What My School Was Yet To Teach Me
This may border on sounding nostalgic but I miss my school. I miss its warmth, familiarity and how effortless it was to start a conversation, to have the comfort of feeling at home and the quiet understanding between souls who understood both your words and the absence of them. Like most students, I have a few regrets of my time at school. Not paying enough attention is what tops the list and as a consequence, there were a lot of life lessons which only NUST could and has been arming me with.
What My School Was Yet to Teach Me:
– How to deal with feeling lost.
For most wallflowers, opening up to people takes time, effort and the art of never giving up. For me, socialising became a foreign territory more than ever before. Although the H-12 campus of NUST is quite literally one whole sector of Islamabad, the physical size of the campus may not seem as daunting as the prospect of befriending every soul who walks on it. Learning my way around the university was not as challenging as was remembering people’s names, their memories and what they look like when they need someone to talk to.
– Why and how to stay true to what you value.
At university, freedom arrives by the truckloads and students can say or do a lot more than they were allowed to in the safe places that classrooms back at school were. The university experience is a kaleidoscope of socially acceptable behaviour especially for young people all across Pakistan. So while the concept of cheating in an exam, skipping classes or completing assignments at the very last minute remained strange to me, it may not have been a concern to those around me. This is why in my first semester of university, I learnt the brutally exhausting process of saying “No” and standing firm on the solid foundations of what I believe in.
– How not to learn a new language.
NUST houses more diversity than I have ever seen in another Pakistani university which, to be fair to the other universities, is because of its prime location, accessibility and range of educational experiences which it has begun to offer. Witnessing firsthand conversations in languages other than mine excited me in my first semester and at times I would find myself unabashedly eavesdropping in on conversations I could not make sense of. With time, the odd-sounding words became less of a secret I was no longer part of and I picked up on languages, dialects and accents without letting them making me sound like a trainwreck when it came to languages.
– How to carry home with me, wherever I am.
For students who have grown up in families serving in the armed forces and the government, “home” is a shifting territory as it is for most of my friends here at university. When I speak to them of what has attached me to the warm embrace of my city by the sea, I am constantly reminded of the people and places I have left behind. The nostalgia washes over me and douse my spirit but when times are tough, it is these memories which strengthen me. So when I miss how filling my Ammi’s cooking is, or the sound of Baba coming home from a long hard day at work, I begin to appreciate their silent gestures of love and caring more than ever before. Most people at the hostels love their independence but for me, it is this independence which makes me grateful for those who made me strong enough to be worthy of it.
– How to define a future.
From the very onset NUST promised that it has been “Defining Futures”, a grand term for the evolving process which each student goes through the very minute they step inside the campus grounds. I, too, was amongst those unsuspecting individuals who entered NUST thinking that my future was now irrevocably mingled with people who were wiser, more responsible and relatively optimistic. Though one trusts that life at university will be as adventurous and insight-giving as a road trip across Pakistan, we never know what we signed up for until we actually see it: living, breathing and very much ours to experience. I write to you, dear reader, as a freshman at NUST in a genuine and honest attempt to remind you that while our futures may have the absence of well-trodden paths, signposts and previously established landmarks, the journey ahead will be worth the effort.
– How to find and be a friend.
There will always be those lucky souls for whom friends are those people who they sat next to during Orientation or the ones who opted for NUST with them back at school or college. For most people, friends in the first semester are made while traipsing across the campus to get milkshake from C1, rushing during breaks to grab a Milo and having a conversation while brushing their teeth at the hostels. The transition to university is not effortless as people make it sound but most people are enchanted by the prospect of having a fresh start at finding people who share your worries, get your jokes and see the world from a point of view not quite different from your own.
– How to not let a grading system get to you.
Relative grading is a highly unpopular concept for students in the first year who are already battling with settling in the expectations of the professors, the administration and the family back home. An A grade is a feat and worthy of treating oneself to a plate of biryani from Concordia-1. But any GPA is not representative of the amount of time students at NUST spend studying, researching, getting their projects finalised and sorting out their nerves for presentations. The system is not absolute, it may never reward you on raw input alone so when you are handed out your result sheet at the start of the next semester, take a deep breath and know that the odds may have been in your favour.