It’s a Dog’s Life!

Note: I read my friend’s blog post about college and felt like sharing my own college experience.

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We all have some regrets about how college life has panned out so far. School passed by the way it did; for some reason, studying and scoring at least 95% seemed like the ‘done’ thing at the time—like a new school leaving ritual of the 21st Century. Months later, we were to realize being good at cramming a series of godforsaken facts and regurgitating them at the will of the examiners was no skill at all. Had we tried for a World Record at memorizing the largest number of digits of pi or the names of random people, it might have reaped better results.

College was supposed to be a great leveller—giving us a level playing field to go out and conquer the world with the new found wisdom of ‘Marks don’t get you anywhere in life’. Out of the frying pan and into a pressure cooker—that’s what transitioning from school to college turned out to be eventually.

New faces, new teachers, new hallways, new classes—sadly, those weren’t the only things that were new. For the first time in our entire academic life spanning some fifteen odd years—accounting for the years spent in play school, nursery and kindergarten—it seemed alright to go through classes without listening.

It was supposed to be prestigious attending one of the best Arts colleges in the country—an empowering experience. It was anything but. On some particularly bad days, we wondered whether the ‘commendable’ performance in the Boards was a fluke. From school, thinking we were capable of doing something great one day, we came to college where it was uncertain if we could even get through the dastardly assignment the next week. For the first time, we could relate to the disbelief of the so-called ‘average’ students in class who scoffed when we bemoaned our ‘measly’ 80% on a test.

Change is always hard to accept but the transformation from the comforting and genial environment of school to the terribly stifling atmosphere of college has been exceptionally difficult.

The first semester was spent recovering from the shock of coming across other kids our age who could solve wretched calculus problems mentally. The time we took to understand the blasted question was more than the time they took to solve it. The end semester result felt like the final blow to the stomach.

The second semester was no better; in fact it was much worse. Somewhere down the line, we even stopped carrying a notebook, pen and pencil—the holy trinity of college supplies. The second semester’s result was even worse; if the first semester was rock-bottom, the current one felt like a bottomless pit.

The third semester started on a somewhat ambitious note; our ego was bruised beyond measure. What has become of us?—we asked ourselves as we wondered how casually we squandered our time and potential. Undoing fifteen years of back breaking academic work is no easy task. The daily pep talks, trying to keep ourselves afloat by reminiscing about a glorious history long past. The Boards—easy, rewarding, a haven for those of us whose motto in life is ‘minimum input, maximum output’—had ended long ago and it was time to awaken from the academic slumber we had slipped into the past year.

‘We just need to apply ourselves to coursework like before’—but the recovery is unimaginably hard. It was wrong to assume a year-long mental sabbatical would have no impact on our academic performance. The most intricate network of neurological livewires had lost its spark sometime the previous year. Rekindling the mental fire is hard, hard work. The third semester’s result was somewhat of a consolation to the raging beast of insecurity and inadequacy within but the road ahead is long and weary.

Till date, we’re trying to find the lost joy of learning—when we learnt for the sake of learning and ‘good marks’ were only a by-product of voraciously devouring whatever reading material we could get our hands on. We’re trying hard to keep our head in the ‘zone’ and hopefully, the time isn’t far when we’ll open our books voluntarily—without the pressure of an upcoming ‘internal assessment’ weighing us down. Open our books precisely for the little, ornamental boxes of case studies we’re never tested on in the exams—simply because they set our nerve endings on fire and enable us to learn something new, something ‘extra’, something above and beyond the routine coursework we’re prescribed to complete.

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