My first column is dedicated to all those who are spreading their wings for the first time and leaving home to find their feet in college across the country, and even the world. Through the myriad emotions that college life brings, I bring you five principles which will govern your experience. I wish you well on a journey that involves self-discovery, terrible food and entirely changed sleeping habits!
Adjustment is the key to survival. You’ll be living in a new, albeit crowded environment, with people you don’t know, whose quirks may not be even mildly amusing. Remember though, when your roommates or neighbours decide to party right outside you room or make late night gushy phone calls to long distance boyfriends, voicing your disapproval will not make you popular. Explaining your position and suggesting that phone calls would be better taken out in the corridor would work, especially if you’re willing to adjust your quirks as well. Or be prepared for back-biting, bitching (yeah, guys do it too) and general unpleasantness,
Appreciation – With college, especially hostel life comes a new appreciation for stuff that you took for granted. Freshly washed and ironed laundry that once magically appeared in your cupboard? Now, a grubby pile of clothes lying under your bed. A car that ferries you around in air-conditioned comfort? Replaced by the local bus and the surly auto driver. Home made meals replaced by steel thalis of indifferently cooked dal and rubber chapatis. If your parents ever told you that you never appreciated what you had then, then you surely will appreciate it now!
Awareness- College changes everyone, even those who want to, and claim to resist it. With the freedom that comes with not having your parents know where you are and what you’re doing every minute comes an irresistible urge to test boundaries that no longer exist or matter that much. It’s really easy to get swept away in a sea of alcohol, drugs and late nights, and if that’s not where you wanted to end up in the first place, step back for a minute and think. Of course, the odds aren’t always that you’ll end up as an unreformed alcoholic on a permanent liquid diet. You might step back and discover that you are way more capable and independent than you (or anyone else) thought possible. I’ve discovered that self opinion is sometimes more important than anyone else’s. So if your conscience (bless its annoying little heart) is relatively clear when you look yourself in the mirror, feel good.
Academics- The original object for which you ended up far away from home in the first place. Academics often gets pushed to the back-burner in the light of everything that college life brings. The beauty (and sometimes bane) of college life, is that no-one can force you to do anything. After pining and whining for adult treatment, now you’ve got it. Assignments will be submitted and tests will be prepared for entirely of your own volition. In the manner of a true student, everything you do will be done hastily and it is truly a blessing when you discover that almost everyone you know will be sailing the exact same boat on the eve of submission.
Acceptance- There are a few things that can break your heart when you leave your friends and go away to college. There will be promises to keep in touch always, to e-mail and call every week, and they don’t usually last. The problem is miscommunication, busy schedules and blame games on the part of both friends that can tear a relationship apart. Don’t wait for the other person to call first, and don’t be offended if your friend is busy when you call. It’s not worth it to lose a friend over petty jealousies and quarrels, because it’s your school friends that knew you before better than any of your new college mates will know you for a long time.
College will be a wonderful or tragic experience, depending on what you make of it. It has the independence you wanted in school, incidents straight out of a teenage soap opera, and lots of people that make life great during good times, and bearable during hard times. No matter how many teeny movies and novels are churned out every year dealing with life and love in college, there’s really no comparison with the real experience and the chance to write your own story.