Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 marks the day I graduate from the University of Wateroo with a Bachelors of Global Business and Digital Arts (yes, BGBDA… not just a BA). I must say the amount of hard work, determination, tears, and money that went into my BGBDA was worth it. When I walked across stage toward the chancellor to receive my sash, he asked me how my past 4 years at UW had been, I told him “it’s been a wild 4 years.” He then asked me if I’d do it again, without really thinking about it I immediately said “Yeah! Yeah, I would”… the more I thought about my answer the more I thought about the stress I placed on myself on top of the stress I felt came from school, the amount of time I cried because I thought I failed an exam, the amount of times I swore at my laptop while writing an essay, the anxiety I experienced… then I wanted to say hell no! But if I think back to all of the friends I made, the great people I’ve had the pleasure to see everyday, the places I travelled to, the places I’ve worked, and what I learned not only about Global Business and Digital arts but also about myself… going to UW gave me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had and for that I’m so grateful for receiving my acceptance letter April 22, 2013!

In the car on the drive to Waterloo to attend my convocation, my mom asked me what my highlight would be out of the past 4 years. I told her I have 2. My first highlight would be my 1st year of university. No words can be used to explain the excitement I felt moving to Waterloo, away from home for the first time. I was paired with Tina as my roommate and we quickly became best friends. I made friends with the N1 floor (Village 1 North 1) residence and Tina and I would always attend their floor events. Anthony, my boyfriend at the time, would visit every second weekend and I would always look forward to spending time with him and showing him around Waterloo. Everything was so new and exciting. I had a new found freedom and the chance to explore and learn more about myself. My second highlight would be going on exchange to Australia. When I first found out about the Global Business and Digital Arts program I researched and looked at all of the opportunities that were available to me through the program. When I read about the possibility of going on exchange and the places I would be able to travel too Australia stood out to me. To make this long story short, before I was even accepted into the GBDA program I knew I wanted to go on exchange to Australia (this is where being very goal-oriented… and determined… came in handy because I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything stop me from gaining this experience, and I’m so happy I was able to make it happen)! Funny enough, both of my highlights involve a new experience; a new chance to discover, explore, learn and grow!

I remember the day my parents dropped me off at my residence, REV 1 West A. I don’t remember feeling scared, I’ve always loved school. I do remember 4th year and my convocation feeling so far away. Looking back now, the 4 years have flown by.

At the start of my 4th year I was picturing the day of my convocation and walking across the stage, and trying to predict how I would feel! Of course I was picturing the outfit I would wear too. I imagined myself wearing either a white dress or jumpsuit and black strappy heels (with a chunky heel… I knew I needed a good heel to support all the standing I’d be doing)! The week leading up to my convocation I felt a bit hopeless, because I had yet to find an outfit to wear! One of my days off from work I decided to head downtown to shop for my outfit and if I found something it was meant to be. I ended up walking by THE pair of shoes I had been imagining in my head all along (I imagined a pair of shoes for my prom and never found them… so I was shock to find the pair I dreamed up this time)! The beauties were Alexander Wang’s: the Abby Sandal with rose gold accents. They were black and strappy, but the straps were thick enough that I felt supported. They had a thick heel too! And as a bonus, they were comfortable and they have the rose gold accents! The price was a bit steep… but the pair I tried on was fresh out of the box and fit like a Cinderella slipper… this was me trying to justify purchasing them! I placed them on hold and do what I always do… I called my mom. Although I do this (almost) every time I make a big purchase, my mom is never more helpful than any other time I’ve called her to try to help me justify any purchase I’ve made. When I called after sending her pictures she said her usual line, “it’s your money Shannon, it’s your decision to make.” Not very helpful! You know when you call someone to get a second opinion or just want someone to agree with you, my mom is not that person but for some reason I still call her every time! Anyways, the master sale scavenger in me found the same pair of shoes on sale at The Bay (they had one pair left in my size, but you could tell they were tried on multiple times). I walked back to Nordstrom, because I know they price match, and I got the brand new, only-have-been-tried-on-by-me pair, for a steal! I was impressed with myself and happy to have found THE shoe! I mean, the shoes are the most important piece of the outfit because the gown would cover everything else!

The following day (after I purchased my shoes) I went out for brunch with a girlfriend of mine, Erica. She has a great sense of style and I knew if I asked for her opinion on what I should wear she would know! She suggested a jumpsuit that she owns and loves from Wilfred: the Écoulement Jumpsuit! Funny enough when I went to Wilfred to try it on that same day Erica and I had brunch, Marwa (another girlfriend of mine) was working and I asked her what she thought I should wear, funny enough she suggested the same piece! I tried it on and fell in love. It was exactly how I expected I’d feel and predicted I’d look on my special day! I was set on wearing white because to me it is the colour of a new beginning, which represents a fresh start and that’s what the day felt like that day would be. I walked across the stage in the next stage of my life!

The day before my convocation I went to Tips to get my nails done! I made sure to book my appointment a few weeks ahead to be sure Melissa (@manimelissa) would be doing my nails. I’ve been going to see Melissa for over a year. I love her work, she is so kind and talented. Every time I see her I tell her to do her thing and I’m never disappointed! She really took the time to make my nails look incredible!

The morning of my convocation my parents took me to Baddies for brunch, before picking up my bouquet and heading to Waterloo. Baddies is one of my favourite brunch spots in the city. Alex, the owner, is from Sydney and has created (in my opinion) the best Aussie inspired escape in the city! It’s located just outside of Landsdowne station. The coffee culture in Australia is incredible and Baddies serve the best long black (what I would always order while I was in Australia) in the city and their brunch options are like no other (the avo toast is my favourite). Everything there is so fresh and the staff is incredible, I never leave disappointed. I was so happy that Genevieve was working (I met her at Erica’s birthday dinner). She’s so sweet and we enjoyed chatting with her for a bit while we ordered and ate! I had always wanted to try the hot cake (“a vanilla bean pancake with london fog leche, milo butter, a stupid amount of garnishes to make sure you take a picture”) but I always gravitate to the avo toast… Genevieve and my mom convinced me to go for it because it was a special occasion (…it took very little convincing)! I absolutely loved it, it was sweet, but not too sweet, and had the right amount of garnish… and it looked so pretty (almost too pretty to eat)!

After brunch we stopped at Crown Flora to pick up my bouquet. I was so happy with the arrangement that was put together for me!

After brunch and picking up the flowers we headed to Waterloo. Leading up to the ceremony there was a lot of walking, talking, and standing going on. I had to pick up my gown and name card. I spoke to and caught up with those in my program who I ran into. I took a few pictures with some friends. Finally, I had to assemble into a line based on the number that was on my name card and I stood for half an hour while I waited with everyone in PAC (physical Activities Complex) for the ceremony to begin at 2:30 pm.

The Valedictorian speech during the ceremony was given by a girlfriend of mine, who is a part of my program, Ashna. She spoke very well about her time at UW, made a few light jokes, and shared the three important lessons she took away from university. Above all, I would say the most important lesson I learned in university is quality over quantity in all aspects of life. It’s better to plan for 2 hours of productive, undistracted studying than 6 hours of unproductive, distracted, frustrating, forced studying. It’s better to surround yourself with positive, loving relationships, those relationships that challenge you in the best way and support you through all of your ups and downs rather than draining relationships that take work to maintain. It’s better to make time for things that you enjoy doing rather than force yourself to waste time doing things that you don’t. This is a lesson I’m glad I learned and I plan to focus on investing my time in all that is quality because it makes me feel full, rather than the emptiness that quantity brings.

Leading up to walking across the stage to receive my certificate, Jay pointed out that I would be the first one to receive a Bachelor of Global Business and Digital Arts (BGBDA) in our year… no pressure!

I felt honoured… but I also felt a mass amount of pressure to be as graceful as possible when I was called to walk on stage (and manage to stay on my two feet)! I told Jay if I fall the blame would be on him, however my walk went as smooth as I had hoped it would be. I was graceful and had the biggest smile! Once I walked off the stage and received my diploma my dad was able to take a candid shot of me right after. I think I’d best describe this face as the “did that just happen” face!

My parents were waiting at the end of the stage and my mom handed me the gorgeous bouquet they got me and took some more pictures!

My grandparents also attended the ceremony, so sweet of them. After the ceremony I took some more pictures with friends and family. It was great to see Lauren’s parents again, who flew in from Vancouver. The last time I had seen them was when Lauren and I flew back from our exchange in Australia and I stayed with her family for a few days!

After all of the picture taking I said my goodbyes and my parents and I headed home for a small cupcake and champagne celebration with friends and family. My aunt Joanne brought my favourite carrot cake cupcakes that she makes. I ordered cupcakes from the same lady who made Erica’s wedding and birthday cakes. Her name’s Belle (@loveinbloomcakes) and she’s such a sweet woman. I’m honestly not a cake lover, I much prefer ice cream or my aunt’s carrot cake, but when I tried the cake she made for Erica I couldn’t believe how delicious it was. She’s so talented too, she hand paint her cakes and has so many delicious flavour pairings. I ordered 2 dozen mini cupcakes from her. The cupcakes were an almond marzipan cake with 3 different icing flavours: vanilla bean, toasted coconut, and strawberry champagne. The toasted coconut was definitely my favourite and a crowd pleaser!

My Aunt Joanne, Ashley, Annelise, Tiana, Erica, Linas, and Kevin all came over to congratulate me and celebrate! The day couldn’t have started and ended any better than it had. I’m so lucky to have such loving, supportive people in my life.

I am happy to take away what I have from university as I begin a new chapter of my life!