College is one of the best times of a person’s life. It offers the best of school and adulthood; fun with friends, activities and a feeling of belonging on one side along with freedom, self-expression and opportunities to make your dreams come true. All this comes with some challenges and obstacles. But here’s a guide on building some skills to face these and convert them into achievements.
Learn to cook
Eating out is often the easier option but it gets tiring and brings the risk of “Freshman 15!”This refers to the 15 pounds (approximately 7 kg) that a student can gain in the first year if they don’t watch what they eat. Whatever you may think of the food you eat daily, everybody misses home food occasionally. Cooking gives a student more power over their nutritional choices, health and body weight. Start now so that you have a few dishes on hand by the time you need to leave. And remember, everyone wants to be friends with a person who can cook.
Most students grow up with parents handling all money matters. But living by yourself means you have to learn how much things cost and how to make a budget for the month. It’s good to try and figure out your monthly expenses early. Try to supplement your pocket money by getting a job on campus. Many foreign colleges offer jobs like working in the library, in student services or becoming a resident. Learn to use an ATM card, about bank transfers and familiarise yourself with apps like Venmo and Splitwise.
Build a healthy social life
As soon as you accept your offer, start chatting with potential batchmates on social media, share 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. Usually you will have to fill a form regarding your habits and preferences to find a suitable roommate. Fill it yourself and be honest about who you are, so you can find a good match. Choose house/ roommates wisely. Learn to reach out to people who help you grow and feel happy, while politely distancing yourself from groups that make you uncomfortable.
Protect your mental health
There will be times when you are lonely, overwhelmed or anxious while managing the workload and all the other things in your life. Learn some coping mechanisms. A few like to write about their feelings, some do yoga or meditation, and 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 counsellors, therapists and academic advisers available for students to reach out to.
Most Indian kids have never done laundry so learn how to use washing machines, sort out coloured/white clothes and fold them. A simple trick is to fold clothes as soon they come out of the dryer, The longer you leave them, the more crushed they get. And learn to iron!
Use public transport
No matter where you go, you will be using buses, metros, tubes and taxis. Although you will learn as you go, it is good to start using Ubers and metros so that you are used to commuting alone.
Practice safe sex
Many make the decision to have sex at university, when away from parental supervision. Learn about safe sex practices, not only to avoid pregnancy but also to avoid sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, chlamydia, HPV, gonorrhoea and herpes. Managing your boundaries, saying ‘No’, listening to ‘No’, and having someone to discuss your sexual life with will keep you from getting hurt.
Think about your career
It’s good to keep sight of your career plan and start working on it from the first year itself. Talk to your seniors to explore the jobs/ internships they’re getting and how to prepare for them. Internships not only give you real-world exposure but also help build your resume for job applications. Sometimes, the company you intern at might offer you a job upon graduation. Speak to the university’s career placement cell to explore internship opportunities and attend company talks and networking events.
Beyond all this, stay true to yourself. You will meet new people and hear different perspectives, but don’t allow yourself to get sucked into a belief system or do something you don’t fundamentally agree with. Keep your mind open and experiment with ideas and experiences, but never forget who you really are!
With inputs from Kritika Malhotra
The writer is Founder and CEO, Inomi Learning, a Gurugram-based career and college guidance firm. email@example.com