Of Triumphs and Tribulations—College Through a Fresher’s Eyes
Few batches can boast of such an unexpected year. We saw it all, from the monotony of online classes to grand escapades of campus life to leaving it before the lockdown. The decision to join MIT was not easy, with some other colleges offering similar statistics. In the end, however, it all boiled down to the campus life, and MIT won my heart. With numerous clubs and a strong alumni community as proof of its growth, I knew I had made the right choice.
Although we couldn’t visit the campus, videos, blogs and photos of it made me excited. Our classes started online, and even the possibility of seeing it in person seemed distant. TechTatva, the flagship technical event of MIT, was our first glimpse of the kind of events that are held. The impatience of waiting to view our home for the next few years had reached its breaking point, and the notice calling students to campus was akin to being invited to a utopia.
Student Clubs and Projects
Advice from seniors and blogs were helpful when it came to packing the belongings we would need the most. Driving down to Manipal through the ghats was a dream. I could see the tall MIT buildings from miles away. A wave of exhilaration mingled with anxiety washed over me. Everything became real all of a sudden.
Although I knew a few people through my student clubs, the terror of being in a new environment was disconcerting. Apart from The MIT Post, I was already a member of Parikshit and IAESTE. Being a part of such dynamic teams taught me critical skills such as time management, teamwork and communication. Additionally, my technical knowledge in my domains also increased. There are hordes of other clubs and projects, each offering a unique experience and an opportunity to make lovely memories.
The Offline Experience
I reported to campus later than the dates suggested by the notice, allowing me to avoid large crowds. Consequently, I didn’t have enough time to explore Manipal before the oncoming end-semester exams. Breathing in the view at End Point and savouring the pasta at Egg Factory remain distant thoughts even today.
Coming from Bangalore, where pleasant weather is perennial, nothing could have prepared me for Manipal’s humidity. My only solace was the air conditioning in FC-1 and my hostel room in Block-22. What I remember most fondly from my three-week stay were the daily walks to the food court. The hurried breakfasts before an exam or lazy lunches on the weekends along with friends was a fun experience.
The exams were a frenzy of terror (due to challenging papers) and joy (of not having to study that subject again). I would often visit the Central Library, where you could choose to study independently or in groups in the rooms dedicated. For someone looking to get work done, the silence in the massive library is most helpful.
A Hurried Retreat and an Uncertain Future
Cases had been rising exponentially on campus. With no restrictions or foresight involved, a significant outbreak was imminent. Before we could complete our exams, the campus was declared a containment zone. Students who wanted to leave the campus had to do so within a day before the restrictions were enforced.
I booked a bus ticket out of Manipal. When I reached the campus gate with all my luggage, I found hordes of students waiting at closed doors. We were finally allowed to leave the campus after hours of wait. The following days saw an exodus of students and the number of active cases rising to over a thousand. Some students stayed back, experiencing college life through a glass stained by the pandemic.
The first year of college is significant from a cultural and social standpoint. It marks the beginning of your journey as an adult. How you act during this juncture shall play an essential role in your professional life too. The advice I got from some seniors was to join two clubs at the maximum, as that is all the time you can spare. I contend that this approach makes sense only if you know what intrigues you. If you are like me and clueless about the clubs that hold potential for you, join as many as you want. There is something to learn in all of them, and with time, the ones important to you will become apparent. Also, do not ignore academics right till the end, when the stress of completing the syllabus will overwhelm you. Branch change and hostel allocation in the second year rely on your GPA. My advice to all the new students coming in would be to explore. Explore yourself, your interests, your boundaries, and your freedom. Understanding yourself now will go a long way in making meaningful decisions in the future.
Featured Image Credits: Swaroop Diddi