Right after grabbing your diploma and walking up a set of shining, shimmering, ‘Oh God it can’t be true I’m finally out of high school’ stairs towards higher learning, you find yourself in a bit of a pickle. The thing about being an immigrant and attending high school in the Gulf region is that it’s better if you could study abroad for your further learning (University). Truth be told, there are technically better options available for you in terms of job opportunities and degree programs overseas, as opposed to being an immigrant student in the Gulf regions. Whoops! Did I just bring out a serving of cold, hard reality?
Nevertheless, you find yourself miles away from what you’ve deemed for quite a long time as your ‘home’, sitting in the corner of the University’s cafeteria, crying to yourself while listening to an Augustana playlist. As you raise a forkful of macaroni and cheese to your mouth you ask yourself, ‘How do I survive University? I don’t know anyone in here!’
Thankfully you have me, so let’s get started!
Don’t lose my number
In the words of the late and great and everything in between writer Douglas Adams, “DON’T PANIC!”
Sure, it’s initially scary, but there’s no need to hide behind that emo fringe you’ve been growing out for a year – instead, be friendly. Before you kick me in my posterior for sounding just like a self help book (or your aunt), I want you to know that being friendly doesn’t mean going up to every person you see in class and shaking their hand vigorously.
Writer’s Note: I tried this technique of shake-his-hand-and-he’ll-automatically-be-my-friend, but in vain. I returned home with three restraining orders and an extra pair of shoes. I loved the shoes.
Friends come slowly. All you have to do is be open to conversation and to just not be so… apprehensive. Think of it as a game, like Baldur’s Gate, in which you need party members to survive. Make friends in your class, so as to allow yourself to be up-to-date with everything the class is doing, or to even help you with homework and stuff. You might think that being the lone wolf in the back of the classroom would improve your ‘coolness factor’ – reality check! It doesn’t. Sit in the middle of the class instead, so as to initiate awkward first lines that pertain to the subject, your notes, or how your Chemistry teacher’s a boring old sod with really bad handwriting. Human beings are a social species. It’s either you fit into the network, or you will not survive. Of course, making friends isn’t easy as I explain it to be. The next section could possibly help you with this.
Strangers like me
Randomly, I chanced upon a poster that called for members to a literary organization. I had nothing to lose and even though I was bad at it, writing was something I liked doing. As well as making funny faces in the mirror while shaving my non-existent facial hair. But that’s a different story.
I figured that joining an organization that deals with the Liberal Arts was a nice alternative to my pre-med course (show off). In time, I found that a majority of my friends stemmed from the org itself, and frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way. While friends can help you in class, they could also help you adjust easily to college life.
So here’s my second piece of advice: if you need a bunch of like-minded individuals and are prone to culture shock, then join an organization in your college with something that interests you. In retrospect I doubt you could get over the culture shock thing with the help of an org, but believe in yourself yada yada yada and all that.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re taking a business course and you’re interested in film-making – join a club; even if you’re a Biology major with a desire to write short stories (show off), just join an organization that interests you.
I promise, if the organization is well-run and you do your best in communicating with your fellow members, you’ll find yourself enjoying your four-year stay in no time.
One dreaded phrase: a schedule. In high school, you could stay out as late as you can, doing whatever the heck you want, and still manage to pass grade after grade. In University however, there should exist a thick line between socializing and schoolwork.
Writer’s Note: The reason why I say ‘thick line’ is because your schedules of socializing and studies must not (and cannot) mingle and intertwine, or else you will face Terrible Consequences. Nice fellow, Mr. Consequences, but a bit too strict when it comes to ‘cold, harsh reality’. Terrible does (as his name implies) a lot of awful and terrible things such as failing you, keeping you in various pickle-ish situations, making you work in McDonald’s, and so on and so forth if you do not dance to his 4 chord beat. You must maintain this thick line and remember to always put studies before socializing. If it were a ‘thin line’, then by all means: party until you drop from exhaustion, oil and ketchup stains smeared across your homework. What I’m trying to say is, KEEP THAT THICK LINE!
Speaking from experience and waking up every Sunday buried underneath sixty kilos of homework, scheduled hangouts, and pizza boxes, you need to have a schedule. I cannot stress how important it is to make time during certain days of the week for advanced studying and homework (yes, you need to do this if you want to pass – high school’s over), for hanging out, for gaming or surfing the Internet or whatever, and so on and so forth. I’ve learnt this the hard way. Please, for the love of all that is good and holy and Chuck Norris’ abs: please make yourself a schedule to follow. You heard me right. You have to be responsible.
I don’t know if this is actually enough to help you go through your tumultuous first few terms, but nevertheless I personally think it’s a great starting point. College is supposed to be the most liberating experience in your life and you should just enjoy it!
I mean, you wouldn’t want to end up sad and lonely, writing an article with Phil Collins song references as titles for each section, would you?