The Never-Ending Post-Frosh Hangover: Things I Wish I Had Known in My First Year

I’ll admit it: Under this façade of “Oh wow she’s got it all together,” I’m pretty clueless about most things. It seems to me that other people just...know things. When did everyone else figure out how everything worked? Was there a training day where they taught all the rules of life but I slept in and missed it? Lack of intuition and common sense make me prone to do stupid things but also fun at parties. So when I knew I was coming to McGill, I started frantically searching the web hoping somebody had the decency to write down the unwritten rules. A guide on how to survive McGill. Clear instructions so I didn’t do anything stupid. But alas! I couldn’t find any. There was information on when to send in your transcripts and which classes to never take, but nothing on things you should never do in a lecture. That meant I was left alone to figure it all out by myself while making countless mistakes along the way. So, now I feel that I should probably write down what I have learned (even though I’m only in second year and there are still a million things I’m clueless about). But if I can at least make one other clueless person like me feel less alone, I might as well try. So if you’re anything like me and have no idea what you are doing, read along. Or you can just read along to laugh at my silly mistakes — it’s okay, I won’t mind!

Readings Are Not Optional!

Say what? I know you might be thinking “First I’ll get my assignments done and then I’ll do my readings." Um no. This will depend on your major, but the readings at university are definitely not the kind you can enjoy while lying in bed or sitting in the bathroom (I’m not judging!). They could be anything from 15 to 200 pages and they almost always require your full attention. And you might as well take notes on them because otherwise, you’re never going to remember what they said. So do make time for your readings in your schedule, and think of them as assignments even though not doing them might not have immediate consequences.

Other things that are not optional: Going to class, studying, that assignment worth 2%, and complaining about the construction and the snow.

Clueless Froshie:

First years, some people are going to despise you simply for being a first year. Why? Don’t ask me because I have no idea. Perhaps they see in you what they themselves used to be, a clueless froshie, and it makes them embarrassed to be reminded of that. But if you want to make sure to gain the approval of these looming quasi-authority figures with their disapproving glances, there are some things you can do. Do talk loudly in designated quiet areas in the library. Or why not take things a step further and break into your favourite musical number? Everybody is probably bored from studying anyway and will really appreciate this pleasant distraction. You’ve arrived early to class (which I know you always will) and see the endless options of seats. Why not pick the one in the middle of a row? I know there are other seats in the corner which you will be blocking by doing so but surely nobody needs to get to those and everybody will appreciate the opportunity to sit on the floor! Okay, now that I’ve passive aggressively complained about my pet peeves, I will once again assume my supportive but assertive persona for the rest of the tips.

Things You Know You Should Do But You Don’t:

Do start studying for midterms and finals early. Do go to parties and meet new people and do crazy stupid things (that’s when you make the best memories!) but be assured knowing that there are other places where you can make friends if you ever get tired of it. The first year doesn't have to be one long never-ending hangover. Don’t do coffee shots mixed with Redbull to try and shake off the hangover though. Never do this. You're going to have unbelievable amounts of work. Try to get some sleep at least. Your body will thank you. TAs and profs are there to help you. And they have been doing research on their topic for years so they probably have interesting stuff to tell you. So, don’t be intimidated by them and take advantage of their knowledge by asking them questions and going to office hours. Participate in conferences! Even if you end up saying something "stupid," everyone is probably too tired to even register it and they won't remember the next day. Everybody is too concerned with themselves to judge your every move anyway. Never leave your laptop unattended (tbt to when my laptop was stolen in Redpath during first year). Just take it with you to the bathroom. Trust me. Coffee can be expensive. You might as well invest in a thermos and some coffee which will help you save $ while also being environmentally conscious.

Some Things Not to Forget:

Most importantly, do not forget that you are here because of your hard work! Never doubt yourself. It is going to be a lot harder than high school but you've got all it takes to do this. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to speak your mind and also to ask for help if you need it. There will be people to help you. First year will go by so fast. Try to make the most out of it! Winter will feel so long and cold and your bed so warm. But try to get out to do some exercise or even just to get some sunlight every day. If you ever feel down, don’t hesitate to reach out to people. You got this! If I survived it, I know you can. First year can be a bumpy ride but you will reach the destination and be happy that you took the ride. Besides, you can always laugh about your mistakes later.

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