College, especially when you are studying abroad, can be a tough transition.
You will be away from your family and everything that has been familiar to you all these years. You have to start from scratch, from setting up a bank account to making new friends and adjusting to a different education system. If you sink to the pressure, it might be a difficult journey to get back up on your feet.
Below are things that I wish someone told me when I started out in college. Life would definitely have been easier if I had these reminders earlier on during this transition.
Your CGPA does not matter all that much.
I’m not saying that you should slack off and fail your exams, but once you graduate, you will realize how insignificant that one B you got in Statistics or Physics was. Having a good CGPA does help in pushing you through the first filtration process by employers when selecting candidates to be interviewed. However, not getting a perfect 4.0 does not make you a failure in life. So, the next time you don’t get the A you were aiming for, stop being too harsh on yourself.
Learn how to market yourself.
This takes off from the previous point that academics is not the most important thing in landing your dream job. College is a perfect avenue for learning how to present yourself to others. Identify your strengths and how they can be useful. Learn how to speak of your capabilities in a way humble enough to make someone really want you in their team. Sometimes, keeping quiet means that your talents would go unnoticed. That being said, don’t be the stuck up dude that can’t stop praising himself!
You will possibly never be surrounded by this many smart, talented young people in your life again.
College brings people from all walks of life together who have these two things in common: the eagerness to learn and passion for transforming themselves. Make full use of this wonderful opportunity to network and make new friends. Some of the friends you make in college will turn out to be your buddies for life and continue to have a big impact on both your career and personal life.
Semester breaks are there for a reason, take them.
When I first started out in Cornell, I was so overwhelmed with the stress that I did not dare to go on any vacations. I felt pressured to study all the time, including on my breaks. My senior literally dragged me away for a trip to Seattle when she saw how stressed I was. I came back from the trip as a more relaxed person, and life just started feeling easier to handle. You do not need to take expensive trips, even a stay over at a friend’s place in another state would help to keep things in perspective!
Your professors would turn out to be some of your best support systems.
During my first year, I barely talked to my professors outside of class. I guess it was a culture embedded in the Malaysian education system. However, my professors turned out to be wonderful people that invited me over to their house for Thanksgiving and Christmas! By the third year, I found myself being very close to my professors and able to talk to them about anything and everything. Surprise, surprise, the more comfortable I was to talk to them, the better I was at understanding the class materials, and the higher were my grades! They also never failed to inspire me to improve myself both academically and personally.
Learn a new language. One of the biggest regrets I have about college is not having taken a language class.
At that point of time, taking a language class seemed like a burden, as each class consisted of 5-6 credits, with classes and coursework on a daily basis. It required a big time commitment, and each semester, I felt like I had no time to allocate in order to fully concentrate on learning a new language. Now, however, I realize what a big mistake that was. Language classes are expensive and you barely have time to commit to them when you start working!
It’s ok to make mistakes.
College life is very different from high school. You will face more complicated challenges both in you academic and personal life. There will be times when you take the wrong step. When that happens, it is often too easy to feel like you have screwed up big time and can never rectify your mistake. Whenever you feel this way, just remind yourself that a few years down the road, you will probably not even remember this blunder. To keep things in perspective, always ask yourself, will this incident matter to you in five years? If the answer is No, don’t dwell on it.
Be kind to everyone, even when you feel down.
As you walk around your campus, you might come across fellow classmates looking so stressed that they do not even notice you. You might say hi, only to get a blank stare in reply. Or some days, you might find yourself in their shoes, feeling so devastated that you have no energy to talk to anyone.
Always keep in mind that we all have our struggles. Just because you are having a bad day does not mean you should not be kind to fellow human beings. A simple hi and smile would do, you will notice the difference it makes to people when you show genuine kindness towards them.
My college life was really colorful. It was full of ups and downs, but it was the best experience I could have ever asked for.
Looking back, there are not many things that I would want to change if I could do it all over again. However, it would have been extremely useful if someone reminded me of these eight things when I first started out as a student.
If you are a college student reading this, I hope this article is of help to you!
Enjoy your college life ~
Written by Iswari. Iswari is a small town girl that defied the odds to obtain a fully-sponsored education at Cornell University.
She is now back in Malaysia, tiptoeing around reverse culture shock while trying to remain sane in the corporate world.
Sociable yet private, detached yet faithful; she is a paradox.
Iswari’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iswari.nallisamy
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