“However much you’ve prepared beforehand,” my friend warned, “the first day at university will still be an overwhelming experience.” I wasn’t sure why she thought something as innocuous as a university could be overwhelming, but I told her that since I’d done all right in high school, I was sure I’d manage university just fine.
I stepped out of the metro station, campus map in hand, and purposefully struck out in what I hoped was the right direction toward my first class. I’ve never quite figured out how to use a map and never paid much attention to road signs. I ended up roaming helplessly for two hours across the university that boasts eleven campuses. Finally, I stumbled into my class about fifteen minutes before it ended. As I sank wearily into my seat, I recalled my friend’s words.
After asking some of my fellow students for directions, I successfully located my next class, an introductory course on linguistics. A woman was sitting on a bench outside, dressed in a sports shirt and baggy jeans. I assumed she was the janitor and entered the classroom where a woman wearing a blouse, black skirt, and high heels was writing on the blackboard. The professor, I assumed. She went on to lead the class in a short oral test and survey. Then the woman in jeans swung open the door and introduced herself as Professor (and eminent linguist) Lee. She then introduced her assistant—the woman in a skirt!
There were more surprises in store at the next class, an introduction to Western Literature. I listened for dates, facts, and figures, all of which I studiously jotted down. But it turned out none of that was of any use. Instead, after the first hour, I found myself in a group of ten absolute strangers tasked with producing a play complete with music, costumes, a stage, and so on—all within two weeks!
Of course, by the end of the semester I knew where to find the best study nooks on campus, my group’s play came out fine, and I learned that professors will dress however they like. As I look back ruefully at my freshman blues, I know they certainly weren’t the last of my life’s experiences as a “newbie.”
Though uncomfortable, these are the situations that can spur me to grow in boldness as I learn to function without all my old safety nets and props. Best of all, the deepened maturity will far outlast the discomfort of my freshman goofs.
Story from Activated magazine. Used by permission. Image designed by Freepik.