It’s the last month of the school year. I never thought I would be able to say those words. I want to shout them. Although my end of the year countdown has been ticking down since Christmas, it’s only now starting to feel real.

One thing I’ve noticed about nearing the end of the year is that everyone seems to be getting a little loopy. We’re signing leases for next year’s houses, tying up the ends of essays and making exam notes with the very last pen we found lying in the bottom of our bags. Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself…

It feels like Spring exams have approached a little differently than the Christmas ones. I suppose it’s because Spring exams are the final final exams and I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel (no, literally, Carleton’s tunnels are getting brighter ever since Daylight Savings). I am slowly getting over the instinct to take the tunnels everywhere. Anything above 0 degrees feels like picnic weather, and I’m trying to embrace the sunlight. This ties into my greatest advice for first-years living in residence: get outside! You can take your laptop to Bridgehead in the Glebe, or stroll around Rideau. One of my favourite quick trips to get away from campus and residence is taking the O-Train right from campus to Greenboro. I usually grab a green tea latte and walk around Chapters and Michaels (I like to pretend I’m crafty enough to go there).

I think it’s important to state how insane my year was thanks to my stay in residence. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Being away from home is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. I realize living in residence isn’t possible for everyone, but if it’s available to you, I highly recommend it. You’ll meet crazy roommates and create a ton of amazing memories to last a lifetime.

Having to pack a suitcase to go home after these last eight months feels strange. Sometimes I forget that a typical dinner time back home is not at 9 o’clock at night (thanks, late night Carleton Dining). From this experience, I have learned how to live with roommates, share a bathroom with another person, who isn’t my sister (and yes, it’s easier when it’s not your sibling!), and now appreciate a night of “YouTubing” after a busy day more than ever. Also, paying for laundry machines and looking at my student loan has made the value of money even clearer. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve been reminded that family time is most precious to me.

Understanding all of this, I feel like I’ve made the most of my final month in residence. This March I was able to experience Censorship Awareness Week at the MacOdrum Library. I also volunteered to read an excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and given the current political climate, I felt like it had a great impact. Moreover, my friends and I attended our very first Slam Poetry Session organized by the Carleton Dead Poet’s Society. We dusted crumbs of free banana bread from our laps as we marveled at the talent before us. Finally, I attended a Panel Discussion on International Women’s Day, and learned more, as a feminist, about the importance of intersectionality.

So, although my favourite part about the last year has been the amazing events and residence experiences I’ve had, my academic experience has been crucial too. If I could go back and tell myself one thing before I even looked at my first syllabus, it would be to ‘relax.’ It’s easy to get caught up in deadlines and readings, but just trust in yourself that you will come out alive. This isn’t high school anymore, most of the things you do just have to get done (to the best of your ability, of course, haha.) Of course, retaining my scholarship for next year has been a big incentive, but I realized my mental health is far more valuable than any grade.

In fact, the most challenging class I had (and the class where I received one paper with the lowest grade I’ve ever gotten in my life), turned out to be the class I am most thankful that I took. I just finished my last lecture in it last night, and my professor shared some things that really resonated with me. He said that no matter what you do, be awesome at it. If you don’t have a particular skill, find out how to get it, and work on it. He told us his entire course was designed so that we could teach ourselves. So no matter how many lectures you attend or grade point averages you receive, university becomes invaluable when you realize you’re ultimately teaching yourself.

Okay, so maybe there are a few more things I’d tell myself if I had a time machine. I would tell myself to pack more tea bags. I would also transfer all my work from my laptop to a USB more often (my laptop almost failed on me and I almost lost an 8-page essay.) Oh, and I wouldn’t worry about the freshmen fifteen because guess what? It happened. And I really love that it did.

As I sit beside a pile of exam notes, I have a strong feeling this will be my last post for the school year. I’ll be lightly reviewing, probably hitting the gym (I love the Kickboxing class here) and de-stressing in preparation for summer. Trust me, this experience of a concluding school year feels entirely different from when I was in high school. I have four months off, and strangely enough; I’m excited for it to start all over again in September. I just might need that time machine towards the end of August…another month or so off wouldn’t hurt.