Things I learned in my undergrad, the hard way!
3 and a half years later…
My undergrad is coming to an end (finallllllly) since there’s only one more semester to go which I’m unsure of completing (just kidding). If you are a student who studies in an Indian 2nd tier engineering college, you can completely relate to my glee — No more stupid examinations, mindless copying of un-useful assignments, attendance norms of >75%, not using mobile phones, college administrators giving a hard time, etc etc.
But there are plenty of memories which I would surely miss — going to an exam completely unprepared (still passing), watching late night football matches, going on unplanned trips, and of course making some lifelong friends.
Of course, I learned A LOT in my college life and it has been a steep learning experience; I even made some terrible mistakes and learned lessons which I think have been extremely important in shaping me but the mere fact that I went through a lot of bullshit and depression which could have been easily avoided makes it a terrible one.
I surely had some of the best time of my life, but to be honest, college has been really hard for me. Being a good student who couldn’t get into a Tier 1 college (because of my own mistakes), living and studying around people with such narrow mindsets made it even worse. The urge to drop out got stronger every week, but somehow I have made it till now. So here I am, sharing the things I learned, the hard way :
Make friends with your seniors and learn as much as you can before they leave. The best thing I could remember from my first year was interacting with my seniors. I still relate to them a lot and thank them for helping me figure out what I can do throughout my engineering. I even remember one of my senior telling me about how I will come across a time when everyone around me would be kicking asses, and I will still be figuring out my next move and it would still be totally okay. “Learn from the people around you, and believe in yourself.”
It’s okay to be different and to have your own views. It may sometimes be hard to understand why certain people are so different. But if you try hard enough as I tried to, you realize that for every action someone makes is a reason that stems from the first 18/20/22 years of his/her life and by meeting all these people who care so much about what they believe in, you suddenly learn how to stand up for what you believe in as well. You learn how to forge your own character, and not just be a conformist. You learn that it’s okay to be different and that it’s okay to be you because being different might just be the best thing you have to offer. Try to read, not because it is cool, but it makes you think. Try to question things you believe in. It could be anything, from political ideologies, to being an atheist, to believe in spirituality, try to question everything. As far as I am concerned, I truly believe that this nation is not going in the right direction with the current political scenario, and I can explain why I am an atheist but believe in spirituality.
It is the best time to learn because nobody cares if you fail. It is the best time to pick up new skills, to challenge yourself, and to learn things that you never thought of learning. It is the best time to learn because nobody cares. Nobody cares if you fail. Nobody cares if you like Philosophy, Acting, Sports or Drawing. It is the time when you realize that it’s okay to be different because out of the thousands of students, you’ll still find that one person who is just as different, just as crazy as you, and you may just find him/her doing similar crazy things as you do.
Value learning over scoring. Being an Indian student, you would always have been through a constant pressure of scoring high marks throughout your school life. In the college as well, most teachers won’t value learning and just good grades, but remember grades will never ever reflect how much you earn in the future. I am not saying this because I have low grades (I do) but grades won’t take you far if you have not learned, and just memorized. You need to learn “how to learn” or you fail. Once you get to the real world, this skill is probably one of the most important ones you can have. I realized this very recently that you can quickly become an expert, or go-to person, in any discipline if you have ambition and an ability to learn. And if you don’t know something, ask questions. Too many people think that asking questions make you look dumb. I have learned that the exact opposite is true. People respect that you are thinking through the problem and most people like to be in a position to teach others.
Learn how to network and never stop doing it. Networking doesn’t just mean going to conferences. It also means just being helpful to others that help others think of you when an opportunity arises or if you reach out to them for help. I have learned that the ability to network can get you access to a lot of things: old tests, helpful hints, professors to avoid, intern opportunities, etc. The best place to start is probably hanging out and talking with your fellow students, seniors, and even professors. Doing this will introduce you to former students, and similar folks who can help you remove obstacles to your success. But keep in mind that networking is about giving and taking. Don’t just be a leech. When you are in a position to help, go help.
Work for startups. I was lucky enough to work with few startups: Swapcard , Typeset , and Scapic . I can even say that before I interned at Scapic, I thought I knew things but was good for nothing. Working at startups help you learn a lot about how companies work, you get to build great contacts, and you get real responsibilities to work with.
Be aspiring, insanely aspiring. This would be my most hard learned lesson. Be aspiring. Don’t ever think that you cannot achieve something. Just work hard for it, and mark my words, you’ll get it.
Find something you love apart from studies. During your college life, try to find something that you love and try to pursue it. For me, it has been traveling and football. Before coming to the college, I never traveled around, but after 3+ years, I have been to 8 countries, and the experience has been mind-blowing. Once you start traveling and meeting people, you will realize that it impacts you in ways you can’t even imagine.
Heartbreaks will happen and you’ll get over them. Heartbreaks happen. I had mine in the second semester, it was terrible and I thought I would never get over it. 3 years later, I am happy that it happened. Had a breakup? Go. Learn something new. Read a new book. Play for favorite sport. Breakups are really cliche but you know what, time heals everything.
Choose your friends carefully and be there for them. Be the Messi to someone’s Suarez. If your friend needs you, be there for him/her, don’t be that guy who never shows up.