College is one of the best times of a person’s life and adults often reminisce about their college days when life was free and exciting. College offers the best of school and adulthood – fun with friends, activities and a feeling of belonging, on the hand with freedom, self-expression and opportunities to make your dreams come true.
All these joys come with some challenges and obstacles. Of course. And people will tell you how these are all part of growing up – and of course, they are! But here’s a guide on building some skills to face these squarely and convert these challenges to a sense of achievement.
Learn to cook!
Eating out is the easier option at most times, but it gets tiring – and then we run the risk of “Freshman 15!”This syndromerefers to the 15 pounds (approximately 7 kgs!!) that a student can gain in the first year itself if they don’t watch what they eat. And whatever you may think of the food you eat daily, everybody misses home food from time to time!
Cooking gives a student more power on the their nutrional choices, health and body weight. You may never have done it till now – but don’t worry, as with everything, practice makes perfect!
Explore Student Recipes on websites like BBC https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-survive-student-basic-recipes.
Start now so you can learn a few dishes by the time you need to leave.
P.S- everybody wants to be friends with a person who can cook!
Manage money matters
Most students grow up with parents handling all money matters, bank transfers, and budgets. But living by yourself can mean some rude shocks when you learn how much things cost and how to make a budget that lasts through the month.
Don’t spend your college days worrying too much about money either, but it’s good to try and figure out your monthly expenses early on. You could even try to supplement your pocket money by getting a job on campus. Many colleges abroad offer student jobs like working in the library, working in student services or becoming a resident.
It also helps to learn to use an ATM card, bank transfers and familiarise yourself with apps like Venmo, Splitwise.
Build a healthy social life!
Friends become family in college and beyond, and here is your long-awaited to choose your own family.
As soon as you accept your offer, you can start chatting with potential batchmates on social media, sharing your excitement, doubts and questions. It’s good to start connecting with people and getting to know them before you go so you don’t feel totally alone once you reach there. Also remember that everyone is new to the university so they all want to make friends too! You will normally have to fill out a form regarding your habits and preferences to find a suitable roommate. Please make sure you answer this and not your parents! And be honest about who you are so you can find a good match.
Choose housemates/ roommates wisely – while any friends are (almost) always better than no friends, learn to reach out to people who help you grow and feel happy, while politely distancing yourself from groups that make you uncomfortable. Build your instincts on who you like, stand up for yourself, be bold in reaching out to people, and be patient – and eventually, you will find your tribe!
Protect your mental health — process feelings and address them
College can be quite a rollercoaster ride with your most fun and toughest days coming in the same week, at times. There will be times you will feel lonely, overwhelmed or anxious while managing the workload and all the other things in your life.
Learn some coping mechanisms to stay mentally strong during this adventure. Some people like to write their feelings, others do yoga or meditation, others find their stress buster in sports.
Ask for help. Seeking help is often the most intelligent choice to make in a tough situation. All universities have counselors, therapists and academic advisers available for students to All you have to do is reach out for it.
Laundry- sorting and using a washing machine
Most Indian kids have never done laundry! Please learn to use washing machines, sort out coloured and fold clothes. A simple trick is to fold clothes immediately once they come out of the dryer as the longer you leave them, the more crushed they get. Learn to iron! Though you may not regularly iron your clothes, it’s a good skill to learn should you ever need to!
Using Public Transport
No matter where you go, you will be using buses, metros, tubes and taxis. Although you will learn this as you go, it is good to start using Ubers and metros by yourself during the time, just so you are used to commuting alone and not totally helpless when you need to do it yourself.
Practice safe sex
Many of you will make the decision to have sex at university, while away from parental supervision. Please learn about safe sex practices, not only to avoid pregnancy but also to avoid STD’s like syphilis, chlamydia, HPV, gonorrhea and herpes among others. Managing your boundaries, saying No, listening to No, and having someone to discuss your sexual life with are all skills that will keep you away from getting hurt.
Think Job and Career
Fun as it is, college will end and with it, the easy financial dependence on your parents. Its good to have an eye on your career plan and start working on it from the first year itself. Talk to your seniors to explore what kind of jobs/ internships they’re getting and how to prepare yourself for them.
Internships are a important part of your college experience. They not only give you real world exposure but also help build your resume for job applications. Sometimes the company where you interned might offer you a job upon graduation. Speak to the university’s career placement cell to explore internship opportunities, attend company talks and networking events.
Beyond all this, our advice is to stay true to yourself. You will meet lots of new people, you will hear lots of different perspectives, you will evolve completely as a person but don’t allow yourself to get sucked into a belief system or do anything you don’t fundamentally agree with. Keep your mind open and experiment with ideas and experiences, but never forget who you really are!
So use this summer to prepare yourself to make the college experience a lot of fun!
The writer is Founder and CEO, Inomi Learning, a Gurugram-based career and college guidance firm. firstname.lastname@example.org
The original article was first published in ‘The Hindu’ on May 14th, 2023.
With inputs from Kritika Malhotra.
Richa Dwivedi Saklani is a certified coach from UCLA and is an accredited MBTI trainer who has worked with over 10,000 people across career planning and as a behavioral trainer in companies. She is the CEO & Founder of Inomi Learning and author of “The Ultimate Guide to 21st Century Careers”.