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Expectations vs. Reality: University 101

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University. It's a word that will get many of us both incredibly anxious, yet excited at the same time. Just like when you switch from primary to secondary school, university signals a change in environment, in people and in your own level of maturity.

It's this mystical, magical place full of hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares, and we can't help ourselves but expect the world out of it - especially because you hear stories and you see things. The thing with uni is that too many movies have been made about it: Pitch Perfect, American Pie - two very different storylines, but nonetheless both iconic. Question is, are they realistic? It's safe to say, no, they are not.

To be fair, we all know better than to believe in movies, and when has there ever been one about "real life" that wasn't somehow dramatized or spiced up with jokes we'd probably never come up with ourselves? Unfortunately there is no Zac Efron at every frat house, and there might never be a Fat Amy
in your life. Yet we still hold great expectations, because there should be at least one of those things like in the movies, they must be based on some sort of truth.
In my own experience, university is like blindly drawing from a deck of cards. You don't know if it's going to turn out well, but you're in charge of what you do with the card you end up drawing.

It still sucks as much as it did in high school to have study cram sessions, and there will unfortunately still be courses you like less than others. But there are also endless possibilities to explore yourself, your interests and your future. There's time for failure, there's time for success, and there'll be times when you don't know what to think. Despite what some say, uni is definitely a time when people are stressed, indecisive and oblivious and don't have their sh*t together in general. But with some basic rules, you should be able to make it through. Here are my five uni 101 rules that will keep you from being disappointed and will create a reality that is just a awesome as your expectations:

1. Don't Pretend
Honestly, I found that in university, there's no need to ever pretend you're something you're not. Whoever you are, university will be big and diverse enough to find someone like-minded! It'll only set you up for sadness if you're not being true to yourself.

2. Be Open-minded
University might turn your expectations into reality if you let it, so don't knock it before you try it! This is the place where you can try new things without feeling silly, because everyone is just as new as you are and will be nervous for all the "first times" you will experience. Go join a society, a club or maybe even a gym, and if it turns out it's not for you, don't be afraid to drop out again. No shame in making mistakes.

3. Invest in New People
Your roommates, for example, are the people that will be there when you go home after a shitty day of classes, so they best well be your new family. To be fair, I found uni students much more tolerable than high schoolers. Everyone has a nice side.

4. Invest Time in You
University is exhausting, and as much as we'd like to think we can party as hard as those people on TV, or we will suddenly turn out to be a genius like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, it probably isn't reality. Besides, it's totally OK if you have days in which you hate university and you'd just want to curl up in bed, go home and be with your parents. If you feel a bit down, indulge yourself and find a good way to cope and destress - like watching a TV show or listening to music, or even call your parents.

5. Don't Forget to Study
It might sound silly, but it's quite easy to lose yourself in all the novelties of university life. You will, for the first time, be completely in charge of yourself, get to make decisions on your own and have to take care of yourself, too. And of course, it's very tempting to forego the one thing you came there to do and enjoy the freedom you've won. But free time and money are not endless. In fact, you'll probably realize sooner than later they are the exact opposite and slip right through your fingers. Managing your time and making sure you study in advance will make university much more enjoyable, and it'll give you the opportunity to fully relax without a deadline breathing down your neck or an ever increasing pile of debt existing out of unnecessary years of tuition fees.

However, the most important rule of all, which I've mentioned briefly before, is this one:

Don't be afraid to make mistakes.
It's alright if things don't run smoothly, it's alright if you have to ask for help, and it's definitely alright when reality turns out to be nothing like your expectations. It's all about drawing those cards. It's not about what you get dealt; it's about how you respond. It's how you get up after you fall, rather than the fall itself.

There's a Dutch proverb that roughly translates into this: "Life is a party, but you have to hang up the flags and garlands yourselves."

University won't be great all on its own, but it definitely can be with a little bit of help from you! And you know what? Maybe 10 years from now, there will be a movie out there telling your exceptional story.
(Cambio Col[lab] is a lab for young creators to showcase their passion and develop their voice. Like what you're seeing? Share it to support their effort!)


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