Crisp fall air, leaves turning red, me walking nervously through the halls of a massive university with student strength 10 times higher than the population of the towns some of my roommates were from. This time of the year always makes me nostalgic about my first year in University and I always wonder where time flew. As you unpack your belongings and get excited about new friendships, new surroundings, pub nights, frosh activities, I would like to humbly offer some advice that will prove to be useful in the long run and take a break from my usual posts related to technology and social media:
1. Take care of your health
After 17-18 odd years of your mom telling you what to eat, you will feel liberated when it comes to culinary decisions. Sugary cereal, pop, pizza packets, kraft dinners will become close acquaintances in the next four years. The meal plan will give you access to sketchy diners across campus. You will be left with little choice but to eat unhealthy, chemically processed foods. However, do make sure to eat fruit/vegetables at least once a day. Even if it’s an apple or a banana. Habits formed in your late teens/early twenties stick with you for the rest of your life.
2. Don’t judge
Now this just sounds preachy. But coming from a cozy suburb where everyone looks alike it will be hard not to think some of the things your foreign roommate does is weird. But post secondary is where you embrace the weird, meet as many people different from you as can and embrace the difference. You don’t have to be friends with them but open up the windows on your brain and every time you hear yourself thinking that person is weird, stop yourself immediately (unless the person just plain gives you the creeps, but more on that later).
3. Drink responsibly
This is a big one. Most of you in Ontario are not legally allowed to drink in your first year, so really don’t push your limits. You don’t want to be kicked out of your res/dorm or program. However, getting drunk to the point of black out where you don’t remember how you got home is cute only ONCE in university (or lifetime) not every week. Try to not get hammered to the point where people stop asking you to come out. I am not trying to be morally upstanding here, but excessive drinking though glamourized by Hollywood’s College movies, is actually bad for your liver, skin, health, and hair. You don’t want to be 18 going on 37.
4. Join a club… or two
Think about something you liked in high school or something you have always wanted to pursue. Universities have a club for everything from grandma’s ethnic background to lumber jacking. If you can’t find it, you can always start one. Basically, something to get you away from the 3 friends you met with during Frosh week and hang out with constantly. You might not appreciate this advice in the first month, but by month three, you will want to get away from them.
5. You are not married to your major
You thought you loved Biology in High School and you wanted to be a doctor. But as you enter Biology 101, theatre style lecture with 500 of your best friends, you are not sure anymore. You get more drawn to your Stats course which you only enrolled in as a time filler and you are scared to tell your parents who have already paid the fee for your first year that Biology is not what you want to do. Here is the thing, DO NOT be scared. It is better to realize at the start of your degree that you don’t like it than after you or graduate or worst, you actually end up becoming a doctor and realize you wanted to be a journalist. Have an honest chat with your parents. You might even want to take a break from university/college and go back home, it will hurt for a bit but you will be okay in the long run. Who knows, you might even be suited for a trade than a life of academia.
6. Take care of your mental health
Mental health is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Trouble with being a frosh is, you will feel sad once in a while, get home sick. However, if you are feeling sad all the time, you are missing classes, nothing is making you excited anymore, get help. There are tonnes of resources on campus. Believe me, nothing is more precious than your health. Utilize all resources. Don’t be ashamed in reaching out. You are too precious to suffer alone in silence.
7. Use a condom
This one speaks for itself. You are not Katherine Heigl or one of the Kardashian sisters that can afford to get pregnant. And chances are the only asset the guy has is his meal plan and a weekly supply of diapers costs more than that. So be very careful and don’t let loose judgement get the better of you. Also, STDs are for real.
8. Walk in groups
Number of on-campus rapes increases dramatically across North America in September. Why? Because we make so many friends on campus and we let our guard down and think everyone’s our friend. Walk in groups, don’t walk in dark places by your self. Use campus security to escort you if you are by yourself. As much as you have the right to walk wherever you want without people harassing you, the sad reality is there are creeps out there who will take advantage of your vulnerability.
9. Attend Frosh/Orientation activities
You might think you are too cool for school and all these dumb activities takes down your street cred by a notch or two but I met some of my best friends at these activities.
Why did we come here in the first place? That’s right folks, you will feel so much better about yourself if you dedicate at least an hour or two everyday to homework. University is a real kick in the teeth. The Professors will not remind you about due dates, if you don’t hand in your assignment, you will get a zero. And if you go to negotiate grades with the Professor, you will see that his visiting hours are on Tuesdays 9 am to 11 am only. And if you do catch him during that time, I promise you he will make you feel like a piece of shit (not speaking from personal experience ofcourse). So yes, use some self discipline and do your HW.
11. Pick a Physical activity
Freshman 40 is real. You will gain a lot of weight, to the point your family will not be able to recognize you when you go back on Thanksgiving. To avoid that, try engaging in a physical activity 2-3 hours a week. It could be a dance class, running on the treadmill, running outside, joining an intramural league what have you. Like I said before, habits formed now will stick with you forever.
12. Lock your dorm room doors
Yes, you have made a lot of friends on your floor and now the whole floor is like a mini-familia. But leaving your doors unlocked, makes you susceptible to theft. I lost my tennis racket in the first month, another friend of mine had her laptop stolen. So lock those doors and keep track of all your personal belongings.
Here’s to the best years of your life. Enjoy every damn second!!!