The Undergraduate Journey: Building Your Networks

APRIL 7TH, 2024 AT 7:35 PM

Vedanth Desaigoudar is a MASc Biomedical Engineering candidate at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Vedanth is eager to help students navigate the academic and non-academic areas of their undergraduate journey. Whether you are at the start of your undergraduate studies or towards the end, Vedanth hopes to shine some light on your journey and help you reach your goals!

University is a lot! Do I belong here? How do I structure my time?” These thoughts and questions may sound familiar. It can be hard to know where to start and where to look for help. What do you prioritize, who do you reach out to, and when do you know you need help?

At the same time, university is an exciting place to see yourself, your friends, and peers grow academically, professionally, and socially. It is a collaborative sphere for you to make mistakes, learn from them, and apply yourself with stronger confidence and motivation going forward.

To see this growth over the years, it is important to have the right tools in mind to navigate this terrain. I like to think of it like training for a marathon. This is no easy task. It requires one to embrace several challenges, train extensively, continuously self-reflect, and reward oneself for the growth achieved during the process. Undergrad is a journey filled with happiness, challenges, and learning experiences that will shape your life, and in the process, you will develop resilience, maturity, and a set of new perspectives.

Whether you are at the beginning or somewhere in the middle of your undergraduate journey, you will always have questions. Through this article, I hope to summarize two key tangible tips you can incorporate during your time in undergrad to build support systems for yourself and overall, optimize your experiences throughout. This article is mainly my opinion on this matter. Therefore, I encourage you to learn different perspectives from a wide range of people you meet. Everyone has a wonderful story to share and there is always at least one lesson you can learn from their experiences.

Tangible Tips

  • Building a Peer Network. A strong support network of friends and peers is helpful. University can be overwhelming as it is. You are taking several intensive courses (often way more than you did in high school). You are navigating new academic, professional, and social environments. You are learning to manage a healthy lifestyle with a busy course-schedule. You are navigating personal challenges, adversities, and unexpected situations. There’s no doubt you have a lot going! A peer network is critical to helping you traverse these rough terrains smoothly. It is essentially a shoulder to lean on. Now, a peer network does not need to be super big. 2 to 4 close friends are enough to keep you afloat and at the same time, effectively offer them the support they need.

  • Building a Mentorship Network. Now, this is different than a peer network. Think of mentors as your role-models. When you are trying to reach a goal or looking to follow a specific path, you want to meet people who have achieved the same goal or one that is very similar. This can help ease some of the uncertainty and provide you with more clarity on how to plan the next chapter. The best ways to build this network is to join academic/mentorship clubs. For example, if you are interested in pursuing Medical Biophysics (as was my case), see if there is a club related to this. Universities are great because there is a club for almost everything! Through these clubs you get to meet upper-year students who are excited, open to sharing their experiences, providing advice, and guiding you in your journey. Introduce yourself, what you are interested in pursuing, and politely ask if they have any advice. Once you have completed the initial introduction (which is sometimes awkward), you should find that the conversation is free flowing. Another key facet of building this network is to maintain these connections and to pass the torch forward. When you achieve the goal you set out for yourself, it is always great to help the next person in line. Believe me, there is always someone you can help just by sharing your unique challenges and experiences. In a more formal setting, you can join the same clubs as a mentor and offer advice to those seeking it. Some mentoring may be more informal—you may have a friend ask you for advice, or they may know someone who is interested in something you can help with. It is quite fascinating to look back and see the different ways you have networked with individuals.

Useful Resources



a.   This article speaks about imposter syndrome—what it is, how it can feel, and shares personal stories of students who have experienced it. (10-15 mins read)

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