This week has been a particularly hectic one, and it centers around one thing: school. My pairs went back to school on Thursday, and there was a lot of preparation for this big day. From making sure they had everything they needed, to getting them used to early wake ups, this was a week to prepare sending out these little troops into the trenches of the classroom to face the cold harsh mistress known as the education system. And something occurred to me.
I’m not going with them.
Every year, when the air became crisp and the leaves more colourful, I would gather my books, breath in that intoxicating smell of new textbooks and loose-leaf, and take those first steps towards my morning classes, ringing in a new semester with the thought of actually being on top of things and refusing to procrastinate (spoiler alert: I wasn’t and I did). But this year, for the first time post nappies and Barney sing-a-longs, I didn’t go. There were no reading schedules to plan out, no syllabi to pour over, no new textbooks and loose-leaf to buy. It was over. I had already won the war.
I think about my life four years ago. Who I was, what interested me, what I thought I’d know at the end of my University degree, and I realize that everything I thought I knew about the world was completely and utterly wrong. I didn’t meet the guy of my dreams, I didn’t figure out what I was going to do with my life, I didn’t stay in touch with the friends I thought I would, I started to believe in things I was dead set against, and I did things I thought I would never do. I walked into Dal as someone else, and I thank God every day that I’m not that same person anymore.
One thing I remember feeling, while packing up my life for university, is this immense pressure weighing down on me. This pressure of, at the young age of eighteen, figuring out the next thirty-odd years of my life. I realize now that there are so many things that I wish post-grad Gina could have told scared-just-outta-high-school Gina. So, to all of the Freshmen going off to college or university this year, here are some things no one told me when I was starting out that I really wish they did.
1) Avoid taking morning classes. If you’re a late sleeper, you won’t go to them. Especially now that your parents aren’t making you.
2) Learn to write. No matter what discipline you’re in, you’ll need to know how to write a proper paper. It really is as simple as: purpose, argument 1, argument 2, argument 3, conclusion. Hint: consistency is key.
3) Talk to your profs and get to know them. It’s best to know what they expect of you as early as possible. They’re the only ones who can tell you what they want you to do. Plus, this relationship can also lead you to some great connections down the road.
4) Get to the library early. Finding a table hungover on a Sunday during midterms is like trying to find Narnia at the Quidditch World Cup.
5) You’re not going to be the smartest person in class. Who cares?
6) GPAs are cumulative. Don’t slack off and be sure to take every class, as irrational and ludicrous as they may seem, seriously.
7) Live in a co-ed dorm. Same sex ones aren’t as fun, and it gets old quick.
8) Opt for a single room in res. You can make friends anywhere, and you’ll be glad to have a space that’s completely your own. Plus, nine times outta ten, you’ll get stuck with a roommate that makes Freddy Kruger look like the perfect bunkmate.
9) Your friends will change. The friends you meet your freshmen year won’t necessarily be the same ones you have your senior year. Such is life. (Consult The Friends You Meet And the Ones You Shouldn’t Keep post for further details).
10) Go to class. You don’t need to read all of the “required readings” as long as you’re actually present. Besides, most profs don’t even use the textbooks they make you spend 500$ on, so getting the lecture material is crucial.
11) You’ll probably change your major a few times. You’re not going to know what you want to do right off the bat, and the kids who act like they have their whole lives figured out at seventeen? They don’t. We all fake it.
12) Live off campus. This experience gives you a true taste of independence and is a nice transition to the real world. Next stop: adulthood.
13) Don’t walk home alone. Ever. I don’t care how drunk you are or if a 5$ taxi seems like a waste. Don’t. freakin. do it.
14) Stock up on Kraft dinner, Mr. Noodles, and Fruit Loops. There’s nothing worse than coming home drunk without anything quick to whip up. You’ll thank me for this.
15) Freshmen 15 is real. Remember this and join a gym.
16) Learn to like beer. It’s cheap, simple, and you can have multiples without getting white-girl-wasted after one game of sociables.
17) Do stupid and outrageous shit. But do it smart and with people you trust. You only YOLO once (#workaholics!)
18) Take pictures. Of everything. You’ll be glad you did, but remember …
19) Everything you post online is permanent. That trashy picture of you making out with a random guy? The one of you puking over the railing at your buddy’s house? That video of you drunkenly twerking to “Ass” by Big Sean? Forever in cyberworld where potential employers will find it.
20) Your parents were right. Everything they told you, everything they gave you crap about, they were right. Realize this sooner rather than later.
21) Don’t go home every weekend. Worst possible idea ever, and you’ll put yourself in limbo. Don’t worry so much and give yourself time to adjust.
22) Buy more sweatpants. After the first month of class, no one cares to dress their best anymore, and the precious time you spent looking good for class could have been spent sleeping. Think about that.
23) Dating. Relationships are fun, having someone to love is great, but don’t limit yourself. Know when enough is enough, and allow yourself to see what else is out there.
24) Go into freshmen year single. Long distance doesn’t work (ever) and you won’t really immerse yourself into the experience when you’ve strapped on a ball and chain during frosh week.
25) Guys are idiots and girls are crazy. But remember, both are a direct repercussion of the other.
26) Walls are thin. Everyone can hear what you’re doing in there, and who you’re doing it with. Don’t learn this the hard way.
27) Practice safe sex! Safe sex, safe sex, safe sex!
28) Take a 30-minute nap between day drinking and night drinking. Again, you will thank me.
29) Talk to people. Don’t leave an extra seat between you and someone else in the lecture hall, and don’t just stare at your phone while waiting for a bus. We are human beings, we live in a society – act like it.
30) Try to hang out with different people. Don’t just stick with one group. Mix it up, and go find out what other type of people there are in the world. You never know where you’ll find a diamond in the rough.
31) Do something different. Push your limits, take random classes, and see where it takes you.
32) People are who they are. They’re not going to change, and you shouldn’t try to make them.
33) Be yourself. This is the first time you really get to choose your friends, join societies and classes that reflect your interests, and figure out what’s right for you. Don’t do things just because you believe you’re “supposed” to. Just be you.
Halifax was an absolutely incredible journey, and there are definitely many things I miss about being a university student. I miss my life when me and my weirdly co-dependent friends would just hang out on these unintended triple dates, or would blow off going downtown to kick back and jam in our apartments. I miss that group dynamic and knowing where I stood in life. Knowing where to go, what to do, what to say, and who to do it with. But then I remember: I thought the same thing after high school.
When I think about the people who made me laugh, made me cry, made me, me, I am so unbelievably thankful that I had them all to myself for these past four years. Sure, sometimes I wish I could go back. I had the time of my life with some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet, and no matter which roads we take in life, that is always going to be there. In all the pictures and all the memories, it’s something we will always share together.
The most amazing and life-changing things that I ever learned at university didn’t happen in lecture halls. It all happened at Big Blue, Bubba Ray’s, the Frat House, Connor’s bachelor pad, experimenting in Dartmouth, and a walk down South Street after the Black and Gold Party. And let me tell you, with all the good and the bad, it was one hell of ride, and it gave me some amazing stories to tell. So make sure to write some great ones of your own and have fun with it!
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