Blog – Expectation vs. Reality by Gerry Ip

Everybody has their own impression of university life during their final high school years. Although I never had a mentor who shared their post-secondary experiences with me (I have an older sister, but the only impression I got was that it was more studying), my mind seemed to have already constructed an expectation based on my own preconceived ideas, and from horror stories I’ve heard from my parents. I decided to write about my expectations in this blog, and how they differed from my real experience.

Expectation #1

University will be a much more intellectually satisfying experience than high school, because I will be learning about topics that are relevant to my interests and my future career. I will be learning about things that actually matter (to me anyways).


My academic experience so far as an engineering undergraduate was exactly what I had been looking forward to. Although the curriculum has undoubtedly been a challenging one, the fact that I was learning topics that interest me makes the experience that much more tolerable and enjoyable.

In my past three years in Civil Engineering, I was exposed to many different topics that make up the building blocks of a city – from the design and analysis of structures, sewers, watermains and highways, to concepts of construction processes, water treatment and building envelopes. Yes, there may have been a few subjects that were not as appealing and were a drag to get through, but I believe there is no harm in expanding your knowledge – you never know when it could come in handy!

Expectation #2

The academic content in university will be extremely difficult, to the point where I am not sure whether I would be able to understand anything.


Although the learning content in University was definitely a leap from high school in terms of difficulty, it is manageable (otherwise many would fail out!). I found that it was not so much the difficulty of work that makes engineering challenging, but more so the volume – having to understand and grasp new concepts in multiple courses is definitely where the stress comes from. The key is to always get help when needed (friends, TAs, professors), and obviously – study!

On this topic, I would also like to mention the sense of camaraderie found in engineering, which I like to describe as “we’re all in this together”. Yes, engineering is a tough curriculum, but since you will have the same classmates for most of your courses, you will likely find yourself in a group of friends with whom you will be battling problem sets, lab reports, projects, practice exams, and finals. You will not be in this journey alone!

Expectation #3

The amount of workload and exams will leave you little time for sleep.


This particular thought actually worried me the most coming into university, as I am one who needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep to function properly. When I attended the Post-Offer event in my hometown, the first question I asked a current undergrad was “How many hours of sleep did you get on average?”

Sleep is a tricky one because it may vary from person to person, and between disciplines. Although I found the Civil Engineering curriculum quite busy in terms of work volume, I never had to pull an all-nighter, and I managed to get at least 7 hours of sleep each day. My philosophy was that if you manage your time wisely and exercise self-control (procrastinating procrastination), sleep will not become a luxury. That being said, I didn’t live a life like a robot – I still gave myself time to relax and do extra-curriculars. I’m confident that I’m not the only one who feels this way, as most of my friends manage to get their beauty sleep too.


If you shared similar worries as me, I hope this blog post provided some sense of relief!



Gerry Ip Outreach Chair CIV 1T4+PEY


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