10 Things you MUST do before graduating / by Jessica Lee

I was sitting in the subway feeling stressed about my midterm mark and realized that it was probably one of the last times I would be able to feel stress over marks as I am graduating this spring (finally!).

Because of my sentimental feelings towards university, I compiled a list of things to do before one graduates. And before you argue "why is this on your travel blog? How is university related to travel?" Here are two reasons: 1) I first got my start in independent travel through a university exchange to Sydney. And 2) Travel and University both encourage learning and expanding your world views.

Anyway without further ado, here are my 10 things you have to do before you graduate:

1. Study outside against architecture

You know in movies how when they shoot a scene of someone on campus and there are people just hanging out, studying? Not only does this look cool (that's my friend Myra up there, she's pretty cool), but to me, it represents a quintessential university experience. And besides, when you graduate, if you hang out against university architecture, it looks silly if you're there with your work-related stuff, you'd look like an imposter.

2. Use the gym facilities

Many universities have either a free or a discounted gym rate. At U of T, I still haven't been to the Hart House gym, but apparently there is a swimming pool and everyone says it's nice. And a friend of a friend of mine once said he spotted Ryan Gosling there (myth? possibly, but your chances of bumping into Mr. Gosling are probably increased at the gym rather than in your dorm room, which is why you should go).

3. Take advantage of student discounts/ student perks

You aren't going to be young forever so you should take this opportunity to utilize all the student discounts you can get! You can usually get public transportation discounts (it's a whooping 50% off in Sydney by the way), and discounts to other things around town. For example, I've gone to so many theatre productions (in Toronto) on their $5 discount days because of this. Usually theatre tickets are somewhere between $20-$50 for smaller productions and up to $200 for the large-scale productions. Not only is theatre inspiring, it also gives you a cultured perspective of the world. You get to mingle with different sorts of people (older people) too. Many times, these older people are pretty cool to talk to as they have years of experience on you so they can give you their tidbits of wisdom.

I could write so much more on student discounts (I love finding good deals), but I'd recommend checking out what you're paying for on your tuition and utilizing your resources. Another example would be the free condoms/tampons you can pick up at the health centre on campus. That's $10 saved right there.

4. Life experiments- try different things

When you graduate, most likely you're going to look for a job and try to fit into the world (you need to pay off your student debt, duh). Your time is going to be taken up by conforming to your employer's/society's expectations.

Since you're still a student now, you can experiment with your life. If you mess up, the repercussions won't be too bad since you probably don't have your first serious job yet.

What do I mean by life experiments? For me, I spent my junior year of university sporting pink anime hair. Why? Because when you move on to the real world, people are going to judge you based on how you look (you need to look professional) and won't take you seriously (unless you're in the fashion industry, then pink hair is totally acceptable).

You're thinking, why would I want pink hair? It's not for everyone, but here are the perks: 1. people smile at you more 2. children are FASCINATED by you 3. PEOPLE WANT TO MEET YOU (So many more people introduced themselves to me because they thought I was interesting) 4. Pink hair is rebellious, it's different. It was my way of "I am a unique snowflake."

There are different types of life experiments besides hair of course, like taking on different professions. Or job shadowing. If you don't try new things, how will you know what you like? I used to have an aversion to spinach because everyone around me hated it. But lo and behold, when I actually ate spinach, it wasn't so terrible. Baby arugula with spinach is lovely when paired with strawberries and vinigrette.

5. Find the most impressive library on campus, dress up in a cardigan (or a blazer with patches on the elbows), your best slacks (or dress) and oxfords, open your laptop and write.

Whatever you're working on will feel more epic. You will feel like more of an academic (I'm assuming you want to either be an academic or at least feel like one because you did pay for a university education after all right?). You can still study at a library after you graduate, but you may feel out of place because everyone else is a student, and you're older than them.

6. Go to a university sports game

I still haven't done this yet, but it seems like something you have to do. You know, school spirit and all...

7. Join a club

Not only will joining a club connect you with like-minded individuals, it also allows you to figure out what things you do or don't like and will help you establish a group of people you feel comfortable around. When I became really involved with the campus newspaper and became an editor, I was handed the keys to the office, which I made my own. I invited all of my friends over and we held movie nights using the school's big screen projector (you can't get this experience at home!)

Another club I joined that I really loved was the sailing club. Heading to the dock after classes and ending your nights watching sunsets on a boat really is incomparable to anything else. If you tried to replicate this experience after graduating, it would be significantly more expensive. Club membership at a yacht club can range from $300 and above for a term. Because we were affiliated with the university, we paid a little less than half of that. Also, if you get really good at sailing, you get to be sent on sailing trips to represent the school, which is basically free travel on the school's dime. You definitely can't get this when you graduate.

8. Go to a gallery opening/event on campus

There are so many free events on campus, and guess what they're paid for with? Yeah that's right, your tuition. Not only do you get to meet people at these events, but many times, there is free food or free wine at these events! Sydney University was ridiculous, pretty much every day, the law building had fancy catering or pizza. Once in a while, I ran across free sushi or wine when it was a gallery opening. At University of Toronto, there are countless cheese platters during the art gallery openings which happened every month or so, give or take. You get free food, a chance to mingle with artists or visiting guests and an education outside of class.

9. Do something you wouldn't be able to do when you graduate

For me, that thing was skateboarding in the Sydney University quad at night. It was the absolute best because I was surrounded by beautiful architecture, the weather was amazing (perfect breezy night), and skateboarding around Neogothic architecture in their century-old quad seemed like such a rebellious act. Seize the day! You won't ever be this young again.

10. Lie in the grass

When I was studying at Sydney University, there were these amazing lawns which were gorgeously kept by the maintenance staff. Everyone just sat on them and conversed. Sometimes people would take afternoon naps on them between classes. It was lovely. Lying on university lawns is such a "college student" thing to do so you might as well do it while you're still a college student because when you have a fancy job working in the corporate world, you probably can't just sit down on a lawn because it'll dirty your nice shoes/dress/suit, etc. That would be irresponsible!

Here's me looking like a student!

And me looking like a "resting" student:

Bonus: Live on campus

If you have the means, definitely live on campus (if not, take out a student loan). You will get to enjoy all the rowdy parties, questionable people you meet, the convenience of being able to walk to class in your pyjamas, and it's no issue to stay late at random events because it's so easy to walk home. You will get to experience a community and learn how to live without your parents.

Readers: Do you have other "must do"s for university?