Written by Kamana Krishnan
October 2017. At this time two years ago, I’d watched hundreds of clickbait videos on YouTube by a number of people not slightly related to the college life written in my future. I’d read articles all about how college was crawling with social opportunities, about interning with huge corporations because one professor knew someone in the HR department. ‘How I graduated my four-year course in two and a half years!’, ‘My college friends save me from a fire-breathing dragon!’ – I was sold. I couldn’t wait for college. I wanted to be saved from fire-breathing dragons too!
Two years down the line, and I’m still waiting to meet that dragon, preferably without the saving.
Okay, it’s not that extreme. But happiness is what’s left when you remove expectations from reality. And as if dropping cheesy one-liners wasn’t enough, I now present – quick maths. If your expectations far exceed the reality your face, chances are your happiness will be negative. A foolproof way to live a happy college life? Keep your expectations realistic. And that’s what I’m here for.
I’ve heard both ends of the spectrum: high school teachers telling you all about ‘that lackadaisical attitude being unacceptable in college’ and college seniors telling you everything was cool and that the assignment you slaved over for 2 weeks would probably be used to line someone’s tiffin. My experience has been somewhere in between.
I study animation and multimedia (is that the sound of sneering engineering kids I hear in the distance?), and in a 3 hour class for 3D modeling, as we sat at desktops struggling to make objectively ugly characters, our teachers sat obscured from our view in the neighboring lab. I don’t know what they were doing, but the familiar rhythms of ‘Gangnam Style’ were diffusing from their lab to ours.
And that’s what workload in college is like.
It’s not that there’s nothing to do in college and everyone’s there to have a good time; it only looks like that because your work is a lot more of your own responsibility in college. College workloads are easy to negotiate if you know what you need to do by when, and no one will be sitting at your shoulder telling you to do this or that. In theory. I can vouch for the fact that in reality there will be a forgotten deadline or two.
The stories that come from the adults in our lives are all about making friends for life in college, the newfound independence and the crazy experiences. It makes me wonder what sort of magical land colleges in the eighties were. I didn’t crash any weddings, I laughed awkwardly with a group of my classmates as we struggled to get each others’ senses of humor in a crowded food court.
But college is a new, overwhelming change for most freshers, and there’s a sense of belongingness created just by that.
Does that mean you’ll automatically make friends for life? I really don’t believe so. Most introverts are predisposed to sitting around in a crowd of like-minded people hoping someone might try to approach them, but that probably won’t happen. Much like your college workload, your college social life is your own responsibility, and you’ll have to brave many awkward firsts if you want those forever friends.
A note on ‘initiations’ – Yes, ragging is illegal. And from what I know, ragging as such isn’t a widespread occurrence, but there’s something of the sort under the name of ‘intros’ (introductions) taken by seniors. The seniors might make you sing, or dance or share some talent you claim to have. They’re done in good spirit, but if anything ever feels uncomfortable or wrong, walk out immediately. Going against what everyone else is doing might seem hard, but it’s harder to keep doing something you feel uncomfortable with.
So, what can you expect from college?
Exactly what you can make of it. It’s a mixed bucket of opportunities, some not as good as others, but college is the time of your life when you have the independence to make your own choices with the facility of getting support. Want to get an internship at Pixar? No one will advertise it, but ask that one friendly professor and you might get somewhere. Instead of waiting to magically make friends because it’s something you expect, go to that literature festival with your classmates. And if your idea of fun is a mini-concert in your bathroom to your favorite music, do that too – even if the seniors want you to stay back and work with them on a project.
No college is going to match up to the stories out there, but you get to make one that’s uniquely yours, and that counts for something.