As the beginning of the semester draws nearer, freshies are starting to sign up or even attend their different orientation programmes. Orientation will definitely arouse the excitement to finally start university life. However, I feel that many will initially view the idea of university life with rose-tinted glasses, for I too was like that last year.
When I was a freshie, I was excited to finally attend NTU because I could finally have more freedom in choosing what I want to study, when to attend classes, along with the overall independence of staying in hall (meaning no more nagging from my parents). I’m sure many that of you share the same excitements, but after one year of university, I must admit that the expectations I had stray far from reality.
This 3-part article series notes down the realities of university that I experienced firsthand against my initial expectations. I hope that it will be of value to my incoming juniors.
To elaborate on what I mentioned in the previous paragraph – I thought that I would finally have more say in doing what I wanted in terms of my lifestyle and studies. For once, I was making the decisions, not my parents nor a group of teachers. I expected to feel more liberated, and to feel more at ease. Moreover, I thought I could balance all my responsibilities easily like I did back in secondary school and junior college. I was very wrong.
Once you join university, you may place expectations upon yourself to balance different co-curricular activities within your own hall or faculty while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Or instead, you may expect yourself to become a mere ‘phantom’ or lurker. I was the latter. I thought I would focus all my time on studying and not interact with anyone outside of my orientation group. After all, my mindset at that time was that university is just for studying. I just wanted that perfect GPA.
However, let’s just say that things went very differently from what I expected. My initial expectations of what university would have been like – from hall life, friendships, relationships to schoolwork were very different from my reality.
Home to Hall: What Changed?
One of the biggest changes university provides is the option of on-campus housing aka ‘hall.’ Many students will opt for this chance for the experience, convenience, or both. However, living alone isn’t as cracked up as it sounds to be. I remember moving in and thinking I could stay out as long as I wanted without worrying about my parents chasing after me. Still, I had yet to grasp what having my own space fully entailed.
You may be faintly aware of this already, but it’s only when you truly experience it that it fully impresses itself on you: Regardless of whether you have a roommate in hall, everything that happens inside that room, everything in general, is your own responsibility.
Here are some of the areas in which I found myself having to step up to the plate.
Living in hall taught me how to manage my finances better. Sure, we may have learnt how to save even before university and may choose to solely eat canteen food which is cheaper. However, you will need to start considering laundry fees, aircon costs, groceries, and more. When I first moved into hall, I didn’t realise how much all of these expenses had actually accumulated. It taught me to make smarter choices when and how to spend my money based on a monthly budget.
Honestly, I thought cleaning up for myself would be easier. I mean it’s just one bedroom, it’s not as bad as a house! If my parents could clean up the whole house, then I can clean up one dorm room, right? However, it made me realise that cleaning up one room can be a feat especially if you’re the type who needs everything spotless like my roommate and I.
The room’s cleanliness solely depends on you and having a messy room can affect your productivity. My roommate and I used to take turns deep cleaning our room every week because we wanted to feel comfortable and clean in our room. Even the sight of one bug could mess up our mood for the whole day. My best advice is to invest in a vacuum. It definitely makes cleaning easier in the long run.
We would travel back and forth to the toilet to refill the bucket and mop our rooms at least three times and try to clean up each and every crevice the room weekly. However, by semester 2 both of us were worn out from our schedules that this deep cleaning habit became bi-weekly, and eventually to ‘when we felt like it.’ We even wondered how we had so much energy to do so much cleaning every week because of how drained we had become by the second semester.
Food and health
Moreover, you need to take care of your health. There are many canteens and outlets to buy your food from, or you can even cook if you’d like.
I thought I could easily take care of myself, but I won’t lie; there were times when I got hungry when I first moved in and didn’t have anything to eat because I forgot to order food or buy groceries.
My friends and I have been guilty of skipping meals due to the inconvenience of stopping our studying momentum to walk over to the canteen to buy food. However, when you fall sick, no one is there to take care of you except yourself.
Sure, friends may offer to bring you some food whilst you’re sick, but that’s based on their own generosity, and if their schedule allows it. Therefore, make sure that you always have something around you that you can eat, as well as some Panadol in case you feel yourself getting sick. Rest is also very important. When you’re stronger, you can visit the on-campus clinics. However, during a time when Covid-19 is still an issue, it is important to keep yourself safe and healthy.
All of this may feel like a big shift for some, but the best way I can put it is that it gives you a taste of total independence and living alone.
Shoutout to my roommate
Something else I want to bring up is how important your relationship with your roommate is. It doesn’t matter if you guys were friends beforehand as living with someone else is completely different from being friends with them. I knew of people who moved out because they couldn’t get along with their roomie.
I was lucky that I was able to room with a long-time friend of mine. Of course, we had our own disagreements, and we led different lifestyles. On paper, we would be incompatible as roommates, but we made it work. We had a strong foundation for our friendships, and we were willing to immediately talk out our different issues if there were any. It just showcases how important compromise and adapting is, and I’m just grateful for having her as my roommate for my first year of university.
I’ve got to say this: I honestly don’t know how I would have survived without her. We always supported each other and had each other’s backs no matter what, and I think that’s important when you’re living with someone.
That’s all for now!
Keep an eye out for the next part of our 3-part article series on the realities of university!