Mihaela Zlatanovska | Student Success Series

Mihaela Zlatanovska, Concordia University psychology student

This blog has been reviewed by Nicholas Murray and Elijah Nimijean, edited by Rémi Thériault, and formatted and published by Béa Schueller.

Mihaela, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hello! My name is Mihaela Zlatanovska and I’m happy to share a little bit about myself. I was born in Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, and moved to Canada at the young age of two. My family and I initially moved to Toronto and later came to Montreal. Having no introduction to the language, we all struggled with French, so I had a miserable time upon entering the public French system. It was hard to find Canadian friends and my grades were very low. It wasn’t until I enrolled in an English high school that I finally found my place.

In high school, I was able to find friends and feel like I fit in. My grades improved significantly over the years and I developed new passions like reading and writing. I finally felt comfortable to work on myself and my academic success. Thanks to this change, I was able to enroll and follow my passion in the Honors Psychology Program at Concordia University. Although not a perfect program, I loved all the classes I have had the pleasure to take, and the teachers and students I have met along the way. It’s made my desire to be a couples and family therapist clear.

What do you think made you successful as a student?

To boil it down to a few words, I think that a successful student is passionate, curious, flexible, and open.

For a student to be successful, they need to like what they are studying. They need to be passionate about the things they are learning. I find that when I am passionate about something, it is easy for me to concentrate and study for longer periods of time. However, it’s also important to understand that sometimes, in order to achieve your goals, you will need to do things that you might be less passionate about. In those moments, I like to remind myself of the larger end goal. It allows me to justify the harder time I might be having in the present.

However, passion isn’t enough. I consider myself a curious person as well. I am curious not only about my discipline, but also about things outside of my field; space, nature, technological and medical advancements, and more. Being curious about subjects outside of my domain keeps me sane; it gives me a break from the day-to-day flood of information that I receive at school about one topic and gives my brain a break as well. It’s also a great conversational piece!

Photo credit: Alex Andrews

Flexibility and openness go hand-in-hand for me. What I mean by these two ideas is being flexible to changes in your greater plan. If you are like me and you like to plan out your undergrad and your graduate school, then it’s also important to understand that things might not always go as you’d like. It’s important to realize that sometimes things can change that you simply don’t have control over. For me, it was the graduate program I wanted that was paused by the university. It was something that was out of my control and changed the path that I was going to take. Being flexible with these changes and open to new ideas or options will help you when you feel like the ground under you is unstable. As much as we like to think that we are the masters of our lives, as we leave the school system and enter the workforce, you start to realize it’s not so black and white.

What strength, skill, strategy, mindset, or habit allowed you to get where you are today?

I have always answered this question with two skills I am very proud of: time management and organization. The ability to gauge how long a given task will take you is critical for having strong time-management. It’s equally important to understand when your brain and body need a break from school work as the competition we are exposed to in school can sometimes be exhausting. When you come to understand your limits and your capabilities, you are better capable of managing your time in a realistic way. It might seem insignificant or mundane, but being able to manage your time properly enables you to avoid a burnout. When you know your boundaries, it can help you stay organized with your work. It will allow you to free up time in your schedule to invest in other areas of your life other than school. There is a saying that I love and try to live by as closely as possible:

Never put all your eggs in one basket

University is hard. Adulthood is equally as hard and everyone has different living conditions that can make it more complicated. However, life can truly be insufferable if you fail or make a mistake on something you consider yourself to be an expert on. If you spend 100% of your energy and time on school, you might be very hurt if something goes wrong. This skill isn’t easy to achieve. It’s a goal that takes time and adjustment. Cultivating good time management and organizational skills are two things that can help you get closer to this goal.

How would you invite other students to cultivate those qualities?

This is a little complicated to answer because everyone is different. We all have our own way that we learn and a process we go through to change. Personally, I began by keeping an agenda, both physical and a digital agenda on my phone. This is a very valuable tool, and a good way to visualize and schedule your workload. However, that’s not enough. I would say the most important thing to do is to understand your limits. So start with laying out 1 week and as you progress through it, take note of how easy it was to meet your goals and adjust. When you go to plan your second week, take the notes into consideration, tweak and change the times of each task/objectives as you see fit. But most importantly, be kind to yourself. Deadlines only have the meaning we place on them. Not meeting a certain deadline or finishing all the work you’ve planned for the day isn’t a failure. It’s important to be kind to yourself when you are first learning your limits because being hard on yourself will make it hard to listen to your mental well-being. This is a point I can’t stress enough. Once you have a better grasp on your capabilities, you will see that the time management and organization will come to you in your own unique form.

Photo Credit: https://www.joniandfriends.org/kintsugi/

Any last words you’d like to share with fellow students?

There is much more that could’ve been said and answered with the above questions but I would like to finish off by just saying to not forget to enjoy life. In school, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and time passes by very quickly. Try to find little ways to have interests or pass-times outside of whatever you are studying or working on.

If you wish to contact me for more information, any questions you might have, or just to discuss the information I have shared, please feel free to email me at mihaelaz97@gmail.com. If you liked this article and are interested in more, please take a moment to like, share, or comment! If you are interested in learning more about the types of skills I’ve mentioned or positive psychology more generally, I encourage you to become a member of the CPPA. And don’t forget to check out our Student Zone too!

We are the Student Ambassador Program of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association (CPPA). Find our website here: https://www.cppa.ca/Student-Zone