College life is more than just lectures

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College life is more than just lectures
Shyamala Elango

Dubai - Higher studies in a foreign land comes with some emotional challenges. Here's what to expect.

By Shyamala Elango

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Published: Sat 30 Jan 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 31 Jan 2016, 4:53 PM

It is easy to get into college, but doing well, thriving and graduating successfully requires commitment, discipline and staying focused on the outcomes you want to achieve.
While you may be academically well off, how prepared are you for the emotional journey ahead?
Here is a peek at what you might encounter: 
You were the high school star, the valedictorian, but you land in college only to find that such 'starism' is not an exception, it is the norm. You see stars everywhere. So you go from being an A+ student to a B- just like that. For the first time, you are no longer a hero. People don't recognise you. Far from being among the toppers, you are lumped with the bottom half of the class. How would you deal with that?
Here's another scenario - you prepare for your first lecture with hope and excitement. You have completed your summer reading and are ready. Expecting to make an impression, you wade your way into the hall with hundreds and hundreds of others. Surely this can't be the right place? This was supposed to be a lecture hall not a theatre full of eager, excited faces - it is theatrical all right. My student once remarked, "When I found out I was one of 1,400 others who had turned up to learn about the next best thing in the coding world, I felt I was merely statistical."
Far from making an impression, you would be lucky to make yourself heard. How do you cope with that? 
At high school you juggled many responsibilities - you were the president of a popular club, the best all-rounder of your cricket team and touted as the most valued speaker on the debating circuits. Compare that with trying to pick a new activity, trying out for a team with students who are bigger, better and faster than you, or even deciding from the hundreds of clubs that reach out to you asking you to join them. How do you know which one is right for you?
It's Thanksgiving and the campus empties out. The restaurants on campus are closed. The temperature outside does not seem appealing enough to go out and have fun. Except for the mall, which is about 45 minutes away, there is nowhere to go. Instead, you are lonely, hungry and bored. What do you do? The social culture on campus is also completely foreign. From binge drinking and political activism to candidly criticising your professors - it seems like another world out there. And then there's homesickness! Economics lecture that runs continuously for four hours. Accommodation - sharing room with people from across the world and cooking food. Independent learning. Tracking your spending. Making decisions on your own when nobody is available for immediate consultation. Are you prepared?
Going to college should include planning for a positive experience. While the above may seem like extreme examples, these are true.
This is for you to start thinking. We will be offering solutions and tips to be emotionally prepared for the right college experience in our next issue. After all, college will be the place you call home for the next couple of years. We must make that count. 
Shyamala Elango is Director, Educational Services at Inner Universe. She can be reached at

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