Being on my own is weird. It’s also the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
I’m Maya Juman, a BSGE (and Bacc Rag) alum, and now a freshman at Yale University. I’ve been in college for two months and have already experienced so many incredibly new things of all sorts. I have my first real job. I’ve battled two bouts of “freshman plague,” as everyone refers to the perpetual sore throat/cold passed around freshman housing. I’ve learned the hard way that eating grilled cheeses and taking breaks to play pool in the basement at 2 am is an ineffective, albeit fun, way to get work done. I’ve done better on a midterm than I anticipated. I’ve done much, much worse on a midterm than I anticipated. I’ve traveled home on the Metro-North, which oddly enough was the first time college truly felt real. I’ve located the best New Haven pizza (Pepe’s white clam pie, of course). I’ve been evacuated from my dorm at 1 am because a freshman two floors above me broke a sprinkler and flooded all our rooms. I’ve tried things I never thought I would, like working out at 7 am, beekeeping, and taking a poetry seminar. I’ve located the best study spots in each library, the best place to watch the Wild Card Game with other Mets fans, and, perhaps most importantly, the dining hall with the most expansive cereal selection.
One valuable thing I’m learning in college is how to get comfortable being alone. Entering the dining hall in early September was a nerve-wracking experience, especially around dinnertime, when my brain would rapidly descend into a black hole of depressing thoughts. What if I have to sit alone? What if people think I’m weird for sitting alone?? What if I have to sit alone for the rest of my four years here??? I’ve come to realize that before you can make real friends, you have to feel confident enough with yourself, and with the prospect of not being in a group, to take a chance. Check out a meeting for that club you are interested in, even if the girl across the hall who said she might want to go decided not to. Approach that group of freshmen you always see hanging out in the courtyard even if you only really know one of them. Most freshmen are just as insecure and freaked out as you are. Forcing myself to reach out and be more social than I naturally am has been crucial in meeting people these first months — and now I consider many of those strangers my friends. As cliche as it sounds, college is all about stepping outside comfort zones. Not having anyone from BSGE attend Yale at the same time as me has forced me to start from square one, the same way I did when I entered BSGE as a seventh grader six long years ago.
Academically, you’re lucky, IB students. Sure, the workload is tough, and you’re entirely responsible for getting to class on time, getting your work done, and staying up-to-date on assignments. No one is holding your hand anymore, and don’t get me wrong, you will drown if you allow the readings and papers and midterms to pile up. Procrastination is just as real in college as it is in high school, if not worse, since the distractions are even more intense. But as IB students, you’ve been writing far more reflections and essays and responses than the average student. Even at a place like Yale where most students were at the top of their class back home, IB gives students a leg up, especially when it comes to writing and research. Bibliographies are a breeze. The workload is manageable, because you already dealt with heavy courses in high school. And when other students whine about writing papers in math class, you laugh because you’ve been there before. Not to mention that running into other IB students is always a thrill, because you can bond immediately (collective eye-rolling about Extended Essay and CAS), and there, you have instant friendship!
If I had to give high school students one piece of advice based on my (limited) experience thus far, it would be to disregard the Bacc Rag’s title for this column. College is a lot of things, but it’s not really the “real world.” Yes, you may be on your own for the first time. You’re responsible for your academics, social life, routine, bedtime, laundry, diet… the list goes on. But by no means are you an adult facing real life decisions just yet, especially when you’re only a freshman. It’s easy to think of college as a series of life-or-death choices, starting with the application process in the fall of senior year — I know I often caught myself taking this approach. Picking a tentative major on the application feels like deciding your eternal fate, as does considering which college to attend. Registering for classes feels like locking yourself into a specific academic path, even when the sensible part of your brain knows it’s only your first semester of 8. The rush to sign up for extracurriculars, apply for jobs, and make friends at the beginning of the year seems like your first and last chance to get yourself settled. Don’t let panic set in. College is actually four long years of adjustment and growth. You meet new people throughout the whole four years, you may switch majors completely, and quit or join organizations along the way. At the risk of sounding cheesy, take the opportunity to experiment and push your boundaries. It isn’t the real world yet, and you have plenty of time to explore, so enter with an open mind, and enjoy the ride.