Pattison High School Orientation Speech on January 3, 2012

– by PHS Alumni

Samuel Zhong, 2011 Graduate

Currently at Actuarial Science

University of Toronto

Good morning everybody. I hope you all had a merry Christmas and a happy new year. First of all I would like to thank Pattison for giving me this chance to speak in this orientation. It’s such an honor because not long ago I was one of you sitting in this building, staring around and wondering when this boring meeting is going to be over. Yet I am speaking in the meeting now, and I don’t want to admit it’s boring, so I would do my best to make it enjoyable. Today, I have two stories and some of my university experience to be shared. Each of the stories taught me a lot and I hope you will get message as well.

The first story is about finding you own path.

This is not much different than finding you own goal or finding what you really like to do. So I am not going into too much detail in this one. But I need to mention that I chose the word ‘path’ because we all have our destination to reach. And we can only reach our destination through our own path otherwise we would regret as the last moment of life comes.

I couldn’t find my own destination, I couldn’t find my path to get there. Without a clear direction, everything around just seemed to be wrong. I obviously didn’t want to be wrong, so I moved slowly and carefully along the direction which a lot of people were pointing at instead of the one that I was supposed to choose for myself. For some of you, who have found your path, I wish you the best. For the rest who haven’t found it yet, keep looking until you eventually find you own path.

The second story is about earning what you have and being deserved of what you have.

Put it in a simpler way, everything we have should be earned instead of given. This is a quote from my former English teacher in Pattison. She said to us, in the first class, ‘your marks are earned, they are not given’. This saying hit me right in the face and it seemed to be the answer to the confusion I had over the summer before I came to Pattison.

Things started when I was in my former public school, which I attended before Pattison, I was getting low grades. But as the end of the school year approached, I got the offer from SFU, I was glad about it. Yet I wasn’t secure for that, not even a bit. I didn’t have the sense of belonging while I looked at those papers. And I couldn’t hold to think of the chance of losing them. Yet my worries came true, I did lose them, not by misplacing them, but they are taken from me, just by the fact that I am not qualified to have them. Some of you may know that SFU requires a minimum of 60 in English for admission. That was the biggest insecurity I had back then. I was right on the edge, being worried about it over and over again. I couldn’t even sleep well at night. In one morning I woke up, I decided to do something to end this worry. So I went to the teacher, and for the record, that was the teacher I had in the public high school, not in Pattison, I begged for marks. Truth to be told, I really needed those marks, just a few of them, could put me into university. When I went to her, I was told she really liked my final project. And after I told her what kind of situation I was in. It was my lucky day. Out of her kindness, she guaranteed an ‘A’ on that final project of mine. It looked like the problem had been solved.

So I went back home happily with the offer, after I had taken my provincial exam. I felt like I had successfully tricked life, and if that could get me to the next stage, I would choose to do so again. Yet about a month after, I received a rejection email from SFU saying my English final mark couldn’t meet the requirement. I was devastated. I always had this feeling that something might take this chance away from me. Like anyone would guess, it was the provincial exam. Combining my exam mark and class mark, I got 59, just 1 percent lower than what I needed. Thinking back to those days, I could still remember the worries I had while I was holding onto something that does not belong to me. And one huge life lesson I learned from this – I thought I tricked life, yet I was just playing a big joke on myself. Being rejected eventually was my punishment.

The whole point of the story is simple, and you may have heard of it for so many times—what’s yours is yours, and it must be earned by you. It’s one simple and true saying yet I never took it seriously until I failed to hold on to what did not belong to me. When I say this what you have must be earned saying, I can’t prove it to be true, but I believe it’s true. Even though I see people having whatever they don’t deserve, I don’t complain that life is not fair, because I also believe that life is, and will always be doing its best to be fair. These are the two believes that I have been living on, and it has made so much difference in my life.

Now that I have finished the first semester of my first year in university, I would like to share something that I have learned during the first semester. And I hope that would help those of you who are going to university in the near future.

First thing that I would like to share is that “it’s easier to keep up than to catch up”. It’s actually said by one of the former student of my Economics professor who failed the course the first time. The professor has been telling his student the same thing for years. And I found it extremely helpful, because time is never enough in university.

The first month of university is all about having fun. There were just tons of activities going on in the campus and you can also party day and night. Yet what no one noticed was that classes had already started. By the time I realized I should start working hard, I had already missed so much. I remember sitting down in front of my computer and trying to read some of the course materials, and I found out that I needed to read about 100 pages to catch up, just for Economics, which is one of the four courses that I have. That wasn’t the only thing, my philosophy paper was due soon as well. So I ended up spending my whole night in the library working 12 hours straight. That was not fun, and it will never be.

This time slipping through our hands is one huge difference between high school and university. In high school, you would have the teacher reminding you of the due day of every assignment. Or you can ask you classmates for it. But in university, there are 500 people in one class and the professor wouldn’t spend a minute reminding you where the class has proceeded to. You are mostly on your own. So if you think you still have a lot of time, you better check your calendar again.

The second thing I want to talk to you about is to have a sense of competing, because if you don’t, you won’t be able to survive in those cut-throat competitions. A lot of people think after you get into university, you are safe. That’s not true, all the challenges are just about to come to you. You will have to face the fact that so many people are so smart and you have to compete with all of them. First, you would have to get good grades to stay in university. Second, you will need to graduate with a lot of different skills to be able to get a job. So don’t get comfortable, once you do, you are likely to be in danger. As Steve Jobs mentioned in his 2005 graduation commencement in Stanford, “stay hungry, stay foolish”, and I have always wished myself to be so, I wished you all to be as well, since that’s absolutely the right attitude to have towards university and furthermore, to life.

In the end, I would like to thank Pattison again. I have always been grateful to what I had experienced and learnt in this school. And I wish it all my best to be a greater school in the future. Also, I wish you all the best in your academic success. Thank you, thank you all.

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