With October finally starting, the daunting thought of starting university for the very first time has finally come to an end. The transition from school to something as new and different as university is an overwhelming experience, even if family and friends surround you. For the next few months, I’m going to take you on a journey abroad, chronicling the highs and lows of moving away from anything slightly familiar to England for a degree.
I started counting down the days to leave for college before I even started my senior year. I was somehow convinced that the earlier I started applying, the earlier I’d leave to explore every corner of student life that I had ever read, heard, seen, or spoken about. Before I knew it, I was packing my life into a single 23Kg suitcase and boarding a one-way flight to London, terrified of what lies ahead. Within a week of moving into dorms, I realized that given my personal limits and mostly Middle-Eastern upbringing, I’d have to create my own path to explore, one that I’d be safe and comfortable doing. There are a lot of things that I wish I knew when I started last year, and I’ll tell you all about them.
I didn’t know how draining and time-consuming the application process was. From mapping out the places I wanted to apply to, to narrowing down the exact course I wanted to study, the application process seemed never-ending, and deciding on a school was becoming harder every day. Eventually, it felt like all the brochures carried the same information. At the end, it was the tiny details that the brochures failed to mention that helped me make my decision – will you be offered accommodation in dorms throughout your entire time at the university, or is accommodation offered for first-year students only? How likely are you to hear Arabic in the city, town, or on campus? Will you be close to an airport? All these questions can help you narrow down your choices, and the answers you’re looking for might be different to what your friends are looking for. The truth is, there aren’t any right or wrong answers – it all depends on what type of experience you want to have. You might want to try something completely new and go to a university that has a low rate of international students, or you might decide to go to the same school as your childhood friends. It doesn’t matter; you’re bound to have a great experience either way.
I didn’t know that aptitude tests could be wrong. My parents always told me “University may be four years long, but your degree lasts for a lifetime – go for something you love.” That didn’t really help since I love a lot of things, and back in high school, I couldn’t imagine myself in any given career. I turned to aptitude tests that I found online. They’re brilliant, but they’re not always right. Every aptitude test I took pointed me in the direction of the liberal arts and social sciences. They suggested everything from anthropology to economics, but at the end of the day when I’d sit down to write my application, I’d hit writers-block. The truth is that I wasn’t passionate about learning to read people’s actions, or how governments control taxes; I was passionate about climate change and environmental technology, and that’s what I went for. As I walked into my first lecture, which happened to be on Fluid Mechanics, I wondered if I made the right decision or if I should have listened to the aptitude test and walked into Macroeconomics 101, instead. But then it hit me, I wouldn’t be having second thoughts if I hadn’t taken the aptitude test that Google suggested, and Google thinks pictures of cats will one day take over the world. If you’re not sure, find a school that offers a double major and go for it. Extra credits may mean extra hours, but speaking from experience, the crossover classes tend to be the most interesting ones.
The truth is, I didn’t know a lot of things before I started my first semester, before I moved into dorms, or before my first Eid alone. My first year at Loughborough University was full of ups and downs, doubts, and revelations that you’ll get to know. As international as Kuwait is, and as prepared as I thought I was, nothing quite beats personal experience. Are there any specific issues you want to know about? Tweet me at @YaraWazir.