My last year of high school I felt like I was burning out, I was losing interest in school and my marks were slipping. I just wanted to be done. I also had no idea what I wanted in life, and I feared what came after high school. All my friends had plans for post-secondary, but I felt stuck with no direction. I’d been told I’d go far and do great things, but I had no idea what to do next.
All this uncertainty led me to decide that I would take a year off (this is known as taking a gap year). I wanted to take a break, work, and do some self-reflection. My parents hated this idea. They were convinced that I’d never go back to school. I explained that I just needed a break but, they didn’t believe me. They felt I should take general studies at university to help me figure things out. I knew the path my parents were pushing me towards wouldn’t work for me, I needed a break.
Eventually my parents learned to respect my gap year decision. You will face external pressures while you are planning for your future and trying to figure out what you want to do. People will try to steer you, they mean well, but they don’t necessarily know what’s best for you. It’s totally okay to turn to people you trust for their advice, perspective, and opinions, but surround yourself with people who will support you in making your own decisions. It may be hard if you don’t have the support of friends and loved ones but stick to your guns and follow your heart, it’s your life to live.
Deciding your next step after high school might be one of the first big decisions you’ll make. It’s an amazing time in your life where you get to start calling the shots, so give yourself time to think about what you really want to do, and make sure you’re steering your own ship.
Alberta ran this peer-developed program from 2007 until 2019. Ambassadors blogged and visited classrooms to inspire students to plan their post-secondary journey. These ambassadors are now in the workforce but their stories can still inspire continuous education.
How I became president of the swing dance club
Joining a school club can be a great way to broaden your horizons, meet new people and try new things. School clubs can also provide wonderful opportunities for personal growth. I joined the MacEwan University Swing Dance Club, without having ever danced before, and became the president! I went with a friend and after one lesson I was hooked. The energy of swing dancers inspires me, it’s become my passion. What I enjoy most about participating in school clubs is that you’re surrounded by people who aren’t afraid to nerd out and enjoy something they love.
Swing dance is so much more than what you see on the surface, the swing dancing culture promotes a strong sense of community and acceptance everyone is special. Everyone just wants to dance and have a good time; there’s a sense of friendship in the air and you can’t help but laugh and smile, even if you make a complete fool of yourself. When I’m dancing my flamboyancy and energy is accepted and celebrated. I wasn’t always like this, I used to be the one standing on the outside.
I started off slow with swing dancing, until the club’s president (who was graduating) asked me to take over his position. I was so nervous. I wasn’t a very active member in the swing scene currently and was also running another club. But I decided to jump in headfirst, despite not having a mentor or any training for the position. I was literally left on my own to lead a club that I knew very little about.
A semester after becoming the president, I began teaching a beginner class to spread the joy of swing dance. I’ve faced a lot of challenges in this new role and had some great successes. One was running a wonderful workshop that was 6 months in the making. I never thought I’d be an instructor and here I am teaching.
Joining MacEwan’s Swing Dance Club has given me so many opportunities, and I’ve met so many great friends. I may not be the best dancer, but I’ve improved and so has my confidence.
Tip for making new friends at school
Friends can sometimes be hard to find. The following are tips may not work for everyone but, it’s a place to start.
- Strike up a conversation is you live on campus or before class starts, get to know your neighbour.
- When you meet someone new, ask a few leadings questions to spark conversation. People love to talk about themselves! You could try: Where are you from? What are you studying? How’d you spend your weekend/summer break? What are your thoughts on unicorns?
- Borrow a pen or pencil from someone, this can be a great way to break the ice and start chatting.
- Offer to share snacks.
- If you see someone reading a book, ask them about it. Alternatively, ask about their computer/phone/tablet.
- Everyone loves a genuine compliment, and a smile goes a long way.
- Working on group projects can be a great way to make friends – be sure to do your share of the work and try to keep things fun!
- Look for opportunities to join groups in the student lounge or cafeteria.
- Join an Intramural sport team, the campus gym, clubs, or the campus Facebook groups where you may learn about campus events like football games, plays, fundraisers, student conferences, art shows, protests, snowball fights, ultimate Frisbee competitions, the campus bars, cafes or other hang out spots.
- Go to orientation to meet new students who are all in the same boat as you.
- Find a cause you care about and offer to Volunteer. You’ll boost your karma, meet new people, and have fun. It’s a win-win situation.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, you're not the only person who feels shy or nervous when meeting new people, so help others by being casual and easy-going. When in doubt, humour is a great way to ease tension and get people talking. Start the conversation, ask questions, be yourself, be genuinely interested in people and you’ll do just fine. If it goes well, be sure to nurture your budding friendship and you’ll be well on your way to making fast friends with your fellow students.
Learn from other ambassadors or watch these videos:
Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS) resources:
Also visit your learning path to post-secondary.
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