Sunday, November 7, 2010
OMG! I'm in college!...and have been now for a couple for months :)
After the long and laborious period of writing SATs and applying to college, the result is finally here! I'm in college! I've been at Clark University for about a month plus now and this is a chronicle of all I've learnt.
The first thing you notice when you get to college, and I mean very FIRST thing (apart from the physical stuff) is the freedom. The smell of freedom pervades the air in college. You live, breathe, eat and study freedom. You have absolutely NOTHING that you have to do. You don't have to go to class, you don't need to play any sport, you don't need to attend any school functions, you do not need to join any club. You are completely free to do whatsoever suits you at any point, at any time. I must say the freedom is intoxicating.
Of course quickly on the heels of freedom comes the second thing you notice, the responsibility. Everything comes with a price and the price of the freedom is responsibility. At college you are responsible for EVERYTHING. If at this point you're like it doesn't mean anything, you're in for a huge shock. Especially us International students. Your parents stand outside the boarding gate waving goodbye after having stuffed you with as much money as they think decent and you get off the plane feeling very confident. It's until you realize that you have to buy textbooks (which on average cost a total of $400 if you buy them new), you have to get a phone (good luck if you don't have a social security number), you have to buy all the essentials in you room (which includes bedsheets AND pillows, dustbin, hangers…literally everything), some teachers take attendance and for those that don't, have fun finding someone who can/will give you notes before the exams.
What is the one word synonymous with college? That's right! Party! Of course who doesn't like a good party? Especially when there's no one to tell you when to get back home? I'm not a die-hard partier but I do like to go out. That was until I realized the stress involved in partying. Firstly the movies DO NOT lie. Even in my small school where we do not have frats/sororities, there are copious amounts of alcoholic drinks and even more copious amounts of drunk people. There are also police officers who wander around friday night enforcing the 21 drinking age and breaking parties up. So as you can only imagine, friday night partying is a never ending cycle of party hopping or if you're lucky a club chockfull of bad dancers, drunk/high people and shady characters. For a small time partier like me it's too much stress. Of course the scene has to appeal to some people because I hear them every week, in fact two weeks ago I heard these two guys patriotically singing the American anthem at the top of their lungs.
What is my favorite thing about college? That you can completely re-invent yourself over and over again without stress. Unless you go to a teeny weeny minuscule tres petite college, everybody doesn't know you. Try as you may, there will always be someone who doesn't know you. Stand at the main entrance and introduce yourself to everyone who walks by and you'll miss those who got in through the side entrance. Every time you feel the urge to re-invent yourself, change your group of friends. Or simply don't make friends. It's too easy to fade into the background. Sorry but no one cares about you, not unless you guys came from the same high school and even then its so-so. It takes real effort to make friends at college. Joining clubs, volunteering somewhere,playing a group sport like football or basketball are the easiest way. Fear not if you know you're shy or introverted. There is usually some kind of group that the school throws you into in your first week, the most common being international students orientation. Try very hard not to miss it. It's easier to start building your friendships from there than from when the entire freshman class descends.
College is the only institution meant for education that I can think of where there is no obvious structure to the day. You can have one class during the day and that one class could be from 7pm-9pm. In high school/secondary school you knew that without fail school was over by 4 p.m. The rest of the day was meant for extra curricular. Not in college. In college you fit extra curricular between class time. That's why some people come for class with yoga mats. There is no set aside study time and while you assure yourself you will study between 8 and 10, that movie, those friends, that call, could come and go and suddenly it's 3 a.m.
I have no advice for anyone planning on starting college soon. I just want to say, college est tres magnifique! I can see why they would say its the best four years of your life. Jump in! Just close your eyes and dive into the deep end. Just make it your experience; not anybody else's. Just yours.