Edited by: Sanjana Hira
The thrill of starting college is unparalleled. Growing up, you watch all these movies and shows that paint a homogenous picture of what college life is like and expect your experience to be the same. Whether it is making friends for life, starting a passion project with a friend, or finding your calling, you imagine yourself always having fun. You tell yourself that you are ready for everything that college has to offer. That is great! Odds are that you will be satisfied with life in college, but do not let your imagination overshadow reality.
I was one of those painfully optimistic first-years at Ashoka University. I believed that my college life would be a spinoff of ‘Pitch Perfect’ and ‘3 Idiots’. The past year at Ashoka has been eye-opening and amusing. I have grown as an individual and as a member of a larger community. I have found kindred spirits and passionate professors every step of the way. I have learnt to voice my opinions and patiently listen. Despite this, my experience has not been everything I had hoped it would be, partly because I expected it to be an idealistic bubble. The social life there is vibrant, but can also be unpleasant for many. Here is a list of things I wish I knew before I had joined.
- O-Week Friendships Don’t Last Forever – Chances are that the people you talk to during Orientation week will be friendly faces you simply pass by during the rest of your time in college. However, this should not stop you from interacting with peers from your cohort and seniors on your Instagram feed. Making connections can help you feel at home in a new environment. Just remember that you may regret becoming intimate too quickly. So do not put too much pressure on yourself. It is okay even if you do not make friends during the first week.
- Friendship and Romance are Not the Only Kinds of Relationships that Exist – The diversity at Ashoka provides you with an opportunity to forge different kinds of relationships with your peers, seniors, teaching fellows, professors, and staff members. You will discover new types of bonds such as academic acquaintances and ardent comradeship. You will very likely become adept at reading the room and connecting with strangers.
- Maintaining Relationships is Time Consuming – Making new friends and keeping in touch with old ones requires effort. Add this to your long list of commitments which include coursework, extracurricular work, and domestic chores, and you will find that having a social life can get exhausting. It could cause your mental health to deteriorate. At the same time, certain relationships can improve your mental well-being and help you grow. So don’t panic. You will learn how to manage your time well. Just be ready to adapt to ever-changing sleep schedules. Most importantly, remember to prioritise your physical and mental well-being over social interaction.
- You Win Some, You Lose Some – Don’t expect to be friends with everyone you interact with. There are a lot of considerate people out there but not everyone is one of them. You will learn who to be friends with through trial and error. This can get ugly. You will likely be ghosted and roasted by some people. Contrary to popular belief, popularity is not just a middle school concept. It affects college students too, and it can get you down. You may not get invited to parties consequently. It is okay. Don’t let the pain stop you from living your life. Have some faith and don’t rush into anything. Everyone is anxious. Everyone is trying to find their place and make new friends. You are not alone. Most of the time, a little effort with the right people can go a long way. Once that initial stage has passed, you will know that it was all worth it.
- Join as Many Clubs and Societies as You Can – College is the time to explore your passions. Use the first two semesters to discover new passions and pursue old interests. There are about 50 clubs and societies in Ashoka. Don’t be afraid to apply to every one of them. You will meet many new and exciting people this way.
- Cancel Culture Can Get Intense – A lot of ‘liberal woke’ Ashokans enjoy cancelling people. They will take any opportunity they find to bully you into adopting their viewpoint and dismiss your opinions. Batch group chats can get especially toxic because of this. Don’t feel obliged to stay on and interact with your peers. Prioritise your mental health. Most importantly, don’t let the fear of being cancelled stop you from sharing your thoughts and questions. Many will respect your stance and help you learn. Many will have your back.
- There is No Apparent Division Between Seniors and Juniors – Unlike high school, inter-cohort interaction is normalised. If you have any questions about life at Ashoka or life outside Ashoka, don’t hesitate to talk to your seniors. Most of them take pride in giving valuable life advice.
- Ashoka is Not a Utopia – Even though it strives to be an inclusive, diverse, and sensitive community, Ashoka is not without its faults. There have been several cases of unsafe, alarming incidents in the past and the present. However, this does not mean that the entirety of Ashoka is unsafe. There are many welcoming and considerate people there. You will always find a stranger’s shoulder to lean on and help you through the day. Any new space can be overwhelming until you experience and judge it for yourself. So be mentally alert and prepared for the good and the bad.
- Everyone Seems Cool Until You Interact With Them – It is very easy to feel intimidated by your peers who make seemingly sophisticated arguments in classes and recite dreamy quips in casual conversations. Don’t worry, no one really knows what they are talking about. “Fake it till you make it” is secretly but widely observed in Ashoka.
- People Assume That Everyone Knows Hindi – It may not be as radical as Hindi imposition, but you may feel pressured into talking in Hindi because almost everyone speaks the language there. Socialising without it can prove to be difficult and excluding. It is okay if you don’t understand Hindi. Don’t let the pressure dictate your preference. You will be respected for your decision. Be sure to voice your opinion when you feel like language is preventing you from learning or living. People will hear you.
In short, don’t stress. Just be ready for new and surprising experiences. Social life at Ashoka can be overwhelming and intimidating. Nevertheless, Ashoka is an exceptional place to learn. Moreover, my experiences are not representative of life at Ashoka. Every senior will tell you something different. Everyone has their own stories and opinions. However, the one thing that each one will agree on is that it is okay if you don’t find your best friend for life at Ashoka. It is okay if you don’t date. It is okay if you don’t party all the time. That is not what the Ashokan experience is. It is all about growing, discovering, and learning.