The Art of Belonging
Many people rejoice upon the ending of their high school life and the beginning of their university life. For many, the last couple of years of education before they jump to university level are often years they would happily forget. This is something true for both FSc and A-Level students since the exponentially more complex workload, coupled with the added stress of university applications, entry or standardized tests, building your CV, and so much, takes a heavy toll on students. It is understandable, then, why such a significant number of people are happy to leave that life behind and move on to something bigger.
I used to think along these lines until my freshmen year became marred by a global pandemic, a subsequent lockdown, and a wide plethora of other problems with no end in sight, which made me reminisce about the past.
Being shut in my home, or the campus hostel (thank you, NUST), for almost the entire year has definitely given me a lot of time to reflect over the past and remember the days gone by. During these times of musings that I started to realize just how much I took everything for granted. Nostalgia hits hardest during the waning hours of the night, while you sit alone on the roof with a cup of tea, your thoughts the only thing keeping you company. Maybe the current events were just causing me to look at everything with rose-colored glasses, but there could be no denying that the few years before coming to university were, without doubt, definitely some of the best of my life.
My five years I spent in O and A Levels in my alma mater LGS JT despite seeming tough at that time, are years I remember the most now. It was because, during that time, I had a sense of belonging, of being part of a group, of having an identity shared by hundreds of other individuals. I still fondly recall the pride I would feel wearing the black blazer adorned with the school logo. The numerous events I represented my school in are still etched in my memory, as are the chants that rang around the halls as we won. I still recall the friends I had made, people who became like brothers to me. I truly had the feeling that I was part of a family, a family several hundred strong and consisting of people from all walks of life, but a family nonetheless.
That sense of belonging, of being part of something big, is something which try as I might, I do not have now. I may have NUST’24 in my bio. I may announce proudly at every family gathering that I am enrolled at NUST. I may share the same institute as thousands of others. But for all that, I do not feel the same sense of belonging that I did in years prior. There is no sense of bonding between me and my institute, no belief in me that my university is a part of my identity. For me, it is simply the place from where I am receiving education and nothing more. And being almost a semester down and still not having a sense of belonging is almost quite worrisome.
Because I do recognize that the circumstances of my first semester have been far from ideal. Having several SOPs to follow and then shifting to online for half the semester is hardly going to be good. But I have made friends. I have started to partake in activities. I am actively involved in clubs and societies. Despite feeling like something is missing, I have started my journey in this university, and my hopes are high. Sooner or later, I will once again have that feeling of belonging that I used to. And hope is a powerful thing.