To the ones entering university in a new normal: Don’t be afraid
Your apprehension and nervousness are valid during these unprecedented times, so here are some ways you can better prepare yourself for what's to come.
When I first received my university acceptance letter, I’ll admit that I was one of the enthusiastic ones who subsequently felt both excitement and apprehension about entering a new phase in my life.
I’m sure this feeling resonates with those who are entering university in August as well – feelings of nervousness, uncertainty, hope, and ambition.
But right now, there’s a catch to the kick-start of this “university life” experience: You’re entering university online.
There’s a tinge of nervousness mixed with apprehension whenever we think about transitioning into a new phase of life. This is especially when a new phase of life involves meeting new people and making friends, finding a proper balance between studies and hall, or even co-curricular activities.
It can be difficult to fully embrace a new phase of life. And it might be further complicated by the ‘new normal’ brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are plenty of valid concerns over how universities will function now, with terms like “blended classroom” bandied around.
To be frank, the transition to university during this new normal will be different from what you’d expect it to be – that much is obvious. If you’re still feeling apprehensive, here’s a checklist of things you can consider doing before your university life starts, from my experience as a third-year Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student.
1. Have the initiative to make friends
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted most of our lives online and this includes Freshman Orientation Programmes (FOPs).
While such programmes may have made the news in recent times for the wrong reason, when done right, it is beneficial in helping people ease into the new environment, whether it’s hall, CCA or faculty-based.
It’s also the opportunity to make life-long friends. I daresay the close friends I’ve made in my two years in NTU are people I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
Take advantage of FOP even if it’s online. Make the first step to reach out to others in your Orientation Group. Introduce yourself and make friends. I know it’s difficult and you’re nervous about interacting with new faces but everyone feels the same!
Sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone may be tough. But always remember that university is a place to start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and having friends to journey with you during your highs and lows in your undergraduate years is truly comforting and fulfilling.
Another thing to note: Since most FOPs will be held online, there’s a potential for cyberbullying to happen (although I assure you it’s very unlikely). But if that happens, do sound out and report it.
2. Do your own research
Prep yourself mentally to enter a whole new world. Ask your batchmates, friends, juniors, seniors for their university experience. They’ll be more than happy to share what they’ve learnt and what could help you ease into university life.
Personally, when I first accepted the offer from NTU, I watched vlogs on YouTube to have a feel of what my life in university could potentially be like. While some of these vlogs might be a little cringe-worthy, it gives you a rough picture of your life in the next three to five years.
3. Get to know your syllabus and curriculum
If you’re still unsure of what you enrolled in, this might be a helpful tip.
Try to look up the current module offerings to have a sense of what you’ll be learning over the next few years in university – you can do so by looking at the list of courses offered.
For those whose courses are relatively new (e.g. Double Degree/Double Major Programmes being offered from the new academic year onwards), this might be difficult, but one good start would be to look at what other universities are offering in similar courses.
I’m currently studying public policy and global affairs and there wasn’t much information to help me out in that sense, so I looked at NUS’ political science and global studies syllabi to have a sense of what I would be learning.
4. Check out CCAs and other campus-related activities
If you thought the spread of CCAs in junior college and polytechnic was overwhelming, you’ll be blown away by the number of CCAs and campus-related activities available in each university.
Have a passion for hip-hop dance? Do you want to brush up your public-speaking skills? Or wish to take up a sport? Look through the list of CCAs each university offers and see what catches your eye.
University is (technically) the last chance to find out where your passion lies or explore what you want to do in future, so take this chance to explore something you’ve always been wanting to try – before society deems it too late to do so.
5. Balancing schoolwork and throwing myself out there
If you’re worried about balancing schoolwork and campus activities, here’s a reassurance: you’ll be fine. My advice to you as an undergraduate of two years is to be consistent in revising whatever you’ve learnt during lectures for the week and clarify any doubts you have early.
Do a recap over the weekend. Ask your professors a lot of questions (via e-mail or during their office hours) if you don’t understand or wish to clarify concepts they’ve taught during lectures. They love clarifications and oftentimes they’re willing to help. I’d like to think that professors are happy when their students are thinking of the content they teach.
Set aside time for weekly revisions if you’re planning to involve yourself in CCAs with greater commitment (e.g. school/hall management committees, sports teams, or performing arts clubs). Have a revision schedule before the final examinations and stick to it.
But above all, remember to have a balance between your academic commitments and social activities.
The good thing about university is that you get to plan your own timetables, so the onus is on you to plan your time wisely while simultaneously enriching yourself along the way.
Some parting advice from your seniors to ease into university life despite the new normal: It’s fine, don’t rush things.
Enter university with an open mind, a willingness to gain knowledge from your professors, and a big heart to network and make lifelong friends. You’ll find that even in this new normal, your transition to university is not so bad after all.
I hope these tips are useful to you!