6. Bullying doesn’t go away after high school.
Neither do cliques. Or peer pressure.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that you’re not in high school now. You are no longer a confused little caterpillar struggling to make your cocoon as warm and comforting as possible, hoping you survive the transformational teenage years. Your cocoon is broken and you’ve emerged, a beautiful butterfly, with more composure and assuredness than you ever had before. You’re a university student now. Whether or not you know exactly what you want in life or you are still figuring it out, you’ve made a commitment to work towards excellence in your life. You may not know exactly your goal or even exactly the steps it will take to get there but you’re moving forward. It’s an exciting time in your life and you have the power to make your own choices (pending your/your parents’ budgeting). You have the power to say no.
Here’s the thing about bullies in university: you can laugh at them.
They’ll try to intimidate you in uncountable subtle and not-so-subtle ways, try to win your favour, try to threaten you into compliance but you can’t be bought, can you? You are a beautiful butterfly governed by your own free wings – I mean, will! And your/your parents’ budget.
7. Adapt or die.
That being said, it’s important to know that adaptation is key to survival in the real world. In adult life. In university life. And definitely in residence life. It’s a fine line, but you’ve got to learn to walk between rolling with the punches and not giving in to things you aren’t comfortable with.
Your high school studying habits may have worked wonders for you through your younger years. A structured schedule, a clean, tidy work environment, a well-stocked kitchen and a helpful teacher’s speedy reply just a “send” button away via e-mail, these are all luxuries to the average resident. Class schedules are ideally stable and consistent but in my experience, have a habit of cancellations, make-ups and re-scheduling that doesn’t exactly create the ideal regular student cycle days. The library spot you claimed and have diligently occupied since the beginning of the semester may suddenly become re-colonized around midterms or finals time when hundreds of delinquents suddenly discover the library. You may have made some poor financial decisions and have nothing but ramen to eat for the next week. Your roommate may suddenly come down with a two-month case of PMS during a particularly stressful patch of the year. You’re going to have to make use of those young, flexible muscles you build your body and mind out of and make the best out of what you have.
8. Class time is negotiable.
When you live on a residence hall, the notion of “8AM class” easily becomes the more rationalized idea of “okay, the lecturer will spend about ten minutes setting up and getting warmed up, about twenty minutes recapping, about ten minutes yapping and I guess that leaves me until 8:40AM until I realllllllllllly need to be there”.
Getting into the habit of staying in bed until 7:55 when you have an 8 o’ clock class is a terrible thing but so pervasive a phenomenon on hall that it borders on cliche. Sitting at the entrance of your hall with a group, remarking on the class that you have which started twenty minutes ago isn’t all that uncommon either. There’s just something about living almost in the classroom that makes residents “forget” that they aren’t actually in the classroom.
Do your best not to fall into this trap by managing your time beforehand to get enough sleep and leave enough time for getting ready and small talk if you must have it before you leave for class.
9. R.A.’s don’t know everything.
.They’re young, but not as young as you are. They have that put-together look of someone with all the savoir-faire you wish you had and only hope to possess when you get to that age. It’s easy to let your mind trick you into thinking you have a cool new older brother or sister to look to for advice and to answer all of the questions bubbling up in your mind as you try to navigate your way through the first taste of university and residence life.
Here’s the thing though: while they are in fact, older and more experienced than you are, for the most part, they’re just as confused as you and just know how to hide it better. The university experience is specially designed to have everyone constantly in a state of dynamic development. If you’re not confused at least 50% of the time, you’re not challenging yourself enough. Resident advisers are no different. They carry the authority of their position with quiet disquiet and silent hope that no one true crises take place for them to deal with. They will offer you their advice and the benefit of their experience in matters of academia and adjusting to residence life but remember that everyone’s experience is different. Your R.A.’s will (ideally) be indispensable wealths of knowledge but they won’t be God. They won’t know everything. Their solutions to their problems might not be your solutions to your problems.
10. Appreciate your home and family.
If you are the typical pre-resident life student, you are coming from a warm home clad with love and a fully-stocked kitchen, a structural support system and the least amount of worries you’ll have for a while. Enjoy the comfort of having your parents close by for consultation and advice. Indulge in the luxury of home-cooked food, or at least food you don’t necessarily have to pay for yourself. Appreciate that taking the step to residence life is going to take you on a journey of isolation, uncertainty, cultural mixing, blending, belonging, existing and living. Life among your contemporaries will be great and you should approach every day with an expectation that your mind will be blown in some way or another. But for the moment, you’re allowed to feel the pinch of nostalgia as you look around your bedroom, think back on all the childhood memories you’ll be leaving behind enclosed in these physical walls and cringe when you think of the new ones that your family will be creating while you’re away. Life is sweet now, but you’re off to bigger and better things.
Peace, love and adventure!