New York City, NY — I sat on my chair, rocking back and forth, nervously staring at a bright screen as if it’s a tunnel to my future. It was finally my decision release day. As I waited for my portal to update, I was lost in my thoughts about my new chapter of life – will my hard work over the past years pay off?
The clock finally struck 4 p.m. I clicked open the “view decision” button and forced myself to close my eyes. I peeked through the slit of my vision, edges blurred but the word was clear and bright: “Congratulations!” My excitement fueled me to jump from my chair, screamed for the loudest ever: “I GOT INTO NYU!”
Tears were uncontrollably streaming and floods of emotions dominated my mind. As I video called my families and friends they were able to immediately identify the good news despite my incoherent and messy expressions.
I shared the same optimism that penetrated the minds of almost all incoming freshmen: the endless possibilities; the freedom ranging from being able to pick my own classes to forging my own path in life; and I was preparing myself for all the obstacles that I’m ready to take on.
But two weeks upon entering college, this excitement was overtaken by my fear. I was growing nervous about the reality of separation and the uncertain future. Four years in high school, I’ve knitted a close tie with my friends and teachers. So I was finding it hard to adapt to our separation and worried if I will ever have similar strong relationships.
A week prior to the first day of school, NYU held an orientation for all newcomers. I felt tremendously pressured and drained by the large crowd of people that I was surrounded by, to the point where I just wanted to dig a hole and hide in it.
My first day on “campus,” is a story that I’ll continue to retell people given how bad it went. First, it was a terribly rainy day which made it difficult for me to navigate my direction through the crowd of umbrellas. Later, I had a three hour gap in between two of my classes so I headed to the library. Yet, I was inundated by how large our library was. I was buried by the sense of familiarity that people were giving off which made me feel extremely awkward to tour around the library. Not knowing what to do and where I could go, I sat in the lounge of the library alone until my next class. I remember as I sat there, seeing how excited everyone was, I continuously thought to myself: “I don’t know if I belong here.”
Days progressed and I was growing hopeless. I would sarcastically tell people that “I’m getting a lot of Instagram followers,” (but no one to actually connect with) when anyone would ask me how my first few weeks went. The structure of classes was a different world than that of high school’s. I had to self-learn most of the materials and there’s no longer an adult who is there for me all the time.
I had four classes in total: one intro to media, one literature, one math core class and one writing core class. Some of the lessons were really theoretical, some I just couldn’t see how they would benefit my future. I progressively grew tired by the meaningless tasks that were eating my time and the only motivation I could find was to have a good GPA.
Midterms came in October, I didn’t come from a high school that emphasised testing, which brought a lot of struggles. My first media midterm went worse than I expected which really hurt my self-esteem. Again, this voice that questions if I really belong here grew stronger.
But luckily, around November, things got back on track. All of the hard work that I have invested into my classes paid off and I gradually began connecting with my classmates. I found my group of people to study with or to have lunch with. I’ve gotten closer to some of them, and for that, I am grateful. I was also getting used to the environment which made it comfortable for me to be alone most of the time.
After taking my intro to media class, it was clear to me that a theoretical major was not for me. So I switched my major from media, culture and communication to double major in journalism and international relations. I wouldn’t say my second semester was better in terms of the classes I had to take (I still had to take a lot of boring core classes), but I finally had something to look forward to. If I took the prerequisites now, I could take fun classes later on.
My first year in college passed by with a blink of an eye. In retrospect, I’m surprised by some of the feelings I held in the beginning. I thought that as a New Yorker, NYU having no campus was no big deal to me. Their advertisement of “the entire city is your campus” captivated me before entering. Turns out, it’s quite disappointing that it’s hard to run into your friends in between classes and at times it does feel like I’m going to work everyday, clocking in and out.
I also didn’t expect the overwhelming loneliness I felt in the beginning because I usually enjoy spending time alone. The good thing is that I overcame it once I got familiar with our “campus.”
For high schoolers, I highly suggest taking as many AP classes as you can because it would help you avoid taking all of the meaningless core classes. Without those core classes, you can channel your time to subjects that are more to your preferences. Also practice developing self-learning and independent skills because you’ll have to figure a lot of things on your own. No one will be chasing after you to warn you about your missing assignments or when you’re failing.
For incomers, the key is to be patient (a skill that I’m continuously learning). You will eventually find your group of people, a method of learning, a major that you like, and a job opportunity. Just give it some time.
Second, take initiatives. Not just in terms of making friends but also reaching out for help and pivot to a new direction if the original one is not for you.
Third, be on top of your time management skills. College is filled with freedom, but you’ll have to know what activities need to be your priority and what shouldn’t be.
Fourth, GPA is not the most important thing. What really matters in the end is what’s on your resume, not the numbers.
Last, be oblivious (a skill that I’m also continuously learning). Your classmates are going to be people from different backgrounds and socio-economic classes; some are even brilliant. I understand that you may feel belittled and self-conscious. But this is not something that you should be all up on. Emphasise on refining the skills that will get you further in life.