Darlings! I had a lot to say about today topic, aka school, I suggest you take your time. Have a seat, some snacks and get ready to dive into it.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should be aware that schools have started. Across the globes, thousands if not millions of new students, from kindergarten to grad school have commenced a new semester. Full of excitement, filled with great expectation of the knowledge they are about to obtain & about the developmental process they are about to enter. Not having a clue of how deep this will transform them. Speaking out of experience, the person I am at the end of a school year is never the same as the one I was at the start.
Which is part of the reason why I’ve always loved school. Besides the new experiences, the encounters with classmates good and bad (the latter great subjects for a tea session with friends). However, as a regular here on LMA (le monde d’Alida) you aware that up until the last semester of my bachelor, my school career was smooth sailing. Not claiming I never had a resist or terrible grades here and there. Just never bad enough for me to experience major delay. Now can you imagine the horror I went through, when all I needed to graduate from my bachelors was to pass a simple philosophy class. Which ended in four failed attempts and me finding a replacing course. Easy one would think. Yet it turned out to be another hurdled and in total this caused me to graduate 7 months later than expected.
Looking, I’ve made peace with it. It’s not like I can go back in time or have it stand still. The most important thing is that I eventually made it. I persevered and it payed off. Now I’d be lying if I said this experience has left me unscarred. Like any less than pleasant experience, if you don’t see it coming, it will leave a mark. Here in particular these marks were in the form of doubt. Here’s the thing, I couldn’t choose between my two academicals passions so I decided to combined them. Which has never been done before. In other words, on top of starting a master, which is new and way different from a bachelor. I’m creating a path that has never been walked before. Not making it impossible, just a wee bit harder than those taken before.
All summer long I was quite excited and convinced what I planned would be feasible. Sure, the idea of two master programs can be daunting, but up until my orientation week I was feeling quite confident in my abilities. Mind you the week before, I had read the syllabi. Made sure I had all the books needed (turns out I already had those in my possession thankfully because schoolbooks are far from cheap). Cue the first lecture filled about one of my programs. For some reason, the information shared felt overwhelming. On top of that in a lecture hall of approximately 100 students I felt like an outsider.
Not just due to the fact that I was a psychology student in a sea of sociology student but unfortunately also due to my external appearance (#Unisowhite is still a thing). The latter only emphasized during the general opening of the schoolyear. In a sea of approximately 500 people, from students to professors, I only counted a handful of individuals sharing any resemblance to myself. This feeling of being a fish out of waters was only emphasized by sharing drinks in a hall with a wall filled with elderly white men. Though the motto of the day was to make the university yours and to feel at home, I can’t say that I did. (it’s the first week of class and I still don’t to be honest). You’d think this wouldn’t be an issue in 2017 yet it is and that has led me here.
I was reminded that I’m probably not the only one feeling this way. Not specifically due to the color of your skin. It could have a different source. Similarly, to mine of not sharing the same background as the other student. Whether because you’re starting over or just decided to give a different passion a go. Or maybe due to your gender, your socioeconomic status or simply because it’s your very first time. There is a plethora of reasons why school wouldn’t feel as comfortable as it should be. There’s plenty of scientific evidence stating that the humans perform better in a comfortable environment. Unfortunately, I don’t have the magic trick. I do however have some tips on how to make uni feel like home. Say it with me: “Sharing is Caring” so that’s what I’m about to do.
1. Acknowledging is the first step
What I mean by this is that it’s ok to feel whatever you are feeling. Don’t try to push your emotions down out of fear of being overwhelmed by them. I’ve yet to encounter any situation where this is suggested. For the simple fact that this tend to be counterproductive. Sooner or later these emotions will catch up with you. The last thing you want to be in the midst of midterms if to feel overwhelmed, on top of the stress that comes with that period.
Do yourself a favor and deal with them now. Take a moment, let all the thoughts /ideas /feelings out. Nothing should be off limits. Chances are that facing the head on and verbalizing them will prevent you from overthinking. Making them bigger than they actually are. Verbalizing helps you reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Often leading to the realizations that whatever fear you are experiencing is either baseless. Either because you become aware that you have nothing to fear or that the cause of your anxiety isn’t that scary after all. Or though your anxiety has grounds, that it’s not something you can’t overcome. The point is to take it out of the narrow space in you mind & to put into perspective in the larger scheme of things.
2. Just do it
So, you’ve taken some time to think about all the reasons why you feel like a fish out of water. How annoyed you are by them as they distract you from focusing on what you came to do. On top of that you’ve also thought of all that you have to do, only adding to your stress and in perfect human nature you’ve also take some time to think of all that could go wrong. My first reaction after this was: “what the fuck”. Verbatim. Pinky promise. I couldn’t find any better way to describe it. Besides a paralyzing mind-numbing “what the fuck”.
The result of this kind of thought process is that you’ll end up losing track of the beginning and the end. Leaving you feeling paralyzed as you have no clue where to start. The best way to get out of it is to just start. Somewhere, anywhere. Pick a place and get to it. Break the vicious cycle and start. Starting tends to be the hardest part and once you’ve done it, the rest will follow suit. I wholeheartedly believe that, so much so I’ve made a promise to myself that from now on I will not think about all that I have to do.
Just do it.
3. Create your own safe space
No one has ever done it all by themselves. We as humans aren’t wired that ways. Feeling out place is a burden too heavy to carry all by yourself throughout a whole year. Especially on top of all the massive homework that comes along with being a student. So even though your first reaction is to pull back, take a back seat and just roam through the whole year as a loner (that was my first instinct). I suggest you don’t (I really had to convince myself of that). The obvious suggestion here is to find a union that appeals to you. It’s a great way to meet fellow students and you’ll know that you already have something in common considering you’re visiting the same event.
The best thing to do is make friends. True, the older you get the harder it seems to make new friends. However, having friends at the same place you study will make it possible for you to create a safe space. A niche where you fit right in. Giving you a place to fully express yourself, therefore diminishing a bit of the “fish out of water feeling”. As well as making school, dare I say it, enjoyable. Studying is way more fun if you have someone to vent to about impossible professor and their crazy demands. Most importantly somewhere to discuss all the information thrown at you. Making you realize that they have no idea what they’re doing either. However, together you guys will figure it out, turning stress induced tears into laughter.
I’m already grateful for the new friends I’ve made. Without them uni would definetly not be the same.
Let me know how your first week back in school has gone. Which hurdles you’re encountering and any other tips you feel might come in handy.