1) Nobody cares about how you look in class. If I had known this in August I would have packed a whole lot less clothing. The truth is that when you show up at a lecture, everyone has different stuff going on. Some are coming straight from the gym, others slept in because they had been up late finishing work for another class the night before, and still others are already on their third back-to-back class of the day and therefore are hauling half a library on their backs. What I’ve realized is that this isn’t our school so much as it is our home. Therefore, people dress like they would at home; they come as they are. I mean, don’t get me wrong, some people still put together outstanding outfits, but more often than not, jeans and sweatpants prevail.
2) You have a ton of free time. And okay, I get that as the semester gets harder, I will be using all of that time to study, but it’s still a complete shock to me that I get to manage so much of my own time. In high school I was pretty independent, but I still had to be present at school for six hours a day. In addition to that, there were times when I was expected to be at home with my family, and times after school when extra-curriculars took place. It’s still strange to me that all I have to do here is show up to five classes a week, all of which are a five minute walk from my bedroom. There are extracurriculars, yes, but at the moment I’m not “committed” per se to any of them; I can choose to show up if I feel like it. For me, the luxury here isn’t so much the freedom because my parents have always let me be fairly independent. The luxury is the sheer abundance of time at my disposal. I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately because never before have I had two or three hour time blocks to sit down and watch a movie. Usually in high school I could fit in one tv show between school and clubs and soccer, and even then, only if I pvr’d it and skipped through the commercials. And okay, yeah, I’m sure I’ll have to watch a few less movies and do a lot more studying soon enough, but still, the luxury is there.
3) Everyone belongs here. It’s like this whole shift in attitude from high school. In high school, you found friends if you got lucky and found people who were like you. In university, people look past your weirdness, and even embrace it. I think part of it is because we’re all strangers to each other and everyone is eager to be open to one another and make friends, whatever the kind. However, I think a bigger part of it is that we’re all here because we want to, not because we’re forced to. It creates this kind of buoyant environment; it’s one full of enthusiasm and excitement instead of one of boredom and frustration. If you show that you care about something, people are attracted to that here. The result is that everyone is included because everyone cares. That is, after all, why they’re here.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and it’s also a little premature. We’ll see how I feel about all of this in the coming weeks and months.