I remember my first day at York University like it was yesterday. I was scared; not because I was starting university, but because – as an international student – I needed to create a home away from home. Spending four years away from the comfort and security of everything and everyone I’d ever known meant that I needed to make the most of my time and create opportunities for myself. Having to deal with culture shock in addition to the foreign setting of university life, I found myself lost and alone. I suddenly worried that I would not be able to navigate through this journey, that I wouldn’t measure up.
But here I am, a graduate of one of the best environmental programs in the province. We all have opportunities that we have come across, setbacks that hinder our success and barriers that challenge us along the way. But our biggest setback in life is not taking these opportunities because we are too scared to fail. Many of us have been taught that failing is wrong, anything but success is not acceptable.
The truth is I bought into this ideology and this fear held me back at the beginning of my journey at York. I kept to myself for several days until the loneliness hit me. I realized that the opportunities I take on throughout my four-year journey will have a huge impact on my future and my growth as an individual, and this is when things changed.
It is okay to fail. Failure is an inevitable part of life. We didn’t learn to walk without falling a few times and we won’t learn to be resourceful unless we’re challenged. When you make mistake you learn! Mistakes teach us how to rebound, how to be resilient, how to grow, how to adapt and how to rebuild. And if there is anything this planet needs right now, it is people with the knowledge, confidence and wherewithal to grow, adapt and rebuild. It is not failing that defines us. It is what we do about that failure that makes the difference between success and missed opportunities. It is okay to ask questions, because when you ask questions, you learn. It is okay to take on opportunities, because when you take on opportunities, there is a chance you will fail. And when you do, you’ll ask questions.
I began to take on every opportunity I came across. Some were small, like joining an intramural team and the residence council; and some were big, like running to become a club president and joining the student union to be the voice for my faculty. These opportunities opened a gateway to many other opportunities, and each one was a learning opportunity. I grew as an individual. I was able to expand my network and connect with other great individuals within the university, and I was finally able to create that home away from home I so desired.
Today, I am seeing the fruits of the opportunities I took on four years ago.
The triple bottom line is, as you move on from university, you will come across opportunities. Some may be big. Some may be small. Some may be in your career and some may not. Some may challenge you and some may pull you out of your comfort zone. But remember to take on opportunities without the fear of failing, because as you fail, you will learn; and as you learn, you will grow.
Nishal Shah is a 2018 alum from the Faculty of Environmental Studies. As a student at York, he served as President's Ambassador and Sustainability Ambassador. He is currently Project Coordinator with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), and serves on the York University Young Alumni Advisory Committee.
To find out more about Alumni Benefits and Services as a new grad like Nishal Shah, visit alumniandfriends.yorku.ca/welcome.