8 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Started University

I’m 20. I am about to graduate from university in two month and I’m in that awkward phase of life where I’m trying to figure out my next steps. Though I will graduate with a decent GPA in a respected program that includes one year of work experience, I’m still pretty lost. When I look back on my 3.5 university years I can’t help but feel like there were things I could have done differently, so I compiled this (very subjective) list.

Disclaimer: This list is based solely on the personal experience of someone who is at home and on the internet at 1 am on a Tuesday. I’m also not wearing any pants.

1. Don’t put grades first

This one is tricky. Yes, grades are important. Especially if you want to get into grad school/ med school/ law school etc. But you should never sacrifice opportunities to boost your CV or professional networks in order to maintain a perfect GPA. I passed on plenty of extra-curricular gigs because I felt like I couldn’t handle the responsibility and gets A’s at the same time. Now that I am about to graduate, no one gives two shits what my GPA is. They want to see volunteer work, internships, club memberships, research assistant positions, university magazine contributions. Not to mention, networking opportunities abound in university in ways they never do in the real world. Being in university is like being a member of this exclusive club full of really smart people who are all doing very cool things. Use your time on campus wisely. If there’s a professor whose work you really admire, ask him or her to sit down for an informational interview and have them tell you about their career path. You can even ask them if she could use help in any way. Don’t be afraid to reach out to professors, they are real people and though they are super busy they are usually open to mentoring promising and hard-working students. Trust me, getting an A is not enough to make a professor remember you come grad school application time when you’re scrambling for reference letters.

To sum up: in uni I divided my time between studying and procrastinating and now that I am about to graduate I’m the laziest person I know off. What you do outside of class matters. A lot.

2. Be weird

Makra Trip - Khawaja Ali Arshad
University is hella weird you guys. There are prayer circles and protests and people smoking weed everywhere and guys doing their shinanigans in the middle of the day and people hugging trees. It is awesome. Don’t get stuck in the school mentality of trying to fit in and look cool. Get weird. It’s the biggest cliche in the world but TRY NEW THINGS. Attend meetings and seminars and join, join, join. I missed NASCON(a local university event) in my last year because I thought it would be lame. I left the campus right away because I thought staying in late would be a waste of time. I didn’t try out for any sports because I didn’t play sports in high school and didn’t want to get laughed at. Basically I missed out for fear of embarrassing myself without realizing that university is this amazing bubble where everyone is embarrassing themselves all the time and it’s not only okay it’s actually the coolest thing ever. University is a petri dish, so experiment.

3. Don’t be a bitch to the people in your class.

It’s OK to not get along with people and decide to just avoid them whenever possible. It is not OK to screw yourself over by alienating the people who will be in your field when you leave the semi-protective bubble that is college. That person you decided was going to be your arch nemesis could have a lead on a job you might be good for, but since you were terrible to them all the way through college, you’re not getting the call. Keep your life simpler by just avoiding people you don’t like and be polite (notice I didn’t say nice…) and you’ll save yourself grief later on. I cannot emphasize this one enough. You will have enough weird, awkward, gross, hilarious, devastating, goosebumpy moments in university to write the next coming-of-age-Lena-Dunham-esque-so-cringe-it-hurts novel ten times over. It will be called “Queefing and Laughing” and you will make millions. But you will also be really high like 75% of the time so you have got to write this shit down.

4. Go to the gym

No, seriously. When you graduate and you’re paying for rent and electricity and groceries and internet and cable and your cellphone and petrol and your diet no longer consists of ramen and cigarettes and your metabolism screeches to a grinding halt you will look back at those days when you had access to a exercise facility the likes of which you definitely can’t afford anymore and you will kick yourself for not taking advantage. University is the time to make mistakes and be an idiot, but it’s also a great time to start forming good habits. I don’t even want to do the maths on that. Take care of your mental health: Tertiary education is rife with mental illness; depression, anxiety, panic attacks, poor sustenance. Think about it, you’re (likely) living out of home for the first time, you might be learning to cook for the first time. If you’re living in the dorms/residency sleep can be difficult to come by. The hostel is probably a mess, you’re stressed, you might be working. You’re basically learning to juggle everything all at once and that can take a real toll on your mental health. Keep an eye on it, remember to find and build a trustworthy support network and ask for advice when necessary. Do not neglect your mental health. It is just as important, as well as linked, to your physical health.

5. Talk to everyone

Universities are often huge and intimidating. Your first time in a 60 person lecture theater can be a really nausea-inducing experience, especially if you suffer from any kind of social anxiety/ low self-esteem (and like really, this is wordpress so, you do). The idea of just walking up to some stranger and making conversation may make you queasy but just do it. Don’t dismiss that really obnoxious chic in the front row who asks a million zillion questions. Find her after class and have coffee. Don’t ignore that quiet guy in the back who always spends 1/2 an hour after class asking the professor for further explanation. Those people are dedicated and in a few years when you’re trolling Linkedin in your pyjamas and it’s been so long since you got a response to a job application that you’re actually starting to contemplate whether or not there exists a wormhole in the ceiling above your computer that is sucking in your CV and cover letters and sending them to a 4th dimension where no jobs exist, you might stumble across that guy’s profile and he might just be working somewhere pretty rad and he might just remember you when you email him and you just might get an in. This sounds far-fetched but trust, sending your CVs out into the void with no response for months on end is a soul crushing experiment in growing up and you will be milking your contacts for all they’re worth. The bigger your network, the less awful job hunting is. And university is the best networking opportunity there is. So go on, say hi.

6. People will treat you the way that you allow them to

Don’t let people walk all over you. There will always be those that will if they get the chance. This includes lecturers – don’t be rude but do stand up for yourself, there are few more empowering feelings than being your own best friend.

7. Never sacrifice yourself

Always ensure that when you’re saying ‘yes’ to someone, you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself. Keep moving. Physically. Emotionally. Philosophically. It’s not time to slow down yet.

8. Travel

1. Cliff Diving – Khanpur Dam

Cliff Diving - Khawaja Ali Arshad

2. Eagle’s Nest – Hunza Valley – Final Year Trip

Final Year Trip - FAST NUCES Islamabad

3. Lahore University of Management and Sciences Sports Festival 2012

Lums Fixture - Khawaja ALi Arshad

4. Makra Peak – Hike

Makra Peak Top - Khawaja Ali Arshad

5. Muskhpuri Top – Hike

Mushkpuri Top - Hike -Khawaja ALi Arshad

6.MalamJabba Skiing Resort 2015

MalamJabba Skiing Resort - Khawaja Ali Arshad

 

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Who she truly is?

I would say she confuses me, but that would be too weak. She intrigues me. I feel I could know her for a hundred years and still only catch small glimpses of who she really is. Just have a few pieces of the puzzle lined up.

I would say that my fascination and love of puzzles was all that drew me to her, but that would be a lie. There is too much fondness for that. There is physical attraction as well, but that is irrelevant, I could feel that attraction to any beautiful women without dwelling on it. My fondness for her is different. I would call it love, but how can I really love something I don’t understand? Something that continues to confuse me? But the fondness is still there, strong, and unexplainable.

Despite the fact that I cannot grasp who she truly is, I trust her. One of the small puzzle pieces I have gathered shows me that she is a valuable friend, one who would not betray me,so I trust her. I hope she trusts me as much in return, but that is another of her mysteries. She thinks of me as a friend, but that is all I know of her feelings towards me, or anyone.

If one day

If one day we were to never cross paths again, I want only one memory of you etched in my brain like familiarity of my name: your heart. I hope the next guy that falls for you understands you – the way your mind works, how you see the world, and who you truly are. I hope he wakes up in the morning and smiles because he remembered the melodic voice he would be hearing soon. I hope he points out little things on your body, like the way your eyelashes curl up by nature and how the space between your shoulder and your head was perfect enough for his head. I hope he thinks you to be puzzle pieces, rather than the missing piece to finish his puzzle, but you were the only reason the pieces started to assemble in the first place. He should look at you like you took him back into his childhood, when all he wanted to do was bask in the fervency of the sun and smile at inane things like the feel of the grass between his nimble fingers. Lastly, I hope that if for some reason, you two were to only be friends, he would accept your happiness and love you from a distance, because that’s what I had to do.

If one day