My first year in a Delhi University college was, of course, stranger than most students’ first year in college.
Many of you are in the middle of college admission blues. As a student of Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, I offer you my experiences and a quick-and-easy guide on how to navigate this transition.
Two years ago, I sat on the edge of my bed in my room in Jalandhar with three open suitcases overflowing with all the things I thought I might possibly need when I move to Delhi University. There was also a bunch of pepper spray packets in them.
I had already done my Google research on every single Delhi University college, and read through almost all the blogs on campus culture and what I might encounter. But nothing could’ve prepared me for what college life turned out to be.
My first year in a Delhi University college, of course, was stranger than most students’ first year in college.
Throw the list
Before I came here, my relatives were full of advice on how to stay safe, what I shouldn’t do and wear, and what kind of friends I shouldn’t make. Funny how I managed to do everything they asked me not to within the first six months of college. But I grew so much as a person by not boxing myself in their dos and dont’s list.
I understand how terrifying it can be to move from a small city to the capital and to Delhi University. Let me help you prepare for the biggest change that is about to come.
Accept the change
The first few weeks will be a shock to your system. We have grown up in an education system that is very structured and sticks to classroom conversations that fit the syllabus. The conversations are going to be limitless. The university classroom will shatter your previous beliefs. Please allow it to do so, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Be a sponge and soak all that information in.
Let life happen to you and don’t resist the change.
It won’t be an easy journey, especially because in Delhi University everyone around you is just as smart if not more. Sometimes, that can make you feel inadequate. It happened to me too. But I made sure I never stopped questioning or limited myself to what I already knew. Question more and have more conversations, and say yes to things you wouldn’t have said yes to before.
The most important thing in college will be learning the act of moving on. From the first day you step into the college, you will distance yourself from the friends you’ve known since school. Some of them may have made it into the same college but different course, some made it to the same university but different college and some never made it to the same city as you. You’ll be forced to move on, no matter how hard and heartbreaking it may seem. Some friendships will last and some won’t, and some will change. But to hold on the idea of what an ideal friendship should be will only put more strain on you at a time when your head is already trying to grasp so many new things.
Also move on from the political arguments you may have in college or a casual conversation over chai with a group of friends. Don’t take them personally. A lot of hurtful things are said, but you need to free up your head space for productive things.
Take adult decisions
You’ve lived a fairly comfortable life until now with your parents. The day you enrol yourself into the admission process, you will have to make some tough choices between the subject you want versus the ranking of the college you’re eligible to apply as per the cut-offs. Finding accommodation is another big decision, especially if you are a young woman. Questions like how far is the accommodation from your college, what is the rent, will it be an apartment or a PG or a college hostel, and who to share it with, are important.
This may seem overwhelming now, but these decisions are your first steps into the real adult world.
You’ll also settle into other early adulthood activities of taking tiny but important decisions like how much to spend on campus chai out of your pocket money, how many times to do your laundry, how many times to go out with your friends while also maintaining grades and attendance.
Your parents have warned you a million times not to get involved in student politics or get in the way of anyone political. You’ve been asked to go to college, study and come back home, and focus on things that “really matter”.
Here is a shocker. At the end of the day, what really matters is the politics of your country and your political choices as a citizen. Your goal might be to become an IAS officer, an academician, or a business person, but please know that the politics of the country plays a huge role in determining what your future is going to be like. For example, if the government announces seat cuts in higher education, reduces scholarships and PhD funding, it affects you. The political conversations are the foundation on which I built myself on.
In college, learn how to speak up and demand your rights. Understand how important your voice is as a citizen of this country and as a student of this university.
Gurmehar Kaur is a writer and student activist.