The transition from undergraduate studies to graduate studies was very difficult for me. As an academically successful undergrad student I thought that success would continue through my Masters but it did not. I struggled with understanding the new expectations of me as a graduate student and how success was measured in this new academic environment.  

I felt dumb, unworthy, and like an imposter.  

My continued grappling with these new and high expectations lead to a significant deterioration of my mental health which then led me to access professional mental health support for the first time in my adult life. When an interesting job opportunity outside of my academic area of focus presented itself to me, I was torn. For years I had been operating under a clear path for my life: get a degree, get my masters, get a jobkristen in my field. But this job wasn’t in my field and so it wasn’t in my plan.  

Despite a voice in my head telling me that I just needed to buckle down and get through and stay on path, another louder voice was telling me to be brave and question whether or not being a grad student was really who I was supposed to be. My counsellor and family also encouraged me to make the choice I was excited about and not to just rely on what I had always pictured for myself.  

So, I applied to the job, got the job, and never looked back (and no, I did not finish my masters!). It was hard for me to take a different path than the one I’d envisioned for myself because I truly did not know where this new path would take me and the fear of the unknown was terrifying. This experience taught me that there is no failure in removing yourself from a situation if it isn’t a positive environment for you to be in: I was nervous that I would be judged by my friends and family for leaving my masters but everyone in my life was supportive and proud of my difficult choice. I also learned that sometimes just because you choose to close a door doesn’t mean that other, better, more fulfilling doors isn't set to open for you. And here I am 5 years later: in a job that I love, doing work that fulfills me, and a career that I am eager to see where it takes me next. 

- Kristen Leal, Alum and Manager, Residence Life in Campus Housing 

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