When I decided to move away from home for university, I thought I would finally sever ties with the dependency of teenhood. However, during the first years of university I found myself in a post-high school purgatory, existing somewhere between the freedom of adulthood and the foolishness of my youth. I was 2001 Britney Spears, singing from atop of the Grand Canyon: not a girl, not yet a woman.
However, the similarities between my and Britney’s coming-of-age experience end at our mutual discovery of the crop top. While she pursued fame, fortune, and Federline, I sought an undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia.
As I enter into my third year of higher education, the flood of freshman feti evoke a sense of nostalgia. Their bright faces are still tan from summer and their postures still unaffected by textbooks and backpacks. Their expectations are high, but akin to their GPAs, these too will diminish alongside the autumn leaves. As a Liberal Arts student, I consequently feel compelled to offer some insight into the college experience. And since all great advice comes in list-form, here are some of the things I wish I knew before going to school:
1. My relationship with my parents would improve after I moved away. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, especially when the opposing heart sends Subway gift cards and batches of homemade soup. Call your mom.
2. The tedious responsibilities of adulthood will hit like a crosswind on the Coquihalla Highway. Remain steadfast: eat vegetables, answer emails, and wash bedsheets every two weeks.
3. There is a difference between being independent and being lonely. University is designed to offer the former and seclusion in the name of a perfect GPA is not a noble feat. In my second year, I ignored the advice of my career counsellor and got a job at an off-campus dive-bar. I didn’t necessarily need the money, but I ended up forming invaluable friendships.
4. Despite being only four hours from my hometown, I would feel like I was an exchange student at university. Canadian citizenship is not commonplace, but foreign languages are.
5. Akin to gambling, participation in clubs and organizations requires self-restraint. Know your limitations and try to keep your time commitments to those organizations in balance with school.
6. Ability to keg stand is not a particularly transferable skill within the job market. At some point, I recommend dismounting and becoming familiar with the concept of “social drinking.”
7. There is no greater understanding between university students than we are all perpetually busy. Meeting your friend for a beer should feel like a break, not an obligation. Also, accept cancelled plans with grace.
8. It’s important to pursue your own definition of cultural experience. For some, that involves a gap year in Thailand; for others, it’s a spring-break volunteer program to enhance the resume. A select few will try to deconstruct the social framework of frat parties. Cultural enlightenment does not always require international travel.
9. Freedom and foolishness of adulthood are often confused for one another. Did I have the freedom to skip class every Friday, or the foolishness?
10. It’s OK to change your mind. Education does not go to waste just because a degree or diploma is not completed. Appreciate what those first year commerce courses taught you, but do not hesitate to restart in the science faculty if that is what feels right.