10 Lessons from 10 Weeks at UR

When I packed my bags and left my home in Malaysia back in August to begin my college adventure here at Rochester, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I was apprehensive about the weather (arguably the biggest difference), living alone for the first time, and what my classes would be like. Fast forward about ten weeks, and most of my worries have been put to rest! I’ve already had a number of incredible experiences, and picked up some valuable lessons pretty quickly. Here’s some insights and personal lessons that I’ve learned in my time here so far:

1. Homesickness can hit hard.
The most important, yet frustrating, thing to remember is to be patient with yourself and give it time. Soon enough, you’ll be busy with classes, clubs, and friends that there won’t be much time to be alone with your thoughts. In the meantime, it might help to reach out to¬†other people who are going through or have gone through the same thing, as this can reassure you that you’re not the only one feeling homesick or questioning yourself. A really valuable resource is the CARE network, which either you or someone who cares about you can refer you to. They can help you to identify the root of your homesickness, depression, or struggles, and then connect you to other resources to help you. These could be anything from clubs, mindfulness activities, or even putting you in touch with a counselor. The bottom line is: don’t hesitate to reach out and get help when you need it!

2. Reach out and befriend the 15 or so people you see every day.
As I settled into my routine, I found that I was passing by or sitting with the same few people in my classes, and I started to make casual conversation with them. By making the choice to have a conversation instead of plugging in my earphones and avoiding eye contact, I’ve met so many interesting, unique individuals with common interests, and I’m happy to call them my friends now.

3. Don’t spend your weekends holed up in your room.
Honestly, I’m still guilty of this, but I’m trying to work on it! It can be really tempting to lie in bed or work in your room all day, but try to head outside and meet friends at least for a meal. If you’ve got a huge amount of work to get through, try to grab a few friends and head to the library. The change of scene and the atmosphere of the library is likely to motivate you to be more productive and less distracted, and it’s always nice to have company while working away! If you have the time, try to get off campus on the weekends too. It’s easy to become trapped in the blissful bubble of our beautiful campus, so take the time to explore Rochester and all it has to offer. Luckily, there are direct buses to places like the Public Market, Marketplace Mall, the movies and more on the weekends, so don’t miss out!

4. Stay active!
It’s so easy to lounge around and become inactive now that you don’t have compulsory physical education classes, but it’s incredibly important to get some form of exercise in so that you don’t stiffen up. Also, being active and breaking a sweat can be incredibly therapeutic, especially when things get hectic and you just need a break from it all. There are numerous sports teams to join, or you can take to the gym if that’s what you’re inclined towards. I actually joined a Bollywood dance group, Rochester Rangoli, where I learn energetic dances to some of my favorite songs with an incredible group of people. There are many such dance groups on campus, so if you’re looking for an alternative form of exercise and a way to meet new people, they might be worth checking out!

5. Check the weather every morning and make sure you’re dressed accordingly.
I’ve gotten caught in my fair share of morning showers and ended up in my 9am class drenched, which I could have avoided if I checked the weather and grabbed an umbrella or a raincoat before I left. The weather can also vary pretty drastically throughout the day, so make sure you layer appropriately so you can adjust in case a cold, rainy morning suddenly becomes a hot, sunny afternoon.

6. Be on the lookout for cheaper prices.
While most of us pick up our toiletries and essentials from CVS because of its convenient location in the middle of College Town, I found that I was able to find most of the items I bought for much cheaper at Family Dollar, which is a bit of a further walk. It’s a bit more effort, but it’s definitely where I’ll be heading next time I run out of shampoo. Saving that little bit each time can really add up over time, which is important when you’re on a college budget!

7. Try something non-academic once a week.
One of the goals I set for myself was to do something non-academic for at least one hour each week. I think this is so important in order to avoid getting burned out, and also to expand your interests and make new friends! One of my favorite clubs is the Hindu Students Association, which I joined and love being a part of. If you’re unsure of what to join or you’re overwhelmed by just how many options there are, try joining a cultural club. It’s a great way to find your community on campus, or to learn more about a new culture.

8. Budget and be mindful of how much you’re spending.
It’s easy to lose sight of this with things like dining dollars, but it is definitely possible to use up all your dining dollars before the semester is over if you spend without thinking, especially on the first-year meal plan! As such, try to create a weekly budget for how much you can spend in order to finish up your dining dollars only by the end of the semester. This will help you space out your spending so you’ll be able to get everything you want without using all your dollars up before the semester ends. Another way to keep your bank account in the green, particularly for international students, is to get a shared phone plan with other students. This splits the cost of a potentially costly phone plan over a small group of people, and so is a great way to save on an essential item.

9. Take class registration in stride.
Class registration is a super hectic and stressful process for everybody. Don’t worry if you don’t get all the classes you want when you first register, there’s plenty of ways to overcome this. Try your luck and email a professor asking to join their full class; it’s more than likely that they’ll send you the code to enroll. Additionally, if you check back in a few hours after registration or a week or so, there will definitely be some spots that have opened up as people shift around their classes and rearrange their schedule. Be patient and keep your cool!

10. Take advantage of the food pantry!
Did you know we have a food pantry on campus? I was amazed to find this gem on the first floor of Wilson Commons, and it’s open from 4-8pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. You can get five different items for one swipe each day, and there’s a variety of quick to-go breakfast foods, pasta, and even vegan options! This is such a valuable resource if you’re looking for more affordable food options, and it is definitely worth checking out and donating to.

While I’m by no means an expert yet on university life, it’s quite amazing to see just how much I was able to pick up in the ten weeks that have flown by since I first got here. I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I look forward to sharing more about my experiences here at the University of Rochester with you!

About the author

Esha Mardikar

Hello! I'm a first-year student originally from India, but I've spent most of my life in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I intend to major in economics, and I also have a love for history and philosophy. On campus, I'm involved with SA Government, the Hindu Students Association, and Rochester Rangoli! I'm also an IB alumni, and you can usually find me soaking up the sun whenever it's out!

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