Reflections on my first year of college

I am still in disbelief at just how crazy fast freshman yearwent by. I am back in Auckland now. I had my last final on Friday (May 15th), packed up my freshman dorm into storage boxes, zipped up my suitcase and was on my way to JFK on Saturday to fly back home.

Spring semester happened so quickly I really didn’t have time to process things before the year wrapped up. As people started leaving and goodbyes were exchanged, it hit me how much I’ll miss school. It seems like as I really began to settle down and make this place a home away from home, the school year was coming to an end. I distinctly remember not long after coming back after winter break, I was walking to class and saw several familiar faces, stopped to say hi and thought to myself, wow this place is becoming home. One, completely different from the home I have known for the majority of my life but a home nonetheless. Another time, I was sitting in the blue room (school café) with a friend and a pre-frosh comes up to us explaining that she will be attending next fall and wanted to ask current students a few questions. These experiences made me feel grateful for being on this campus and also a sense of belonging. Sure, college has come with its struggles but overall I feel very blessed to have had such an incredible experience. College was very much not what I expected in many ways and it came with its ups and downs that pushed me to go forward in this journey.newportsunset

Freshman year definitely went by way too fast and everyday seems like it was packed with classes, meetings, clubs, meeting with friends, food and studying. This whirlwind came and went and I know that the next 3 years will speed by even faster. There is no way for me to reduce the highs and lows of the past 8 months into a blogpost and even as I begin to dwell and reflect on this year, everything merges into wonderful blur. I have learned so much about myself and people but also at the same time, ironically, I am realising how little I know about myself and the world. The deeper I go into my education the more I realise how little I know. In every new problem or decision I have faced, I am forced to question myself and who I am becoming. At the end of the day, no one is going to check up on me or make me do anything. My actions are fuelled by my personal rationalising (or lack thereof). This is the time to be questioning things, to not just take things as they are, because for the first time in my life I am on my own.

Amongst all the new things that I have learned and grown in (more so outside of the class than inside), the most important are; my faith, how to care for myself, the fact that I know little about myself and what I want to do with my life and learning to be okay with this.

It feels amazing to be on summer break and back with my parents at home but there will be a few things I’m going to miss about college over the next 3.5 months. I will miss going downstairs to get Andrews pizza at midnight. I will miss my beautiful dorm with its beautiful sink (Andrews perk). I will miss being surrounded by lovely peers. I will miss the special and kind people that have come into my life. I will miss RUF on friday nights and worship at church. I will miss conversations that range from pointless and random to deeply philosophical. I will miss sharing meals with friends in dinning halls. I will miss the quaint and pretty campus. I will miss being a freshman.

Still learning,

Shirin

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Funny, strange Americans…

I’ve often heard people say ‘Americans are pretty weird’. I can see why now.

This is my second time coming to the US but I can hardly remember my impression of America the first time (I was eight) so pretty much everything was new and fresh for me this time round. I’ve been here for just over a week and this week has been like an acclimatisation period.

The term ‘weird’ is relative so I guess different would be more acceptable. Things are done ‘differently’ in the US. Every country is in various aspects (some more than others) different and unique in it’s own way but America- America is very unique.

Here are a few reasons why:

1) America does not use the metric system. I arrived in LA on the 19th and as we left the airport en route to down town, the driver mentioned the distance we had to travel. I didn’t realise till after that he was using miles. I still have no idea how far a mile is. Feet, inch, yard and Fahrenheit are also completely useless units to me. Pretty much everywhere else uses the standard Celsius but here, most weather forecasts are given in Fahrenheit.

2) Price labels don’t have the tax included. How are you supposed to know exactly how much you have to pay? During the first few days I kept forgetting that tax is excluded in the price and thought people were overcharging us. I know that tax is different among the States, but would it really be such a pain to display prices as exactly what you would actually be paying??

3) Tipping. This took me ages to get accustomed to. How much to tip? Who to tip? Do you wait for the receipt at your table? Also, Americans have a very trusting and blasé attitude towards credit cards. You hardly need to use pins and only after they swipe your card do you put down how much you want to tip.

4) I don’t know if it’s just me but a lot of toilet seats are unusually low. There is also a lot of water in the bowl. The flush seems way more forceful. I don’t even know how to explain this without sounding bizarre but I swear the toilets are different here.

5) There are words that mean slightly different things over here (I guess this one applies to many English speaking countries). The number of people that don’t understand what a rubbish bin is, is just shocking. No one uses a bathroom cubicle, they use a stall. A girl thought I was referring to driving when I mentioned a ‘fullstop’. I also still refuse to replace my ‘s’ with a ‘z’.

So I’m feeling a bit like a FOB right now but hopefully I’ll get adjusted soon. There is so much to see and do and I can’t believe tomorrow is our last night in New York and also my last night of ‘vacation’ before I’m off to college. Being an international student will be an entirely new experience for me. I’m sure that as an international student I will come across many more unusual things that Americans do. 😛

Endings and beginnigs

I have left the land of the long white cloud. I have taken flight from my nest. I have ventured into the next great adventure. This is the cheesy, obligatory new beginnings/ current emotions/update post.

On Saturday I woke up at the very glamorous hour of 3am to head to the airport in order to catch a 6.30am flight to Melbourne. Going to Australia is like the warm up, the tepid transition. A physical and metaphorical transition. I always thought packing and leaving Auckland would cause a lot more jittery excitement for me but I have been oddly calm. I think I was so excited and anticipating this moment for the past eight months that now that it has come I am thinking about what this change really means. Without the utter excitement and happiness from getting accepted to my dream school I can rationally sit down and contemplate the full weight of what moving halfway across the world to attend college actually entails.

Eighteen years of my life have become the sum of right now. And right now, it’s more than just the fact that I’m going off to college. The transition of moving onto this next chapter has sparked many facets of new changes. I am moving away from home, I will be living independently; I am about to learn things and meet people that are all entirely new for my still callow self. It’s only natural to feel scared and a bit apprehensive right? What if I make no friends? What if I bit off more than I can chew? What if…

You spend so long imagining what you would see and touch and experience and when those moments are actually happening to you, it feels surreal. You struggle to find words to describe your overwhelming influx of emotions. It’s a bit of this and that. I am a boggling mess of emotions and uncertainty. This really is a teenage-girl-drama-queen moment at its finest. I will probably look back at my current state and laugh at myself.

After four hours of flying we arrived at Melbourne airport. I had a mini heart attack moment when we were collecting our luggage from the carousel. Two of our three checked in bags arrived promptly but after we waited for about 20 minutes there was still no sign of the third bag-which also happened to be one of mine. When we finally decided that perhaps the airline had lost my bag we went to find a staff. Coincidentally as we walked past a group of luggage my dad spotted one that was very similar to mine. Mind you, when you have a dark blue luggage that pretty much resembles any standard bag, every bag looks as if it could be yours. But thank goodness it was mine. Almost crisis averted!

This is our third and final night in Melbourne. I swear the past few days we have just walked and walked and walked. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed our time in this rich multicultural hub with its eclectic arts scene but the walking across the city has been intense. The constant walking from morning to night each day is counteracting my consumption of yummy and possibly not healthy food- I hope. Melbourne has a plethora of Italian and Greek cuisine and the coffee/café culture is very popular. The quirky and intimate laneways throughout the city are also very prominent and worth checking out!

Tomorrow morning will be yet another early start but this time we are en route to LAX! It’s finally sinking in. I guess flying from Melbourne to LA has made me a lot more aware and excited than I was for flying from Auckland to Melbourne. I am tremendously excited and looking forward to my arrival at school but also sad at how quickly things are and will change. I can’t say that I am a different person now, but over the past year from college applications to this gap year, gradually I have changed. I hope to keep documenting my journey at college and one day I will look back and see how college has shaped me. I don’t know what to expect but I know it will be an adventure.

It’s been real; it’s been good but its time for college!

An incoming freshman, class of 2018,
Shirin

To learn list

Recently I started reading the book ‘Hacking Your Education’. I’m halfway through the book and I can safely say this is a valuable read to any high school graduate. No scratch that- this books offers invaluable ideas and advice to anyone.

 

In a nutshell ‘Hacking your Education’ challenges the traditional notion of formal education and advocates for students to embrace self- directed learning as opposed to blindly accepting education from higher institutions that often take antiquated and rigid approaches to learning.

 

Dale J. Stephens offers many ‘hacks’ as good starting steps to help cultivate a rich and well-meaning education. In one chapter, the author suggests writing a ‘to learn list’ as often we aren’t free to learn what we truly want in the classroom. An effective ‘to learn list’ offers precise learning goals that are related to our interests. Given my current ‘gap year’ status, I thought it would be a good idea to write one out myself. I think in the past couple of months I’ve been doing it mentally…

 

Without further ado, this is my (current) To- learn list: 

  • Learn enough economics so I can read papers and articles on the subject. (I have started Principles in Microeconomics on MIT’s open courseware already)
  • Learn how to make good coffees in a café  (If all goes well, work should cover this)
  • Learn the basics to psychology (Watch crash course on psychology on YouTube)
  • Learn how a mock trial works (Google would be a good starting point)
  • Learn how to create star trials in photography (same as above)
  • Learn the art of mastering a topspin serve in tennis (continue with weekly coaching)