Host and executive producer of the HBO Max series Craftopia, Lauren Riihimaki — who’s also known as lifestyle and DIY influencer LaurDIY — opens up about her university experience and her advice to current students facing this exciting transition.
What inspired you to start your YouTube channel?
I started my YouTube channel as a creative outlet, something to distract me from a mountain of transitional changes I was experiencing. It was my after-school hobby that helped inspire me to see more of Toronto in my spare time and also keep my spirits up through some tough days. I later realized that the key to success on YouTube was authenticity, and creating content that you’d enjoy yourself, so nine years later, I’m still following that same inspiration.
Why do you think choosing the right school and program is so important?
Choosing the right school and program is a big decision that can be immensely overwhelming. I can absolutely relate in that it feels like this one decision will determine the rest of your life. I’ve had a unique journey of education and career direction, and although I don’t regret any of my choices because they led me to where I am now, I think it’s important to use as many resources as possible to make an informed decision. Some of the most valuable tools that students have access to are the public social media profiles of students. They can help you find current students at the schools you’re considering who may help give you new perspective outside of the university’s informational pamphlets.
What advice do you have for students going into their first year of university?
Enjoy yourself! You’re only a freshman for the first time once in your life, so take this opportunity to experience as much as you can. Everyone is reinventing themselves and taking this time for a possible fresh start. Moving to Toronto made me feel like the sky was the limit and I think outside of your school experience, the city itself has so much to offer in terms of expanding your horizons.
Also, be kind. I didn’t know a single person and “intimidated” would be an understatement as to how I felt. A lot of students are going through these same kinds of massive changes and kindness goes a long way when you’re feeling vulnerable.
Were you involved with any campus clubs or activities? Why is it so important that students get involved?
Getting involved is one of the easiest ways to meet new people. I wasn’t involved in any clubs but participating in frosh week activities and events and being social in residence were definitely key to making new friends and forming new relationships.
How did you balance the stressors of university with your social life and mental health?
I’ve been very open about my struggle with mental health. I had a really hard time adjusting and my anxiety quadrupled, but making one’s mental health a priority was — and is — something that we should all take very seriously.
Personally, I found the most success in creating routine and internal deadlines for myself. I think introducing some form of structure can be effective in learning better time management. Finding the balance of staying on top of your schoolwork, maintaining a healthy social life, and finding time to prioritize your mental health can feel like a lot but as long as you’re conscious of the need for all three, it’s a great place to start.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for students?
Find the balance, but it’s okay to make mistakes. You’re young, you’re learning, and you’re navigating a whole new chapter of your life, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to perfect everything right from the start.
Is there anything you wish you would have known before applying to university?
I wish I had spoken with current students of the program I was applying for. The honesty of a current student is unmatched and might aid in your decision making. Find a resource to candidly ask about the curriculum and social community.
What’s the best part about post-secondary life?
The best part about post-secondary life is undoubtedly the freedom. You suddenly have control over so many new aspects of your life and can become the sole decision-maker for the majority of your day-to-day behaviour. It can be overwhelming and you’re bound to make mistakes, but I think this transitional period is one of the most exciting and new experiences you’ll have in university or college.