Sunday, February 12, 2012

What is University Like?

It's that time of year. Applications have been sent out, and admissions committees are making their decisions. Acceptances and rejections are being written, anticipated and dreaded when the mail is retrieved each day. I remember it, and not fondly. It's a scary time. There's so much uncertainty. So many big decisions to make. So much that you're losing. So much fear you're going to have to overcome. Trust me, I remember. 

I also remember that, this time last year, I was desperately searching the internet for any and all information about the real university experience. I had read about the classes, and I had gone on the tours. But I wanted to know what it was like, day to day. I wanted the real story. 

Well, here's my university story. 

Let's start with friends


I feel better about friends than I ever have before. That's not to say that I've found better friends, or friends I have more in common with or anything. It's simply that I feel more secure in my friendships. I see these people everyday, often three or more times, since we eat meals together and sometimes have the same classes and sometimes go to the gym or hang out in our rooms together. I've gotten to know them well. I'm comfortable with them now. 

But I wasn't always. At first it was hard. So hard. The first night here, I thought I wasn't going to make it. I laid in bed, crying, thinking I was going to fail at university, thinking every bad thought I had every thought about myself. Leaving my room the next day was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It was awful. Eventually, I meet some people at various orientation activities. But still, it didn't suddenly get easy or anything. 

It takes so long to really get to know someone. It takes weeks to feel comfortable with them. It takes months to develop a routine with them, a rapport, a real friendship. And that made the first few months of university really, really lonely. Because no matter how awesome my new friends were, they still didn't know that I hated when people texted in front of me or that it made me really anxious to make small talk. They had never heard of my high school and they barely knew anything about my hometown. The people that really knew me all lived back in Toronto, or, worse, in dorm rooms across the country. That was very hard to deal with that. I missed my best friend like crazy. I missed my group of friends, and all the history we had. Some of it was good, some it was bad. But it was history, nonetheless. It was comfort and fitting in and it was something I hadn't felt in so freaking long. 

It slowly got better. I spent more and more time with my new friends, and we developed our own rhythms and inside jokes and routines. But still, there were lonely nights. There are still lonely mornings sometimes. It's not a constant party, and it's not fun all the time. 

I'm really happy where I am right with my friends. But it took a long time to get here. 

Then there's classes.


University classes are very different than high school classes. In high school, I had five hours of class a day. Now I have fifteen hours of class a week. I have so much more freedom with my time, and I really love that. My life is so much more flexible now. 

I also love that I'm taking subjects I like. I don't love all my classes--I do not think I could hate British Literature more if I tried--but at least they are all related to english, a subject I see value in and have a genuine interest in. I also like the great variety and specificity in the classes. In high school, you took grade twelve english or whatever. In that course, you studied poetry, novels, plays, and/or short stories. In university, the courses are more focused. Right now, I'm taking Canadian Short Story, British Literature After 1800, and New Journalism, all focusing on specific time periods and specific places. As a result, my courses go so much more in-depth than in high school. It's really cool. 

But there are also things I miss about high school classes. I go to a tiny school, known for its minuscule class size, and, still, my smallest class has forty students. My biggest class has seventy-five. In high school, my class had seventeen. It was so much more intimate. I knew my teachers so much better. I wish I could go back to that. 

Speaking of going back, there's also the issue of homesickness


Right now, I don't feel homesick. I mean, it would be nice to be home tonight. I'd like to sleep in my double bed with my cat, in my room. I'd love to see my friends and my parents and my city. That would be great. But I don't need any of that. I don't feel like anything is missing from my life right now. I don't need to go home. It would be fun, but I'm happy being here. 

It's not always like that. Some nights I just want to see my dad or my best friend or my bedroom. I just want to escape from it all, and I can never really do that here. This isn't my home. This isn't my safe haven.  

Of course, I felt homesick more in the first couple weeks. But it got better. It's a hard transition, though. There are a lot of transitions in university, and it's very tiring. 

First, there's your relationship with your parents. Before, I lived with them. I was fed by them, clothed by them, and I talked them for hours each day. Now, I talk to them for a few hours a week. Inevitably, I've lost some of that closeness. I don't know what's going on in their lives everyday. But I don't feel like we've lost anything really. You're never really uncomfortable with your parents. They're your parents

Your friends are a different story. I've lost touch with a few of my high school friends, but less than I had anticipated. Of course, we'll see where we are this time next year. In my experience, you still stay somewhat close to people from your old school for at least part of the first year. That's before you've changed too much to forget why you cared about each other. 

I'm still scared I'm going to lose those people. They were such a big part of my life for so long. Right now, my best friend and I are in a really good place. I'd dare say the separation is actually good for our friendship, at least for now. But a year from now? Who knows. I really don't know what's going to happen with the future of my friendships with the people from my past. 

So, what is is university like? So much fun. So different. So scary. So challenging. So hard. 

I'm glad I'm here. But I'll also be glad to go home in couple weeks. 

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