You’re here: your final year of university! Congratulations!
If you’re studying nutrition and dietetics, you know from previous 4th year students that this one may be your hardest year yet. I’m here to share with you how I survived my final year of uni, stayed committed to extracurricular activities, volunteer positions, work, maintained my GPA, wrote a thesis, and took care of myself in the process. The hardest part for me in my final year was taking care of my mental and physical health in what felt like chaos.
I went into my fourth year excited, motivated, and ready to accomplish my long-term goal: receiving an internship. Long story short, I worked hard, fell down and got back up many times, kept my long-term goal in mind, and accomplished it while learning a lot of lessons.
Here are 4 tips that helped me during my final year that I hope will help you - whether it’s your first or final year.
1. Learn how to accept and say YES to opportunities
Say yes to opportunities that 1. you know you’ll be able to commit to and 2. that you’ll step outside of your comfort zone with. Stepping out of your comfort zone allows you to grow and learn, even when it may be scary at the time.
Say yes to volunteer opportunities that you want to participate in. It may sound obvious, but I've noticed some individuals may participate in activities for the title. Think about the why - why are you volunteering with this institution, club, facility? If the answer is because you enjoy to, then you're in the right direction.
After self-reflecting on my last semester, I asked myself why I committed to activities even when I felt like I had no time on my hands. I did it because I loved the opportunities that were coming my way and I knew if I made time, I'd be learning.
2. Learn how to decline and say no when need be
Yes, I just preached about accepting opportunities and going for it! However, there comes a time when you're at your limit.
Know your limit: Learn to decline some opportunities when need be. You know yourself more than anyone else. Burn out is a real challenge and we can sometimes get stuck in the middle of chaos when we commit ourselves to more than we can mentally and physically handle.
Saying no is something I’ve struggled with in the past; I'm a keener and like to challenge myself, and take on various opportunities to grow in any way possible. Don't be like me who learned the hard way - I had too much on my plate at once and didn't realize burn out until then. That was the moment I realized that saying no is sometimes healthier for our mental health.
3. Remember to eat, sleep, and repeat.
During my final year, my schedule looked something like this: Study 6:00 am - 8:00 am, class, school work, lunch, class, work more, volunteer, dinner, group projects. I rarely left time in a day for “me". Why? Because I wanted to succeed and I thought success was defined by the number of hours I spent working.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt of becoming a registered dietitian. I am incredibly thankful to study in a field that I am so passionate about and that I love. I personally believe that if there is passion and hard work, then there is success. Though passion can sometimes work in a mysterious way – occasionally we forget about ourselves when working toward our goal. As my professor once told me: there is a healthy way to work toward a goal - that includes taking care of yourself.
If you’re a workaholic like myself, you know that the above statement is much easier said than done. It took me some time to understand and realize the importance of “me time”. After learning that I needed this down time to recharge, I started adding my favorite hobbies and things to do in my schedule, especially when I was most exhausted. Sometimes it was as simple as drinking a hot cup of tea with no distractions (that includes putting my phone away).
You need to rest and give yourself time, reward, and self-care. Even taking a break can sometimes be hard because you may feel guilty when doing so. Our mental health can sometimes take a turn for the worse when we forget to take care of our self. You can’t give your all if you’re drained. Make sure to recharge and make time for yourself in your schedule (and stick to it!).
4. Celebrate when you accomplish short-term goals
When we set a long-term goal for ourselves, we know there are a million other steps (goals) to get to that big goal! Celebrating all accomplishments, big or small, which helps us reach our ultimate goal allows us reflect on our hard work and dedication thus far.
Think of it this way: not celebrating that amazing grade you've just received is like tearing yourself down for that same amazing grade - your attitude toward those small goals can either uplift and push you forward, or take a toll on your next step to reaching your ultimate goal. Reward yourself after each accomplishment on the road to reaching your long-term goal.
We sometimes think, "I just need to do better, be better, and then I can celebrate". Why would we wait to get better or do better when we are already good enough? Don't wait - celebrate that good grade and don't dwell too much on having to do better. I've started celebrating the little steps recently and I have found my attitude toward my hard work and dedication to be more positive. I am happier when I recognize my accomplishments. Being happy is an incredible feeling, is it not?
If your goal is to become a dietitian, then celebrate every semester you get closer to that goal, celebrate finishing half of your application package, celebrate once it's submitted, after you get an interview offer, and after you've completed the interview! Celebrate every milestone - it has been another way of recharging for myself.
Until next blog,