Episode 22: Managing Anxiety and Coping with Academic Pressure with Izzy Almasi​

Izzy Almasi is a recent graduate from UVic, having completed a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Film Studies. Before becoming an Associate Producer and Audio Editor for UVic Bounce’s Waving, Not Drowning, Izzy worked on podcasts as an audio production volunteer and interviewer through the campus radio station CFUV. Through her co-op with Perpetual Motion Productions, she continued to hone her audio skills as an Associate Producer on the podcasts Skaana and Orca Bites. In the last two years of her undergrad, Izzy also wrote for the student blog MyUVic Life. Though her post-graduate plans are not yet set in stone, Izzy hopes to continue to pursue her passion for learning and education through law school or a Master’s degree. She hopes to develop a career where she can combine her love of storytelling and creativity, with activism and social justice.

"The biggest lessons I learned in university were to an extent academic, but most of them were life lessons."

Izzy Almasi

Waving, Not Drowning

Transcript

Rebecca Gagan: Hi everyone. I’m Rebecca Gagan, and this is Waving, Not Drowning, a UVic Bounce podcast. Today’s episode is being recorded on the unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Wsáneć and Lekwungen peoples.

 

In today’s episode of Waving, Not Drowning, I talk with Izabella Almasi. Izzy is a recent graduate from UVic, having completed a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Minor in Film Studies. Before she was the Audio Editor and Associate Producer for this podcast, Izzy got her start working on podcasts as an audio production volunteer and interviewer through the campus radio station CFUV. Through her co-op with Perpetual Motion Productions, Izzy continued to hone or audio skills as an Associate Producer on the podcast, Skaana and Orca BytesIn the last two years of her undergrad, Izzy also wrote for the student blog, My UVic Life. Though her postgraduate plans are not yet set in stone, Izzy hopes to continue to pursue her passion for learning and education through law school or a master’s degree. Izzy hopes to develop a career where she can combine her love of storytelling and creativity with activism and social justice.

 

Today’s episode is a really special one because it is the first of three in which I have conversations with each member of the UVic Bounce team. So, in this episode, I’m talking with our amazing Sound Editor and Associate Producer, Izzy, who has been working with Bounce since early January when we first started launching these episodes of Waving, Not Drowning. Izzy, as I’ve just mentioned, has just graduated. And so, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have her reflect and to be in the position of guests on this podcast to think about her own journey through her undergraduate career, and to really have that opportunity, as a new graduate, to think about some of the challenges and difficulties that she experienced and really to share with our audience some of what she’s learned through this process of being a student. And UVic Bounce is really a faculty-led initiative in which it is faculty sharing their stories. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that there is so much value in having students share their stories as well, and in particular, of having senior students share their experiences so that they can be a support to especially first year students who are really just at the beginning of their path. Throughout our conversation, Izzy talks about how she experienced pretty challenging amounts of anxiety, how she struggled with perfectionism, and how she started to work on being a friend to herself. And this is a form of self-compassion. I think, as Izzy explains, it was more than that. It was about recognizing that she wanted to be kinder to herself, that she was putting a lot of pressure on herself, and some of those pressures of course were institutional and, you know, expectations around grades and you know, the kind of competitiveness that exists in her undergraduate studies. And so, she really shares how she worked, and is still working, to find ways of really being an ally to herself as a way of supporting her own mental health. I’m Rebecca Gagan, here today with Izzy Almasi, and this is Waving, Not Drowning. Hi, Izzy. Thank you so much for being here today to chat with.

 

Izzy Almasi: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited.

 

Rebecca Gagan: As you know, we’re doing something a little bit different with the podcast this week, and that is to talk to the amazing members of the Bounce team, and you’ve been just such an incredible support for the Bounce project and also, importantly, you’ve graduated, so congratulations!

 

Izzy Almasi: Thank you so much. Yeah. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to be part of such a wonderful team. It’s– it really was the highlight of my final year for a year that was, different, to say the least, so it feels good to be graduated, but it’s a bit bittersweet as well.

 

Rebecca Gagan: Well, quite a year indeed, Izzy, and I’m just really grateful that you have agreed to come and share your experience, now that you have graduated and are starting to think about the next stage is. What better time to reflect on your experience as a student and to really just share with our listeners some of your journey, and maybe some of the challenges and difficulties that you experienced and how you coped with them? I think that students, my sense anyways, as students really value the chance to hear from more senior students, especially those who have graduated and who are now in that position, as I said, to reflect back on their experience and maybe share some of their wisdom, and just share some guidance about what helped as you were navigating some of those challenges. And if you were to do it again, what would you maybe do differently or again, thinking about your first-year self and what maybe you would have wanted to know about the experience. And as you know, we’re interviewing– I’ll be talking to all three members of the Bounce team– Adaezejeso and Deb, all who have graduated just this June, and so I’m just so excited is a to really– I know some of your story, but to hear more of your experience.

 

Izzy Almasi: Yeah, absolutely. So, you were there right at the beginning. My first English class was English 135 with you, and I think it– oh, not the David Strong building– one of the business buildings, I remember. And–

 

Rebecca Gagan: I can still remember the classroom. And I think, as I said to you, I actually still remember where you sat in that classroom. And it was, I think, the David Strong Building.

 

Izzy Almasi: I think it was the David Strong. Yeah. I can also visualize it. I actually– I signed up for your class with my high school best friend, Lana. And we were roommates in first year and we were like desperately trying to figure out– we wanted to take one class together, cause we knew we weren’t ever going to get to do it again at university– we’re looking through like the Reddit pages and everything, and your name kept popping up. I’m like,” ok we have to take this class with this professor… like she’s so highly rated” and it paid off. It was honestly, and I’m not saying this to, be dramatic or anything, one of the best classes I think I’ve taken in university. Like it was the one that helped me the most and I kept coming back to like, yeah, just technically, and even just like getting comfortable in a social situation, which is, I think, so difficult for so many incoming university students because it is a different playing field from high school, for sure. And I think it is so intimidating because you’re all of a sudden afforded like this whole other level of independence, but also like self-expression. And it just feels like the opportunity to like reinvent herself and to have this sort of like tight-knit class, like our class in English 135, there’s only 30 of us, I think, and it felt like a high school classroom in the best way possible. And that we all knew each other’s names. It felt very intimate, and it definitely was a very wholesome way to start off my degree.

 

Rebecca Gagan: And as you say, Izzy, I think, some of those first-year classes are quite large, and so the classes that fulfill the academic writing requirements are typically smaller in size. And those classes do give students a chance to get to know their peers, and also, as you say to learn a bit about like not just the material in terms of, how to write at the university level, but also that piece around how to do university, right? Like how do I like, yeah– like how what it’s like to be in a lecture where I might be participating and engaging with my peers and all of that. So, yeah, it’s– it offers a lot, those smaller classes. Yes. You have to take advantage of that smaller the situation.

 

Izzy Almasi: Absolutely, and I think it’s… the participation, I think, was probably like the most different from high school. So, I’m a very extroverted person, to say the least. I’m very passionate about learning– so to be in an environment where it was actually encouraged to speak, to do group work, and things like that in small groups was really exciting to me, but it was also eye-opening because I started to realize that not everyone learns the same way I do as well, and it’s sort of building that sense of respect and understanding that even though like I might thrive in an environment where you’re constantly speaking up or contributing ideas, other students prefer to be more reflective, and I think that really gave me a different appreciation and more respect, for in my later years as well. Because I can make snap judgements, and then I realized no, just because a student is quiet, doesn’t mean it’s cause they’re uninterested or they don’t care. No, they’re observing that information differently as well, and I feel like it taught me a lot of empathy and like compassion in an academic environment, which is, I think, something else that doesn’t really come up often when we talk about university; it’s very much– when you’re preparing for it, it feels like I have to focus on only how I learn, and of course, that is important, but I think a big part of university is also how you interact with other students. Yeah. Sometimes it’s the people that you least expect that you get along with, or that you learn something from. I think it’s so important to be open to that sort of opportunity. If that

makes sense.

 

Rebecca Gagan: If that makes sense, cause I think what you’re saying, Izzy, is that university isn’t just about learning from your instructors is about learning from your peers in the classroom. And that’s a huge piece, right? That it’s not just the interactions that you have in a group with the students, it’s also listening to your peers and the things that they contribute and learning from each other in that classroom space and outside of that classroom space, so the education that you get isn’t just coming from whoever happens to be teaching that class.

 

Izzy Almasi: Totally, and like going back to your original question of what would you like first year students to know– that’s actually exactly it. It’s– I feel like the biggest lessons I learned in university were to an extent academic, but most of them were life lessons that I learned, like side-by-side with university or as a result of university. So, I did the co-op program, for example. So, I graduated with a co-op designation and my co-op work terms, opened my eyes to so much, because prior to that, I’d always worked like retail or like food preparation, which also teaches you a lot in terms of thinking on your feet and like interacting with people, but working in like a quote unquote professional work environment where like your expectations are different. Yeah, it really taught me what I like and what I don’t like in a work environment. When I did exchange, I went up to the north of England right before COVID hit, and that was also like– that’s going to be something I think about, I think for a very long time, because I had to travel on my own. It was this sense of freedom, but also acting on what I’ve learned in my degree, like going to England as an English student was like going to the motherland a little bit. I was like, oh my God. You know, Byron wrote about this, Craig, or something like that, or, yeah, James Harriet wrote about the Yorkshire Moore’s or the Bronte sisters. And here I am. So, it was simultaneously the most exciting part, I think, of my education to see like everything that I’ve learned come to life, but it was also probably the most intimidating cause I was doing it totally on my own.

 

And then the pandemic hit right at the end too, so that just really threw things into chaos, but– and that was a big learning experience as well, in terms of you have to learn to adapt. And it’s not just like the result of the pandemic, but also just interacting with people from different backgrounds. Like the UK system is very different from the Canadian system. I met people from literally all over the world. One of my best friends, now, we met in res– she was from Australia, but she grew up in Malaysia and Vietnam and even hearing those stories, like it gives you a new perspective on things. And again, I think it all comes back to the fact that it’s so important to be open, to learning, and to communicating with people and to not be afraid to ask questions as well. Like I think it’s just that willingness to learn that will take people places further than they would expect. Yeah, I’d really like to encourage asking questions and thinking critically, and incoming students.

 

Rebecca Gagan: And isn’t it– you’ve talked about, for you, the challenge and then the importance of being able to adapt. So being flexible and adapting with reference to the pandemic and change. So can you, maybe just say, a little bit more about just maybe some of the challenges around adapting that you experienced and then how you coped with it.

 

Izzy Almasi: Yeah, absolutely. So, I talk a big game about how important it is to adapt, but it’s not something I’m always terribly good at. I think the first case that comes to mind is actually when I was applying to university. So, a week before the application deadline, I had my heart set on applying for biology. So, both my parents– like my mom’s a biologist, my dad’s a hydrogeologist, so I come from a very sciencey household, and I always really liked arts. Like I did IB English in high school. Like I was always doing musical theater and things like that, but I was like in denial about like,” you can’t do an arts degree. What are you going to do with that?” So, I convinced myself like, “no, just do biology,” and. I told myself that you can be a National Geographic photographer because that’s the natural progression of things. And then a week before the deadline to apply, I realized I don’t even like sciences that much. Like I always enjoyed biology, but like I was so passionate about writing and literature, and so initially I applied for the writing program and my application was not rejected, but it was basically like, as I was trying to apply, I realized I needed a secondary language that I didn’t have– like that credit.

 

And I was just devastated. I’m like, “oh my God, like I’m changing my application now I can’t even apply to the program that I suddenly had my heart set on.” And that’s how I landed on English. It was like the default, so it wasn’t even my first choice. It wasn’t my second choice; it was my third choice, so I had to make my peace with that. But I just remember coming home from school and just wailing– like just crying and being so upset. And my grandmother who I’m super close with, and who’s just like this ball of wisdom, and she just exudes comfort– she’s like, “why are you crying? It’s fine. You’re going to university. You can always switch your degree.” I’m like, “but it’s not what I want.” And she’s like “but sometimes you’ll get there eventually, like the route isn’t always a direct, it’s just– keep going, don’t give up.” And so, I swallowed that tough pill, and then I went to university. I ended up falling in love with English. I’m so glad I did it, and I picked a minor in film studies, cause that was something else I was always excited about until I started taking philosophy classes. And it was this sense of, “oh no, this is what I want to do,” so I think like the adaptability was coming into the fact that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I was just like grasping at everything that was interesting to me. And then I switched to a degree in English– or sorry, a degree in philosophy with a minor in English, only to switch back to English with a minor in film studies. So, all this this to say that the route is not always direct. I got back exactly to where I started in first year in my fourth year of university. And the way I cope with that, to be completely honest, it wasn’t always healthy. I struggle a lot with anxiety, and depression on occasion. It’s more depressive episodes, but definitely consistent anxiety. And this is something I’ve had since I was a kid. And it’s something that. That wasn’t immediately recognizable, and it wasn’t until I started reading more about it and being exposed to more resources that I was able to go, oh, okay. So not everyone is supposed to be nervous all the time and like dissecting conversations in their head all the time. And that was really difficult because as you’re trying to sort out what you want to do. There’s also this pressure that you put on yourself as well. I want to be good at what I end up doing, and it’s just, and that plays out in such strange ways, like having to maintain control. So, it was like really overthinking situations or being really nervous in social interactions with professors specifically. I was, I loved my professors, but I was so scared too of saying the wrong thing. Another thing without going too much into it. Cause I don’t, trigger anyone who’s listening to it. But I, I did struggle with disordered eating for a while specifically in second year. And that was a really unhealthy way of coping with things. It got to the point that friends and family were expressing concern and that was a wakeup call was when I realized oh, this is something that isn’t only affecting me, but it’s something that other people are noticing as well. 

 

So yeah, it was basically me trying to maintain control. Really not-healthy ways. But in the end, it came down to the fact that, and this is something that I think you just learned with time and experience, like you can’t control everything. I think the key is just not even taking things in stride, because that sounds very passive, but I think just recognizing okay, this thing happened what is the next step? Feel your feelings, but it’s not the end of the world. You just of got to keep persevering, like my grandma’s said to me, she’s you just kinda gotta keep going.  So, it’s. Yeah.

 

Rebecca Gagan: And Izzy, what you’ve shared here is about also, I think the ways in which when you become a student in post-secondary. The decisions that you face and the, the plans you’re making, the experiences you have can really exacerbate pre-existing conditions that you have, and for many students and I say this not as of course, a professional in the field of mental health at all, but my understanding is that quite often students who have anxiety or depression or disordered eating. A lot of that can really come out at university, because of the stress of university. And it sounds like for you while your anxiety and the depressive episodes, perhaps it wasn’t until that is triggered by all of the stress of university. Would that be right? 

 

Izzy Almasi: Yes, that’s totally right. And I think it’s a combination of the academic setting, the pressure you put on yourself, but also the social setting, like you’re navigating something so totally new and it’s really easy. I’d say, most of my second year or second year– it was a really difficult year for me, just like emotionally and mentally. I felt really isolated. Like I, I have diary entries where I’m like, I, I just feel I’m so alone, even though I had a good support system, I had lovely friends, like from people I’m still very good friends with today, but it was just like, it’s a narrative. You start building for yourself of I’m not good enough. Or I’m the only one feeling this way. And I, and it wasn’t until I started speaking about it more openly with a couple of friends that I realized oh my God, no, like other people feel this way. And it sucks. I don’t want anyone to ever feel that way. I unfortunately, it’s not like a switch that I can just flip and everyone’s happy. Like all anxiety has gone for everyone, but it was all of a sudden oh, okay. This is not an isolated experience. Unfortunately, this is something that other people go through. And I think even just in being able to talk about it, it was like that bubble was burst. Yeah. I was more inclined to reach out to counsellors and things like that afterwards, and even, speak more candidly with my parents. My family immigrated from Hungary and the attitudes towards these things are very different there. So, it was even that talking about it with my parents was very difficult because I think they have a different perspective on things than. Some of my friends do, or and it might be a generational thing. I’m not entirely sure. I don’t want to, diagnose it as one thing or the other. But that was probably the hardest part was saying like, Hey, I’m struggling with this. What can you do to help me out? Or what can we do differently? And my mom was so lovely. She started sending me all these Breathing techniques for when you’re feeling anxious or look at this workshop or my grandma will send me inspirational quotes from Meryl Streep, things like that. Like just little things. It’s you know, that sense of okay, no, like they recognize that I was feeling this way. And they’re just like, with their love, they’re doing everything. They can just bolster me up. And I just, I appreciate that so much.

 

Rebecca Gagan: Yeah. Think as  you’re getting at that, the challenge is that it’s trying to be able to communicate, what you’re going through with others, and help. And of course, so much of the work of UVic Bounce is about trying to make it more accessible, impossible to have these conversations in the way that you did as a student. And I, I just want to say it’s interesting because I think for a lot of students first year is challenging. Second year is a hard year for students and I’m just thinking back on my own experience. And I think I had a hard time in second year, and I didn’t do very well academically. And I think I’ve experienced some of those feelings of isolation. I don’t have an answer as to why that is why second year is tough. I think in part you adjust like you get through first year and then you’re grappling with, okay, so what am I doing here? Like kind of piece. But I think that what you’re getting at is just so important here around just a lot of the feelings that get and anxieties that get stimulated by studying and being at the university. So, the sense of not feeling good enough you know, perfectionism and you talked also about control and wanting, and of course, anxiety is so hinged into that need for control or feeling out of control and wanting to get control. And so, it’s, I think it’s just really powerful when you talk about that in terms of how that actually manifested in terms of just making decisions about your degree, right?

 

Like what path you would take that, that became this sort of locus of real anxiety for you, right? That you couldn’t necessarily control everything that was happening. And in trying to do that became, it became more anxiety inducing. And so, yeah, I think it’s really so helpful to share this with other students. So not only that they’re not alone, but also that understanding. If you’re feeling that way. Nope. Not everybody feels that way. And I remember that for myself too, when I realized, what, you not everybody is spending hours ruminating on a conversation that you had with a professor or something. And I know you and I talked about this a bit before, that All right. It took me a long time as a student to realize that what I was dealing with was, pretty strong anxiety, pretty severe anxiety. And that I just thought everybody feels that way. Everybody experiences their studies this way and it’s pretty liberating to realize no. That’s not the case. I say liberating in the sense that then you can do something about it, right? Like when you realize no, not everybody feels that way and there’s actually something you can do. So, you don’t have to feel this way all the time.

 

Izzy Almasi: Totally. I think it’s a realization I guess. Like you don’t have to cry every time you tried to write an essay, turns out you don’t have to do that. That was like, you know what? I discovered that in my final year of university, actually enough phone call with you where you’re like, it’s just because you’re scared to put something down. And I was. Oh, my God. You’re right. I was so funny, cause growing up, like my brother was always pegged  as, oh, Adam is such a perfectionist, he’s so meticulous. And his he’s just kinda I don’t know the way my mom described it as I was like a tornado. Like I just kinda did everything at once and then it just happened. And then I realized no, actually I’m a huge perfectionist.

And it like, yeah, it manifests itself in ways of yeah, I cry every time I write an essay,  I’m like, that’s not good enough. I’m like just getting words on the page is so scary. And then you finish it, and you feel so good, but yeah. To anyone listening. You don’t have to feel that way. You don’t have to cry through an essay.

 

Rebecca Gagan: And it doesn’t have to be that, that like hard in terms of that actually a very painful experience of going through that process. And often procrastination is involved and all kinds of deferring and things like that. And, and it does come back, as you say, to feeling like you’re not good enough and yeah, we did have a conversation about that and that reminds me too, that, those are things that professors are not counsellors; we have been through a lot of the same things. And so not all have the same experiences of course. But we. It is. So, if we don’t understand it exactly because we haven’t lived that we can certainly try and, try to offer advice around that. And just coming back as to how you adopted, so it sounded like you started having conversations, you started getting some therapy, it sounds like as well. But I also really appreciate your honesty around saying. It took a while to get there though. It’s not like instant. It’s not okay, you identify there’s a problem, and then immediately it’s solved. Like when you talk about some things, are only now just still coming into like clarity or resolving in certain ways, right? It’s not something that’s just a quick fix that it took time and lots of work to figure out how to do university, but also how to cope with the feelings that it elicited.

 

Izzy Almasi: I completely agree. Like I think taking time and being patient with yourself and as cliched as it is the process of getting to know yourself and becoming comfortable with that. It takes time. And I think it’s important not to put deadlines on yourself, to sort of reach certain milestones. I think something else that a lot of students forget. Regardless of what age you come to university at, you’re going to be growing up throughout that entire process throughout your entire degree. Be it a two-year program, be it, maybe you’re just taking a semester’s worth of courses, but even regardless of how long you’re in university for you’re going to experience growth and growth is not always comfortable. And it’s just being nice to yourself and recognizing like it is it’s going to present itself with challenges and just yeah. Learning to feel that. How to respond to these emotions into these experiences? I think it’s a never-ending process. And it’s one you know, I graduated, almost exactly a month ago now. And I’d say like the first month after graduation, it was those feelings coming back again. You expect to have the degree in your hands and bing bang, boom, your whole figure it out.

 

Like now I have my BA you know, the world can, I can take on the world. No, like I’m still the same person I was when I was in school. I’m still growing, and I’m still having to accept change. And I think it’s just so important to, yeah, be nice to yourself. Be patient to yourself. Something that I keep hearing, which again is really cliche, but it has really changed.

My mindset is speak to yourself the way that you speak to your friends. If your friend was going through a hard time, you wouldn’t be telling them, like you suck. You’re dumb. Like, why are you feeling this way then? Why are you telling yourself that? Like, why are you being so mean to yourself? No. If your friend was going through that, you’d probably say it’s okay to feel that way. Like. I’m here for you or you know, what can I do to help ask yourself those questions too? If you’re feeling like, how do I accept this change? Why am I feeling so overwhelmed? Check in with yourself what do I need right now? Do I need some time off? Do I just need to, do I need to eat something differently? Do I need to call a friend? It’s yeah. It’s. patience, and self-compassion, I think is the key to learning, to grow with yourself and with the world around you.

 

Rebecca Gagan: And I think as students and again, remembering my own experience, listening to you as well, students can just be so hard on themselves, and the academic environment is very competitive. You know, it doesn’t matter. What we try to do the bottom line is that it remains competitive. Students competing for scholarships, for entrance into various programs and it’s hard. So, students are  trying to excel to get certain grades, all of that. There are so many pressures on students. And as you say, social pressures as well, right? So social pressures you know, trying to fit in trying to make friends, trying to do all the things that you think are expected of you at university. And also then, not to extrapolate too far, but also in life, right? Like what are all the things I’m supposed to be doing? When you said that you had it all came up again, when you graduated. Because then it’s oh, okay, you got your degree. And now you’re supposed to be able to do X, this sense of what are the set of expectations that are upon me now? Can I meet them? And then a feeling like what if I can’t write like the fears around? What if I can’t find even a summer job. Or what if that summer job doesn’t seem to be equal to, where I’m at now that I’ve graduated?  And that, that process of really negotiating those expectations doesn’t stop.

 

That, that keeps going. And that, that in itself is this kind of X-like piece that you have to be able to accept in a certain way that it’s not like there’s an end point to where all of that just goes away, that you’re still going to negotiate that throughout your life. So, try to be kind to yourself. And I, I actually think that piece of advice is something that I learned very late in life about like self-compassion and the importance of self-compassion and that it matters how you talk to yourself. And that, what can you do to be kind to, to yourself, and to support yourself. And we, talked about this on this episode when  we’ve talked about this kind of, this idea of what true compassion really is, right? And that’s being able to be your own ally. Because especially in those hours where, and, sometimes months, where you’re very feeling isolated, or alone, like how can you be an ally to yourself? And that has been really transformative for me that I DIA that actually I can not just be kind to myself, but be an ally to myself in various ways. So, it sounds like you’re still like a work in process, right? Is he still working on all these things?

 

Izzy Almasi: Oh yeah. And honestly, like I’m of the mindset now where I hope this process or this work in process, it probably won’t ever end. And I’m making my peace with that. I think, as life presents itself with different opportunities and you enter different stages of your life, like you got to keep rolling with the punches and yeah, circumstances will change. But at the end of the day you know, like you said, the relationship that you have with yourself is what’s gonna get you through it. I think. When people say like at the end of the day, all you have is yourself. Like people take that as a very pessimistic sort of stance. But I disagree. Like I think if you reframe that, like at the end of the day, all you have is yourself. I think if you add afterwards, so make the most of it. Treat that relationship like delicately, it’s because as soon as you start taking care of yourself, you can also be a better ally, a better support to the people around you as well, which is, I think hugely important. That’s something else that  I was really stuck on for a long time going back to the perfectionism is do I be good? How do I be a good person? Like, what is the definition of a good person? And you know, especially given. Current conversations that are happening. Like it’s the continuous learning for sure. But it’s also reframing your own narrative and recognizing okay. In order for me to act on that and to be that good person, like I have to define and realize okay, how do I be good to myself first? So, then I can be that person to other people, if that makes sense.

 

Rebecca Gagan: Oh, absolutely. I think if you can’t have compassion for yourself, how can or be an ally yourself? Self-help be that way to other people, right? Like you exactly. It starts, there’s a saying, peace starts at home, and I think. It’s similar here in that, the ability to be supportive and compassionate with others and to be an ally, be an activist advocate.

It all starts with yourself and, being able to really embody those qualities for, for yourself as well. So is he, if you were not to put you on the spot here, but if you were to, be talking to a student who was just about to enter UVic for sip this September. And as you know, we’re likely to be what we are going to be back face to face. So, we’ve moved out of this, hopefully by then, we’ll have really put some of the real challenges of the pandemic behind us. What might you want to say to that student?

 

Izzy Almasi: Ooh, I love that question. So, a few things, first of all, don’t be scared, everything will be okay. It seems scary now, but you got this, I think second of all try new things, say yes to things that you wouldn’t usually say yes to some of your best experiences are going to come out of just really random situations. Yeah, get involved with clubs and things like that. Like maybe you always want to try stand up paddle boarding, but you’re coming from the Prairie’s where that’s not really an opportunity. Join the SUB society, or yeah. Also, sometimes these things will come back in really positive ways in the future, 

 

For example, I was doing a community radio work for a while at CFPB on campus, but you should also definitely check out, and that’s what helped me get to UVic Bounce eventually. Say hi to people; people are a lot nicer than you think they will be. It’s very nerve-wracking, especially if you’re a little more shy, but I promise you like someone that you say hi to you is probably also looking at you going, are they going to say hi to me? Like everyone is feeling more nervous than you would think. Even people who really look like they have it together, they’re probably also, quite nervous about. And talk to your professors. Professors are awesome. Contrary to what I just said about constantly like dissecting conversations afterwards, I had the most lovely conversations with so many professors and so much of my learning continued in office hours. And I know this is going to be drilled home to first year students again and again, but seriously, if you can go to office hours, do it because not only are you going to learn more and you have your questions answered. But it’s also a way of creating relationships. That’s how I met Rebecca. And it’s just really lovely,  it’s something that I think you’re going to carry with you, if not for the remainder of your university degree, then maybe further on into your career and things like that. So yeah. Ask questions, get curious. Say yes to new things. Be nice to yourself. And it’ll be okay.

 

Rebecca Gagan: And I think that reassurance that it will be okay is it’s also so important because there are so many times where it just feels like it won’t be, and it can’t be right. So, when you talked about how even picking your degree and you would come home and cry and just be like, no, like this isn’t going to work out and then you know, and it did. And I think there’s a way in which while. You have to work to make things work out. It’s also okay to have some hope and some faith that things will. And that, sometimes it can feel like the decision, on a particular program is, is really difficult, but it wouldn’t have been the, but if English didn’t work out or whatever it was, I went up at the end of the world. You would’ve picked something else, right? Like you could change degrees. You can change path and change course. There’s. There’s room for all of that, and I think sometimes, and what you described today as he is that it can feel like there’s no room, there’s no opportunity to adapt. There’s no flexibility. There’s no room for error. There’s no space. And I think what you’ve shared with students today, or with our audiences that. Actually, there’s more space, right?  You can hold it all. The experience can hold it all and you, as a human can hold it all. And that your professors will support that. And absolutely is the, I look back on our relationships. So, you’re right. I taught you in your very first days at university, and then we. I think maybe bumped into each other a few times on campus. Yes, and then I saw you at the Humanitas awards, is that where I saw you? Yeah. After a few years, I hadn’t seen you and you were working at that event, and I was there for Bounce, and then you were writing for the UVic–

 

Izzy Almasi: The My UVic Life Blog.

 

Rebecca Gagan: I had read, and thought was an you know, incredible. And so, then I reached out to contact you. And then as you say, all this time, you’d been doing work with podcasting and editing, and then we reconnect again. And that is a reminder that the connections you make, not just with students, but with your professors are important.

And I think not just because you can get opportunities and things like that, but also because. Professors, as we’ve been saying today, I think really want to try to support students and the experiences they have. And there’s a lot that can be gained outside of you know, understanding the course content better, from coming in office hours and talking to your professors too. Because I think we do care, and we want to support students and their whole being right, and not just like the piece that is in the classroom, taking in that content. And it’s not just that we want to support that. It’s also that My life has been enriched by having this relationship with you, Izzy, And not just because you’re an amazing sound editor, those relationships are so important, and I really of course value our relationship. And thank you so much for just sharing today and just being willing to be so honest and vulnerable in talking about your own experience.

 

Izzy Almasi: Thank you so much for having me and I super value our relationship too, Rebecca. Often times I’m like, she feels like my university mom, my mentor. Thank you so much. I so appreciate you having me on today.

 

Rebecca Gagan: So, such a pleasure and congratulations again on graduates. Okay, bye. For now In next week’s episode of Waving, Not Drowning,  I talk with Dr. Stephen Ross, a Professor in the Department of English here at the university of Victoria. In our conversation, Stephen talks about his experience of living with anxiety as a graduate student, and he also shared how he continues to work on trying to keep his academic life and his studies in perspective. I love this conversation in which we talk about finding work and studies that you love, and just how important that is to your well-being. I really hope you’ll tune in. You can keep listening to episodes of Waving, Not Drowning on anchor FM, Spotify, or wherever you stream your podcasts. We’d love it If you would give us a  follow on Instagram @UVicbounce. Tune in next week for another great conversation. 

 

Until then. 

 

Be well.