at home or buy a ridiculous amount of snacks in the name of “stocking up for quarantine.” One day you will be able to say, “I can handle this, hell, I handled my first year of university during 2020!” (See, I told you there was always a bright side!). You will not just be writing essays and exams this year, you will be writing history.

Even during these times of doubt and existential crises while you mourn the loss of your ideal university experience, remember that you’ve got this. 

You are only boarding the roller coaster right now. When the speed picks up, when your stomach drops, when you scream at the top of your lungs and raise your arms up, enjoy, no… relish in, every second because before you know it the ride will be over. 

On that note, congratulations on becoming a Badger. I have the utmost confidence that you can do this.