What We Talk About When We Talk About University

I had a plan. It wasn’t ambitious either. I would hand in my last exam, I would come home and sit down with a bottle of wine, and I would finish an extremely lengthy blog post in loving memory of my past 4 years as a university student. This should have been easy for two reasons: I have a lot to say, and I had been accumulating drafts for the past month so I basically had everything scattered within a few documents already. Nonetheless, it didn’t happen, and it basically drove me crazy. So I started over, realized that staring at over 5,000 words and not knowing what to do with them wasn’t helping me anyway, so whatever. I figured, I have the rest of my life to write about this, so for now I’ll just write what comes to mind. Here it goes. 


I’m a cryer, so if I haven’t cried yet about graduation, you can firmly believe it has yet to come. I’ll probably call my mom in the afternoon and lose it on the phone like that time I called her crying because I couldn’t find my set of stamps even though it was under my blanket. She’ll give me a pep-talk that’s somewhere between motherly advice and being a best friend, I’ll take a good nap, and I’ll wake up feeling a little bit better.

What can I say, I’m emotional. Have you met me?

But you know what else is emotional? The past 4 years. The past 4 years have been an absolute whirlwind of every emotion I could imagine. The good, the bad, the ugly – the sober, the tipsy, the drunk – the unnecessary, the over-exaggerated, the under-estimated. The memories have blurred together so I spend nights trying to pick them apart – trying to remember what it felt like to fall asleep in that Guelph townhouse, while I fall asleep in a small basement suite on the other end of the country.

University is a synonym. Is it not? It’s a synonym for the years that we are able to categorize ourselves as students. When we talk about university – when I say, I love university, – I’m not talking specifically about an institution, or lectures, or essays that I never learned how to write in advance. I’m talking about everything that happened while I clung to a student card in my wallet. For me, that was 4 years. 4 years, 4 homes; 2 universities, 2 provinces. These are my thoughts on all of it; the scattered remnants of 4 years pushed into mismatched paragraphs on miscellaneous things and a few two-sentence letters to some people who come to mind. It may not make sense, it may not have order, but the last 4 years didn’t always have that either. 

On What We Talk About When We Talk About University

University was learning lessons outside of the classroom, staying up too late, and stabbing holes into beer cans to drink their contents faster. It was some of the best people you’ll ever meet, dorm rooms, and your first home away from home. It was falling in and out of love, over and over again. It was kisses that mattered and one’s that were never meant to matter in the first place. Themed parties, bar line ups, cheap cover and expensive drinks. It was pizza at 2am and 11:30am. It was binge watching TV shows and wishing you had washed your sheets more than you did. It was eating healthy for one week and eating like crap for two. Phone calls to parents to tell them you love them, phone calls to friends to ask what you did last night. It was small fights, and big ones, and burning bridges, and piecing them together again. It was tissue boxes that got used up by constant colds and mental breakdowns. It was homework that was never done in advance, classes that you were constantly late to, classes you almost, or maybe did fall asleep in. It was learning about things like trust, and love, and how to keep your own secrets to yourself. It was learning how to open up in the afternoon when you’ve gotten so good at opening up at 3am. It was rooftop conversations, long hikes, beach days, and staring at the stars. It was break ups, and make ups, and hook ups. It was learning about yourself, and realizing that maybe it was about damn time you gave yourself a little bit more credit. It was telling yourself its time to grow up, and forgetting about it after the first beer. It was drunk texts and sober regrets and trying to make it to church on occasion. It was spending too much money on instant gratification and constantly adhering to a no regrets policy. It was reading textbooks, journal articles, and lecture slides, sometimes a lot less than you should be. It was the one lecture that stood out to you among the rest. It was the prof that taught you more in 30 minutes than some others did in an entire semester. It was life, with a better excuse for the mistakes you made than I’m human (‘I’m a student’). It was every moment you never thought would matter, and all the ones you knew would. It’s the moment I met many people who would change my life.

On UoG and SFU

Guelph was home in a very different way than Vancouver. Guelph was cozy. Guelph was curling up in a blanket by a fireplace and feeling safe when you fell asleep. I needed Guelph. It was my first home away from home and I grew up there. Vancouver, is sitting with my feet over a cliff edge and feeling my heart race. It was my first plane ride. The first time I truly believed in myself. I don’t just love Vancouver because it’s Vancouver, I love it because of who I became – or who I realized I was – when I moved here.

I needed both places. I needed the friends that I met – the friends I maintained – through both places. I needed the breakups in each – the challenges – the recovery – the good days – the bad ones. I couldn’t have done one without the other, and gotten to where I am today. I hold both of them close in my heart, in photo albums, and in the memories that come to mind every single day. I feel them in the stretch marks on my heart as I wake up each morning being pulled in two different directions.

On What University Taught Me


4 years taught me to read between the lines. To be critical about absolutely everything. To take something, and make your own meaning out of it – and be comfortable with the idea that you will never be right, or wrong. It taught me to question everything around me – and everyone – and myself. It taught me to recognize intention and priorities – my own – and everyone else’s. It taught me about the difference between love and lust and whatever it’s called after you have a bottle of wine and they end up at your house. It taught me to be pissed off. To question corporations, governments, news sources, and advertisements. It taught me to be scared of my phone, that while it’s easier to be afraid of alcohol addiction, we have forgotten to be afraid of cell phone addiction. It taught me to want less, to spend less on material things. It taught me what public school history classes failed to mention. It taught me to keep learning because you’re never ever going to know it all and that’s no excuse.


University taught me that we are all history books with pages that we only let certain people read. Because some people are better than others at understanding certain parts. Nonetheless, we are all novels with sequels and we have all endured pain that no amount of ‘I understand’’s can comprehend. We open our pages and we let people touch our spines and sometimes we crumble and sometimes people crumple us up and throw us away but we keep writing. We keep adding chapters even if they end with unfinished sentences and there will always be something more for you to read and one day, one day you will meet people who will never be able to put you down. Look around, you probably already have them.


University teaches you priorities. It teaches you schedules; how much sleep can you go without and still function, how many classes can you handle in a semester, how much does it take to make you cry, how much can you memorize in a couple of hours. You forget most of the content a week or so after your last exam, if you even were able to memorize it a lot in the first place. University teaches you how to function under pressure. How much alcohol can you drink without throwing up? Learn that lesson several times over until you’ve had enough. It teaches you things that you cannot learn within a classroom, and it gives you a playground to practice who you are and who you want to be.

On Friendship

Pt. 1

The other day I was studying on campus and my friend came back from the washroom and told us to come look at the sky, it was on fire. So the three of us started walking towards the door, I put my arms around their shoulders and we simultaneously began to run. We ran towards the sky, for about 7 seconds or so before the automatic door didn’t open fast enough. Do you know what that’s like? To put your arms around the people you love and run towards something good? You should, and if you don’t, do it some time.

Pt. 2

I woke up the other morning to about 5 missed FaceTime calls from my cousin. Figuring something important had happened, I told her I was awake and she called me immediately saying, “It’s really hard to wake you up when you’re 5 provinces away”. She had nothing important to say. That’s exactly why that phone call was important.

Pt. 3

I’m not innocent. I wish I was. I wish I had made all the best decisions in life so that when my friend’s screwed up I could tell them they’re being stupid. Because it sucks to watch your friends get hurt, or make decisions that you know in the back of your mind aren’t the best one’s. But before you go to say something you bite your lip, because if I was in your boat, I would have made the exact same decision too. In fact, I have. So we don’t tell each other what to do, but we break each other’s fall because we’re pretty good at telling when it’s about to come.

Pt. 4

The friend’s I’ve met – and the friend’s I’ve maintained – throughout University have been largely the most important people I’ve ever met in my life. They’re the one’s who’ve seen me at my absolute worst and haven’t budged – the one’s who’ve seen me grow up, and come crumbling down. I wouldn’t be here – or anywhere – without them.

On The Comparison Game

We like to compare a lot. Sciences majors and art majors. Did your parents pay for your education or did you? How many hours do you work a week to afford to attend this class, how many hours of sleep did you get last night? Do you work for your grades or can you get a good nights sleep and pull off an A? Who’s faculty is more challenging? Who has a busier schedule? Who does better in school? It’s this constant game of envy and the grass is always greener on the other side. We compare our lives with the perception that if I just had what they had everything would be a whole lot easier – we compare our lives with the perception that there is something to compare. Is there?

On After University

Pt. 1

University is this little safety bubble. It tells you to try and figure out what you want in life – who you want to be – what you want to do, but you don’t have to figure it out just yet. There’s this imaginary finish line at the end, and from a distance it looks like by the time you pass it you’ll have to have it all figured out. In University you’re a student – a synonym for being young, for learning, for growing. You’re only half of an adult. Something like that. What happens when you finish?

Pt. 2

4 years later I’m not very good at writing papers until the night before they’re due. I’m pretty good at over-exaggerating, overanalyzing, and crying over things that will get worked out in the end. I’m really good at choosing friends over school, I’m also very good at regretting it later, but not enough that I don’t do it again. I’m not very good at spending several hours in a row studying, but I can binge watch TV for a whole day and feel somewhat awful about myself but still willing to do it all over again. I still don’t like presentations, or raising my hand in class, and I’d rather write an essay if I’m able to use the word I, which isn’t often so you can see my problem.

Pt. 3

When you graduate your undergrad you seem to fall into one of three categories: the one’s who are doing more school, the one’s who are going to find a job, and the one’s who aren’t doing either of those previous things. I’m in the last category. When I tell people that, I often get that, oh you’re going to be just fine, you’ll figure it out, response. So to clear the air a little bit I’ll say this: I’m okay with the category I’m in – more than okay actually. I’m twenty-one, I don’t know what I want to do with my life and I’m comfortable with that (most of the time), and I firmly believe that my twenties are for figuring all of that out. I’m not doing more school because I’m not at a place where it would make sense to invest thousands of dollars towards a masters program I definitely have not decided I’m interested in. The next few years of my life I plan on leaving as open and flexible as possible. They’re my work to travel years, where I can make money to leave, until I run out and have to make more money to leave once again. They’re my years to focus on writing more and writing well. It’s not that I’m upset that I’m not doing more school or trying to find a job, I don’t want that right now. So please don’t feel bad for me, I’m quite happy with the way things are turning out.

Short letters to some people that come to mind.

To my parents:

I don’t know if I have too many words, or no words, but either way I wish I had much, much more than just thank-you. I love you to the moon and back, to BC and back, to as far as I will ever go and back.

To the one who left:

Thank you for loving me while you could. Thank you for leaving when you did.

To my best friend:

Special thanks not to you, but to the one who introduced us in grade 7. There’s no one I’d rather be told looks like my sister. Special thanks to you as well, for being my best friend through different schools, the same schools, different cities, the same cities, and different provinces; as roommates and friends, no matter how far, we are always close.

To my 5 stage friend:

Thank you for all 5 stages, in all there weirdness, and whatever stages are to come. Thank you for yelling at me to jump off the bus – even if you have no recollection of that.

To the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister (a cousin):

You are the only one who’s ever made me lose my breath, lie on the floor, and shake from laughter. Thank you for having my back. Thank you for being you.

To the one I loved & left:

Thank you for being a best friend, for singing on car rides, and making me jump off the high dock. 

To my soul mate:

Thank you for talking to me in a line-up that one day. Thank you for building me up whenever I came crumbling down, and for sitting on the bathroom floor to watch Grey’s because I was in the bath.

To my pen pal:

Thanks for telling me all about your life, even when it made me envious. Thank you for teaching me that the only thing holding you back is yourself, so buy as many plane tickets as you can.

To the one I look up to:

You don’t talk a whole lot about love, but you sure taught me a lot about it. Thank you for understanding me and appreciating all of my “over-thinks”. You deserve the least “huh” nights the world has to offer & you deserve more exclamation marks than question marks any day.

To the boy I kissed for fun:

Thanks for the chocolate and the conversation. It was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it?

To the one I get to see today:

Two weeks will be everything, and never enough. Thank you for letting me into your life, thank you for changing mine.

To my brother & sister-in-law:

Thank you for teaching me what good love looks like, as I watched from a distance. Thank you for setting an example for every person you two will ever meet.

To a firecracker:

Keep lighting up everything around you, but more importantly, make sure everything around you is lighting you up. Let’s drink Mill St. Organic and take our clothes off in the street sometime soon.

To the one who got me on a surfboard:

Thanks for swapping poetry, music, and blog posts. Thanks for introducing me to salt water and freedom.

To everyone else:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love you, love you, love you.

Here’s to 4 years, broken hearts and putting them back together, falling apart and learning how to be whole, countless mistakes and lessons learned – not learned – learned, to falling in and out of love, to many ‘first’s’, to my first plane ride and second, third home, to the best friends I ever did have, and the family you’re born with and the family you choose – I love all of you. Here’s to whatever the hell you become when you stop being a student, to growing up, and to the moment 4 years later, when you look at yourself and realize you’ve created something that you can be proud of.

Love, Ogi.

2 thoughts on “What We Talk About When We Talk About University

  1. Thank you for sharing Ashley, your amazing , wonderful, warm spirit shines through in your words…love, love love your writing. xo


  2. It was worth the writer’s block wait my girl:)
    It’s 7:32 am and I have just started my day off with a kiss for your dad, breakfast, a prayer and a lengthy
    blog post from my daughter. Mmmm…delicious.
    You make me crazy proud to be your Mama.
    Love you to the moon and back


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