What I wish I knew on the first day of school

Don’t worry. Come next year you’ll realize that first-years — and almost everyone else on campus — have very little knowledge of what the hell they’re doing. I’ve put together some advice to help you get through. 

Susana Gómez Báez, The Eyeopener

Don't be a worrying William like this guy, your time at school will be the greatest period in your life. (Photo courtesy of The Eyeopener)

Don’t be a worrying William like this guy, your time at school will be the greatest period in your life. (Photo courtesy of The Eyeopener)

TORONTO (CUP) You’ve finally managed to free yourself from your mother’s suffocating goodbye hugs, unloaded your U-Haul truck and unpacked your stuff into your room. Your roommate seems pretty cool and so do the couple of people you’ve met on your floor. All in all, frosh week was a success — you had a little bit too much to drink without embarrassing yourself or waking up on a stretcher. So far so good. You’ve survived.

But as orientation comes to an end, you realize classes are approaching and your mind inadvertently starts to create scenarios of everything that could go wrong on your first day. Welcome to university!

Don’t worry. Come next year you’ll realize that first-years — and almost everyone else on campus — have very little knowledge of what the hell they’re doing. I’ve put together some advice to help you get through.

Everyone is as lost as you are 

You are not the only one with that dumb look on your face. During my first year, I pulled out my phone and called a friend so whenever I got lost at least I looked less stupid because I was doing something.

Try patrolling the grounds with your schedule in hand the day before. It also never hurts to have a printed copy of the map with you. Just be prepared to ask for directions.

Smiling is a miracle 

If you’re living in rez, a simple hello can do wonders. If you’re shy, there are people who are either as shy or shyer than you are. One hello will develop into a ‘hey’ every time you see each other, and before you know it, you’re sitting in a staircase at 2 a.m. talking.

On the first day of classes though, chances are the few people you met in rez are not from your program and you’ll find yourself back at square one in terms of meeting buddies. You will be surprised how much easier it is to get lost with a friend than alone. So smile at people. It’s the best icebreaker and it will probably incite a conversation about which program you’re in and which way you’re headed.

Whatever you do, don’t be late 

Most professors never say anything when you walk in late, but you are a fool to think that they won’t care or remember the few who dare to disturb their welcome speech. You don’t want to be the one who receives a snide comment from a gutsy prof. Let somebody else test those waters.

Plus, the first 10 minutes of a lecture are usually the best: professors actually crack a couple of jokes before they pull out the boring stuff. So remember, since you will most likely get lost, make sure you make your way to class with enough time to spare for wandering around disoriented.

On the same note, you should never, ever talk in class while the prof is speaking. Yes, it seems like something your mother told you when you were eight. But you have a reputation with profs and a reputation with your friends. Might as well keep the former professional.

Talking to your prof does not make you a keener 

I’ve found out, much later in my university career, that talking to profs after or before class time makes you more personable and they like that. A lot. Plus, they are often very funny, nice people. Think about it, they have spent more time studying their subject than you’ve spent being alive. Talking to them will only benefit you.

The library helps you get crap done 

You don’t need to do work in the library if you don’t want to, but it helps a lot. It’s so quiet that it’s annoying so you have no choice but to study because — well — what else are you going to do? Just make sure you close Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or whatever distracts you. The library may seem dull, but it forces you to be productive. You’ll appreciate that come midterms.

Do not confine yourself to a group of friends 

There are a wide variety of personalities on campus and, yes, there are cliques. But that doesn’t mean you can only fit in with one group of students. Don’t judge people before you know them.

If someone likes to follow sports a lot it does not make them a jock. If someone likes fashion, art, or music it does not make them a hipster. If someone likes clubbing it does not make them a douchebag/baguette. If someone likes video games it does not make them a geek/social outcast/dork. Everyone is cool here, gosh darn it.

You’ll find that different people have different things to offer. Remember what they say: You meet your life-long friends in university, so don’t close yourself off from any opportunities to meet awesome people.

Come prepared to class 

I once had to hand in an essay and assumed the professor would have a stapler with him. Wrong. What did I learn? Bread twisters are actually very good — in fact, much better than staples — at holding together papers. What else did I learn?

Binding an essay with a bread twister will get you called out and laughed at in front of an entire lecture room. I now carry a mini-stapler in my bag at all times. Bring everything you need to class. Don’t assume people are going to hand it to you.

Money does not grow on trees, surprisingly 

Seriously, save money. You’ll be thousands of dollars in debt by the time you graduate and although it may not feel that way now — when you’ve got a loaded bank account with student loan money — you will feel it later. Being young at university is the only time when broke equals sexy. Everyone gives you discounts. So be as cheap as you’d like. Check out deals around campus, avoid cafeteria food (it’s overpriced and unhealthy), and go easy on buying booze.

Good grades are great, but they’re not all you need 

University is about social skills as much as it is about professional skills. A good journalist, for example, can have the best writing technique and flawless use of the language. But without the ability to talk to people, to really converse, he or she is useless. Learn to talk to and read people when you are at school. You will be using these skills for the rest of your professional and personal life.

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What I wish I knew on the first day of school