I wish I could’ve been there for my 18-year-old self — an overwhelmed senior in high school who was flustered by all of the ‘crucial’ and ‘timely’ decisions she had to make — to let myself know that it’s okay not to know.
I graduated from a competitive arts school with a major in musical theatre, so singing and acting were things I wanted to pursue in my post-secondary education. However, I was also eager to study many other things, such as fashion, media, and public relations. While my options were endless, I still felt completely and utterly lost.
The university application process, in conjunction with the pressure from my parents, peers, and teachers, made me feel that whatever choice I made in that moment was going to define the rest of my life. So naturally, I had all of these doubts running through my mind. What if I choose this program and then realize it’s not for me? What if I choose the wrong school and miss out on experiences? Worst of all, what if I fail at getting a well-paid career after I graduate and prove my parents right?
In the end, I chose what was MY safest path — the one that would promise a job in the end, and more importantly, the one that was closest to home (thus least expensive). So, here I am, nearing the finish line of my Business Management undergraduate program at Ryerson, and let me tell you… I could not be more satisfied with my decision.
In reflecting upon my time at Ryerson, I’ve realized that a classroom education was part of a more holistic education.
What were my highlights?
1. Immersing myself within the Toronto culture
Not only did I get to be in the liveliest intersection of the downtown core — basking in all of the endless shopping, food, and entertainment options — but I also got to surround myself within such a diverse community. Toronto in itself is a unique city in that it has so much to offer culturally, and Ryerson brings all of these cultures into one place. I had the good fortune of meeting and working with people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, which allowed me to be more open-minded (or “woke” as some people might call it). Ultimately, I learned that my way is not always the highway, which brings me to my next point…
2. Learning important professional skills I thought I already had
Group projects were — and might still be — the bane of my existence, yet I have always listed “teamwork” as a skill on my resume. When being assigned into groups with people I didn’t know, I would always think to myself… “I can finish this project so much more efficiently on my own.” However, I learned that like the groups I was assigned to in school, in the real world you have to interact with people with different work ethics, ideas, and goals. Ideas might complement each other, or they might clash. I may have to take the lead and pick up some slack, or I may have to take a step back. Whatever the case is, I now know how to adapt to different people and situations.
3. Having an education with no boundaries
“So, what will you be doing with your degree after?” is a question that I’m asked very often. People think that just because I’m studying business I’m going to end up working on Bay Street. That is, in fact, the last thing I want to do. I bombed my first finance exam, but the organizational skills I learned to do well in the next one might be useful in another industry. My liberal electives expanded my knowledge on things I never thought I’d be interested in (like sociology of food). Student groups allowed me to think outside of the box and discover a certain creativity I never knew I had. Networking events taught me how to step outside of my comfort zone and elevated my interpersonal skills. I never felt that I was confined to a sole education in marketing because I chose not to be, and we all have the choice to make the most of our education.
Initially, my biggest fear was that I was going to be studying something or going into a career path that I didn’t love. But when I made the choice at 18, I had no idea what I ‘loved’, or even what I wanted in life. A common misconception is that whatever you study in post-secondary will determine your career path. However, my experience at Ryerson taught me that there are so many things you can learn beyond the things you’re actually learning. Ultimately, I learned that I love the creative side of marketing and that I want to integrate this with my passion for music, and HEY there are jobs out there for that! Knowledge is transferable and if you go into any situation with an open mind the outcome might surprise you.
Jesica Cuaresma is a soon-to-be graduate of Ryerson’s Business Management program. With a background in the arts — specifically visual arts and musical theatre, she hopes to integrate her creativity, along with her knowledge of marketing within the business world. Her passions include travel, fashion, photography and music.