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Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
— Mary Schmich
Dear first year, fresher, freshman, fresh off the boat,
It’s hard to gain perspective when you’re in the middle of something overwhelming and unfamiliar, which starting university certainly can be (shout-out to those who are just chilling). You’ll learn, in your own time, how to step into your own confidence and how to be okay with your inner contradictions and the contradictions in others (ongoing life process). You’ll learn your own study rhythm that will get you through your degree(s). You might find lifelong friends, as well as those who just show fake love, straight up to your face.
Here is my semi self-indulgent advice that I hope actually helps you:
1) If you feel clueless about where your classes are, worry that you won’t make friends, or find the amount of reading required daunting — welcome to the club. We’re called students and we meet every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday along Courtenay Place. You’re not alone in your struggle. Even though it feels that way when everyone else is so good at looking like they have their shit together. You will be lost for a while. You will struggle to make friends. There will be many uncomfortable moments. But take comfort, however much you can, in knowing you’re not the only one. We’re in all in this together (and it shows when we stand, hand in hand, make our dreams come truuuuuue).
2) The Kirk Computer Labs (level two, Kirk building) are open 24/7 for those dreaded (hopefully only occasional) all-nighters. You need your ID card to get in (and out!). During the day, these labs may be booked for classes. Check the timetable outside the door to see if it’s in use. Or just walk in and have a room of students, plus tutor, turn and stare at you while you awkwardly back out.
3) We can tell that you’re a first year. Spotting you in a crowd and laughing at your wide-eyed excitement and confusion reminds us of how far we’ve come (uh, it’s not just me right). The truth is, third year (and above) students are shit scared about what they’re going to do when they leave here. Some are contemplating doing further studies because the world outside university scares them. So when they laugh at you, laugh right back at them.
4) It is a truth universally acknowledged that all tutorials are awkward — even up until third year. Tutors will prepare discussion points that no one contributes to. There will be ice-breakers you’ll think you’re better than. Then you’ll have that annoying kid that dominates the class with their self-importance and irrelevant tangents. The way to fight this is to voice your very relevant discussion points. Tutors cater to students’ needs; if no one speaks up they don’t have much to work with. So you have to speak up. Say something that will require the tutor to reply. Say something that might open the discussion to other nervous class members who also find that kid annoying. You’re paying to be here (shout-out to international students paying a thousand times more) so use that 50 minutes and speak up! If you’ve been raised in a culture that discourages speaking freely, this can be a painful thing to overcome. It will feel disrespectful and wrong. I encourage you — if nowhere else in your life, uni is a good place to find your voice. Or use the one you know you’ve always had. I found mine here, you might too. So remember, use your words.
5) The sushi at Maki Mono gets cheap after around 4:30—it goes quickly when this happens. May the odds be ever in your favour.