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One Concordia student's journey to convocation.

Get a glimpse of the world of an undergrad!

One student. One photographer. Three years at Concordia...

Josie Fomé teamed up with Concordia’s senior photographer Lisa Graves to capture her journey through an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies and Human Relations.

Originally from Cameroon, Fomé is an avid volunteer and reader of memoirs — from Zora Neale Hurston to Issa Rae.

To succeed at school while doing the things she loves, Fomé mastered the art of planning a “passion roadmap” while sipping bubble tea and wearing her exam-acing pearl earrings.

Here's her insight into undergraduate life.

'Be unapologetically you'

The first year at university is about creating your comfort zone.

For me, that meant finding out where to get the best bubble tea — NosThés on Ste. Catherine Street. They use dark-roasted oolong tea. I don’t drink coffee, so I locked down a café with good hot chocolate, as well as one near campus to meet study groups and hang out with friends.

I think everyone goes to school wanting to meet a solid group of friends you’ll have forever. The best way to find your circle is to embrace who you are — be unapologetically you. That attracts the kind of people who belong in your life.

'Put your goals down on paper'

When you start hunkering down to work, priority number one is finding your favourite study zones.

Do you like to study alone or in groups? I study best on my own, so my go-to study spots are the Grey Nuns Reading Room — you can hear a pin drop — and the Concordia Greenhouse, because it’s so lush.

But the best thing you can do to help with your studies is to stay off Netflix and Facebook. I downloaded a great app called SelfControl to block distracting websites. It really works!

Another thing I do is go to the 11th floor of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex. It has a great view of the city and it’s quiet.

I do my personal planning there in a passion roadmap that charts my goals over time — three months, one year, three years. There’s something about putting your goals down on paper, taking that extra step, that’s motivating. It increases your chances of following through.

'Hit the reset button'

At university, the best way to recharge your batteries is to change the scenery once in a while!

I hit the reset button by going to church, hanging out in the Grey Nuns garden, walking up Mont Royal or going to the Atwater Market. They have a bulk store with the best chocolate-coconut balls.

Another favourite escape is the movie theatre. Recently, I went with friends to see Hidden Figures, Moonlight and the Disney movie Moana because I’m totally obsessed with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

He wrote the movie’s hit song “How Far I’ll Go.” I admire his humility — he always says there’s more to accomplish. He totally reclaimed Alexander Hamilton as a historic figure in the popular imagination.”

'Electives help you grow in unexpected ways' 

There are so many innovative courses at Concordia — especially in communication studies.

This year, I took a media ethnography course with Matt Soar on signs and public lettering. It was so cool! We went up to Mile End and talked to the owner and workers at a famous bagel bakery.

I really like the courses that go beyond the traditional lecture format. For example, a friend of mine is actually taking a course in podcast studies. I’ve heard of classes where students record oral histories and lead community art projects in Pointe-Saint-Charles.

Electives, particularly, help you grow in unexpected ways. I took an acting class and loved it!

'Volunteering is a win-win situation'

In high school, I played interstate soccer, so it was really fun for me to play intramural Dome soccer at Loyola Campus.

At Concordia, extracurricular activities are a great way to meet people, but volunteering is rewarding in a different way.

That’s why I did Alternative Spring Break for my first two years, then 5 Days for the Homeless last winter... 

In March, when we did 5 Days for the Homeless, it was tough — being outside in the freezing cold, wearing seven layers and trying to interact with the homeless.

You learn to accept people for who they are, as they are. Volunteering lets you appreciate a perspective that nothing else can bring. It’s a win-win situation.

How to slay exam stress

The best way to prepare for exams is to go to class all year and write things down. Being there and putting pen to paper makes it easier to remember.

On exam day, I dress to impress — including my signature pearl earrings. I also drink orange juice and eat a banana. I don’t know the science behind it, but this definitely helps my memory. 

Worrying has a negative effect on performance, so if stress starts to gain on me before an exam, I take deep breaths, pray and think positive affirmations.

I learned to switch my perspective from stressing about getting a good grade to ‘I’ve studied all I can and now it’s time to do my best.’

'We're all so happy to have gotten to this day'

The days leading up to convocation are when the realization sets in.

You’re graduating. You made it!

The entire process — getting your gown and marshalling card, shopping for your outfit — makes it begin to feel real. And while it can be stressful, it’s also exhilarating.

Then it’s time — graduation day.

It’s amazing when you finally hit that red carpet at Place des Arts. I love that it’s red; it makes you feel like a celebrity!

Before the ceremony, all the grads go upstairs to queue up and you don’t see a sad face in the crowd.

We’re all so happy to have gotten to this day. The energy is electric. You see friends you haven’t seen in a long time — familiar faces that were there when you first started your degree.

There’s a real sense of celebration and community.

'Big accomplishments are built on small successes'

I think it’s really important to listen to the people who speak at convocation — even if it might be easy to tune out because you’ve been sitting for so long.

Kim Thúy is our honorand and she says something that really resonates with me: it’s often the little steps that are most important.

That’s what I learned from my undergraduate years. Big accomplishments are built on smaller successes, and consistently putting in that bit of effort each day adds up in the end.

‘Everything has come full circle’

Right before going on stage, I'm thinking, “Don’t fall, don’t fall.” Because, of course, the girl who never wears heels decides to put on four-inch heels the day of her graduation. 

However, once I walk on stage, I start dancing and pumping my hands in the air because I can’t help but celebrate.

What’s more, one of the people who shakes my hand and gives me my degree is one of the very first professors I ever had: Sandra Gabriele, a woman for whom I have tremendous respect. So, I give her a hug as she passes me my diploma.

It really feels like everything has come full circle.

‘You are exactly where you need to be’

I know it’s a cliché to say the future holds anything and everything, but it certainly feels that way. I’m currently pursuing a Graduate Diploma in Journalism.

Grad school actually started the same day I convocated, so there was no break — I  walked off the stage and right back into the Communication Studies and Journalism (CJ) Building

But moving forward, I have the validation of having completed my bachelor’s degree.

If I could stress one thing to new students, it's the importance of individuality over conformity and taste over trend.

A lot of you will still be finding yourselves when you get to first-year university. But the hope is that you acknowledge this and try to figure out who you are, what you like, what you feel passionate about and chase that.

I remember struggling with this in the beginning. I kept asking myself, “What am I doing? Where am I going? Am I enough?”

And I remember thinking at the same time that everyone else had it all figured out. But trust me, that’s not true.

Once you start speaking and opening up to others you realize you’re all in the same boat and that there’s a certain strength in vulnerability.

Everyone has moments in university where they feel like they don’t belong — but you are strong and you are exactly where you need to be.

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