Living with regret is something I strive not to do, but no one’s perfect, and I can’t say that every action in my life has led to a fairy tale experience. Nevertheless, I have had a super happy life and one that I am so thankful for. I am so lucky that I haven’t experienced an abundant amount of rejection in my life, but one or two significant rejections have shaped who I am. However, I don’t think that it is the rejection that dictates one’s self, but their reaction to the dismissal. When I’ve faced a significant rejection in my life, all I can try to do is look on the bright side because what isn’t meant to be cannot be forced.


When I think about my university experience, one significant event or change from every year stands out, as the moment that dictates or impacts my school year. For me, first year is that transition year – you’re living in residence, making new friends and starting a new life. Second year is moving into a house or apartment – you finally feel like an adult forging your own path in life. Third year is pretty lowkey, but exchange has always stood out to me as a significant aspect of your time at university – whether you are going yourself or having to adjust to your friends leaving you for abroad. And finally, fourth year is the year of lasts and the conclusion of your time at university.


Everyone always says there’s that one year at school, which isn’t the best, or you struggle with more than you anticipated. For me, I know it’s going to be third year because I don’t have that significant event in my life.


Exchange is significant to my family because it’s how my grandfather ended up immigrating to Canada. He was a part of an exchange between Queen’s University and St. Andrews in Scotland about 70 years ago, and he loved Queen’s and Canada so much that he ended up becoming a permanent resident. Hence, the importance of the exchange program, particularly that at Queen’s.


When it was finally my time to apply for exchange in second year, I was so nervous and felt the pressure of my family. Trust me, this was not by any means a toxic environment, but just the fact that my entire family from my parents to my grandparents and my cousins were all aware of the fact that I was applying for exchange was a lot to take in?. I’m one of the oldest grandchildren and the first to go to university. My grandfather and I have always bonded over the fact that we both went to Queen’s and he loves to share his stories with me.


As I began to apply for exchange, the locations of many schools with my program didn’t appeal to me, and I wasn’t that invested in my application whatsoever. I definitely put time and effort into deciding where I wanted to apply, and I put lots of thought into my application but the second I submitted my application, I had a bad feeling. My head wasn’t entirely in it, and I definitely felt some sort of hesitation. All of my housemates also had applied to exchange, and if we all had that awkward conversation of, ‘well, I don’t think I’m going to get it’ and ‘oh my gosh of course you are, I’m not going to.’


I had never even told my housemates about my family’s importance of exchange or how I really thought about the process, yet these conversations were part of our daily lives for what felt like months. I’m a pretty reserved person emotionally, and so I didn’t disclose any of my thoughts with them at all. I guess in hindsight, it was to protect myself in the case that I got denied because I didn’t want them to know I was upset.


Then came the day over reading week when we got those exchange emails. The week prior, a ton of my friends in Queen’s Commerce had gotten their placements, and everyone was so excited. They all had seemed to have gotten their top choices, and the planning for exchange had already begun. I was on the west coast, and so by the time I had woken up, everyone had already been talking about what they had gotten for exchange, and how excited they were. All of my friends who had applied had pretty much gotten one of their top two choices. I was so happy for all of them, and then I went to check my email. Waitlisted. I honestly was pretty bummed, but I wanted to be positive and think about the upsides, and I mean being waitlisted means still I had a chance, right?


I honestly didn’t want to register my emotions, and so I nonchalantly told my family and moved on. The funny thing was that I felt this abundance of pressure from my family, and they genuinely didn’t care. All they wanted to be was for me to be happy, and so I suppose I had developed this idea in my mind that everyone would hate me if I didn’t go on exchange.


Getting back to school was when I really began to go through the motions of upset. As I went to the exchange office with my friends to get their packages, I honestly was realizing how disappointed I was. Understanding that my best friends would soon be living on the other side of the world, I knew I needed to take matters into my own hands. I decided I was going to apply for the second-round placements and asked for my ranking – I was 113 out of 135. According to the lady in the exchange office, my chances were “not looking good at all”. At that moment, I knew that my chances of exchange were pretty much zero.


This was when I began to realize that I had to be realistic, deal with my rejection, and think of a way to have just as exciting an experience as my friends. I decided I was going to do an ‘in Kingston exchange.’


I had to come to terms with the fact that I had let myself down and I was disappointed. I didn’t want my friends to know how upset I was, and so I played off the whole thing super casually  – as if I didn’t care at all. But deep down, I knew how upset I was, but I didn’t want to dwell. So the best way for me to move on was to think of a plan. I first decided I was going to completely immerse myself in what I was excited for next year. I thought of this as stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying to make closer new friends in Kingston. Anytime my friends talked about exchange, I would think of something fun I was going to do next year.


Most importantly, I didn’t share these upset emotions with my friends because I didn’t want them to feel like they couldn’t discuss their excitement around me. I wanted them to be excited! They all worked extremely hard and deserved everything that they were excited for. All of our emotions, my sadness, and their excitement were all valid and allowed to be expressed. I decided that for me to be able to move on, I need to conduct my life and move on without dwelling. Whether this was the healthiest thing to do, suppressing my emotions, I mean, it worked for me. I didn’t want to dwell on the past but rather look forward to the future. I decided a long time ago that I can’t change anything, and so why would I focus on my regrets when I have my whole life ahead of me?


Part of the ‘fall of exchange’ for me was the hype of the people around me. The months of talking about exchange really came to a drastic halt when I didn’t get it. It also felt like everyone around me felt weird talking about it near me and thought I would be sensitive – as if I was a shattered piece of glass they needed to tiptoe around, which just made the pain worse. And this indeed isn’t to blame anyone, it’s just the fact of the matter.


What I learned about rejection and not getting what we want is that there is always a positive and something else to look forward to. We can only grow from our past and mistakes. I am grateful for the opportunity to grow as a person as a result of the exchange application process, and I now feel more able to put myself out there and experience rejection. All I needed to do was realize how many people there are applying for one thing or one job, and it can’t always be you. As much as we want it to be me, there are so many talented, smart and fabulous people out there, and everyone deserves a shot! It’s not my time for exchange, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to travel or have an incredible third year. Next year is just going to be different, and my own.



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