It wasn’t too long ago that I set foot on this campus for the first time.
I still remember how awestruck I was by the gorgeous campus, the sense of achievement and meaning, the hope induced by the opportunities the college offered, and the overwhelming joy and support that my fellow classmates and student leaders gave me.
However, I also distinctly recall being intimidated by the grandeur. I had an intense fear of being far away from home, and a crippling confusion of not knowing how to navigate this new life that I’d been thrown into.
While there was much to love about coming to campus, the negative factors balanced it out. Much of this negativity came from the uncertainty of novelty.
It is with the purpose of overcoming this negativity that I write to you, my past self. To give you some guidance on how you should go about your first year, now that I have completed mine.
Firstly, despite your nature, be organized. My wallet, toothbrush, phone – I can’t count how many times I had to haphazardly look for these items because I’d misplaced them. Or simply because a stray piece of paper decided to lie on top of them.
Be especially aware of losing the essentials the University gives you. These include your key card and your room keys. These are the most important, and ironically, the most likely to be lost. You are totally helpless on campus without them, and lest you desire to depend on someone else for the rest of the day, do not lose them.
Time is precious. Each second wasted is time you could have spent studying, socializing, or otherwise improving yourself. I must have lost about an a week of time if I added up the hours I spent looking for misplaced items. Please, always find time to put things in their proper places. You may think it smart to take the shortcut and place your things wherever, but it’s not smart. Trust me. The amount of time saved by placing things randomly will be more than lost when you’re searching for said things.
Furthermore, be organized not only when it comes to your belongings, but be organized in all that you do. Have a plan. Organize your schedule, your long and short-term goals, your friend groups, your free time, your very next moves and even the way you think about things.
There is an order to most things. A step-by-step progression. The more you document these steps and are prepared to take them, the faster and the more effectively you can get things done. If there is anything that debating has taught me, it is this: The importance of organizing everything, down to the very way you think.
In the format of debate that I partake in, you’re given a topic to argue for or against and you’re given a very short time to prepare and present a convincing speech. To do this in such a short time, you must be able to gather your thoughts rapidly, ensuring that you leave out nothing important. Being organized allows you to efficiently identify what you need. It will allow you to make the most effective use of your time at the university.
Thirdly, If there’s one thing I learnt in economics, It is the importance of prioritization. We have unlimited desires and limited resources. The most prominent of these limited resources is time. In my first semester, I joined several clubs – the Debate Union, Engineers without Borders, the Pan-African Students Association. But by the end of the semester, I was down to being involved in only one of these.
Make no mistake, although the year has just begun, the amount of actual “free” time that you’ll have will likely be very small. It’s essential that you prioritize not only your club activities, but whatever you spend your time doing, and make quick work of the time you have.
It is imperative that you focus on what is important, and refuse to allow less important activities to distract you. Ensure there is a hierarchy for what you do, and work from top to bottom.
Lastly, remember now and always, that “fortune favors the bold”. As a first year, it can often feel intimidating being at the “bottom” of the school. To feel that you have no voice, or worse, that you have no right to have a voice. I can recall numerous times in meetings where I refused to speak up, because I believed, being new, that I didn’t have “the right” to express my ideas. I can recall numerous times when I refused to approach a teacher for possible research or other opportunities, simply because I didn’t think I was good enough yet. And in the latter case, yes, perhaps I was not “good enough yet”, but now I will never know. It’s quite possible that I missed out on a massive opportunity.
At the very least, I missed out on the chance to prove that I am someone who is invested, someone who’s not afraid to take initiative.
Today, I’m constantly reminded of an anonymous quote — “Ask for less, receive less”.