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This is not what I expected: University edition

By Eda Kamal, January 30 2024—

I am currently in the second semester of my first year of university and it is safe to say my peers are much more diverse than expected. I am in classes with parents, gifted teens, career people trying something new and the elderly looking for something to do. I believe that the turbulence of your first year of university is not nearly as talked about as it should be and while this may come from my youthful perspective, this is an incredibly important point in my life that continues to change me as a person — and not in the ways I expected as I crossed the stage in twelfth grade.

Planning for the first year of university, I had some expectations of the experience and myself. I pledged to spend less time attempting to socialize and more time on my academics, as I believed every person in the U of C halls would be just the same as those I encountered in my high school. I wanted to join as many clubs as possible, get connected with every professor and take a bite of every opportunity offered to me — I was planning to do everything with no expectation of enjoyment or wanting. I saw university as a cutscene between childhood and adulthood rather than an experience of its own.

Leading up to high school graduation, many of my peers recount becoming closer with their classmates — I had frankly a very different experience, feeling more disconnected and longing for a new social environment. However, at the same time, I was overcome with feelings of nostalgia. I felt as though this feeling would last forever, and that I might as well get used to feeling disconnected from my peers — as though this was to be an inherent part of my life. With the transition being hyped up for so long, it was as if I would exist forever as the girl dancing on her own at the graduation banquet. I would be forever lost in the cloud of extreme nostalgia I created in order to avoid the future I couldn’t fathom how to envision. 

Recounting my experiences with my younger friends who are yet to graduate, I often tell them this exact statement — “The minute I walked out of that school building for the last time, something occurred to me — it’s not that deep.”

Of course, the experiences I had in school shaped me more than anything. However, something about the sunshine on the yellow school buses that afternoon made me realize a few things. I indeed had a future and  I was in fact living it at that very moment. It wasn’t as terrifying as everyone I had met made it out to be. I ended up connecting with other incoming first-years that summer and becoming close friends with some. As the school year approached, the anticipation of a new start became a reality and the haze lifted. I was thrust into what I wanted to be over as quickly as possible.

I know many of my newfound friends had high expectations for the changes in university they have not yet found and are feeling disappointed with themselves. I want to keep reminding them that there is so much time ahead of them. I committed to too much last semester and ended up having to give up a job and some extracurricular opportunities because I bit off more than I could chew. I expected myself to be able to do a lot more than I realistically could. Whether you are in your first or fifth year, there is time. Whether you are that gifted teenager or that mature student, there is a lot ahead of you. We are all constantly evolving unless we do not allow ourselves to, so even if it feels slow, allow it to happen. There is more out there.

For others like myself, who kept the expectations low, it is easy to be blindsided by the amount of change — positive and negative — to be faced. Because I was overwhelmed by how fast I made friends and how much sudden socialization I was experiencing, I ended up slacking on my academics. Now that the second semester has started and I have had the opportunity to get used to (and humbled by) this routine, I can gauge how to balance my new job, this amazing writing opportunity, my classes, socialization and taking care of my family without becoming overwhelmed and collapsing under the weight of it all.

Any transition is difficult, and it is inevitable to ruminate over what the future may look like. It is important to take each day as it is and to have a support system that helps you balance everything you must carry. Give yourself the time for the change to become engrained — before you know it, you will barely remember the anxiety of the beginning. It may be for the better.

This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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