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Welcome to freedom...

And to the problems that you must now sort out on your own as you experience your first year away from home report Pankaj Mullick

education Updated: Jul 07, 2010 10:10 IST
Pankaj Mullick

It’s been a long journey. All of you have got through school – some with flying colours, others not so much – but still, the time for uniforms is over. You even managed to do the runaround and manage admission despite the confusing maze of colleges and courses. Finally, it’s the time to fulfill that craving for independence, the seemingly no-holds barred existence with late nights, eating what you want, when you want, wearing anything that suits your fancy and discovering things about yourself that you never could do under the eagle-eye glare of your parents.

If that sounds utopian, well, it is. Living on your own can be some of that but it comes with a lot of responsibilities. Else you will find that things unravel quite fast and before you know it, you are making frantic calls home pleading for forgiveness and some assistance in getting your ‘independent’ life back on track. And over the course of taking responsibility for yourself, you realise that a lot that your parents kept harping about stands true. We explore some of the problems you are likely to encounter as you set up your home away from home and get started with college.

I want my mommy!
Homesickness may just be the first thing you might encounter. Even if this is not the first time that you are staying away from home, you may start missing home as the daily grind of college-to-hostel-to-college takes its toll. And it’s not necessarily a problem that goes away with time.

“This is the basic problem which I think is felt by most people. I know for a fact that all my outstation friends feel a bit of nostalgia. I just try to roam around Kamla Nagar, go to my friend’s house or I go with them for a movie. I think it really helps,” says Shweta Singla, a third-year B Com student, who studies at Sri Ram College of Commerce. While distraction works for Singla, one way to temporarily cure this affliction is to call your family members and have long chats. Of course, that may have the exact opposite effect and you end missing home even more. Thus, the only way to cure these blues is to actually go home.

Ironically, as you spend a few days at home, you start missing your friends, your college, your ‘customised’ room, your new life, and most of all, your freedom. Give it up to the human condition and bear it.

Your space invaded
As you set up your home away from home, you realise that your pesky sibling was probably a better roommate than one (or two) that you’ve just acquired. For one, you might have had no choice in who shares your room, and that to some is irksome enough. Two, you are in for a real treat if your roommate has habits that you don’t share or look down upon. Smoking, for instance, can be very irksome to non-smokers. If you’re lucky, the powers-that-be of your new abode may strictly enforce bans on such habits. Your wilful roommate may still try to dodge the authorities and continue with something that irritates you.

While confronting them is certainly an option, do this calmly and without raising your voice. Deal with it rationally so that there is as little bad blood between you as possible. Sometimes though, the problems are less simple and irritate one at a different level. “It was in the first year of my college that I had to deal with a situation. My roomie was a great person but made it a habit of judging me from a moral standpoint all the time. She made it seem like I was losing my soul to the big city while she was the guardian. I think of myself as a mature person who has always been encouraged by my parents to learn to take care of myself. This is why I found it even more irksome that someone who I hardly knew and vice versa, was sitting in judgment of what I was doing. I finally requested the hostel authorities to change my room,” says Swati Krishnan, who recently completed her history honours from Lady Sriram College.

Her college mate, Iti Pandey, faced someone who almost seems like a roommate from hell. The problems her roommate challenged her with ranged from a personal hygiene problem, not cleaning up after herself, taking clothes without permission and general lack of responsiveness. “I finally confronted her about the issues and most things got sorted out either through that or by efforts I made along with others who were sharing the room,” says Pandey.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that you will always face trouble. “I have always been lucky to get good roommates. I have lived in hostel for 10 months in a room shared by four people and have never faced any problem,” says Anshika Dwivedi, who hails from Lucknow and is doing her MBA from Amity in Noida.

So little time
Suddenly, the whole world has opened up to you. You have developed a roaring social life and college seems like a blast.

There’re so many societies and activities that you can be part of that you start wondering where all these talents were hidden when you were in school. Of course, studies are running on a sort of autopilot but there’s always time to catch up on them, right? Wrong. College life tends to be very different where at least the good colleges and contentious lecturers insist on regular studies. The results of this regularity are required to be displayed by working hard on various assignments and projects.

“I did lose my way during the first year and had to work very hard to resurrect my reputation with my lecturers in the second year,” says a student of Kirori Mal College, who requested anonymity.

He is now on his way to taking up a job through campus placement after completing his B Com (Honours). He says that this placement has come about thanks to that resurrected reputation because his lecturers’ recommendations were sought before the appointment letter was handed out.

Striking the right balance might come as a challenge especially to those who had to be prodded in school by their parents to study. While the no-restraint lifestyle might seem like heaven at first, grades are likely to suffer and the dream will sour.

You call this food?
This is one problem that everyone will identify with. Mother’s homemade food, which didn’t seem all that great and you just took it for granted, will suddenly seem like manna sorely missed. “The mess facilities are very bad here because of the contract has been given to local people and the quality goes down everyday,” says Dileep Kumar P K, a Keralite who is doing his M Phil in international studies (urban /rural) and sustainable urban development from

Jamia Millia Islamia.
One can look for options outside of the mess facilities but many of them are either not sustainable or are too expensive.
Some others, though, just have trouble adjusting because mothers tend to customise menus to personal choices to keep kids happy or just to keep the peace.

“During my first year, I had a bit of problem because I am very choosy. But now I have become used to the food. Our hostel is really good and we get many cuisines like Punjabi, south Indian, Chinese etc. So, now food is not a problem at all,” says Swinder Kaur, who hails from Chandigarh and has spent two years in Delhi while staying at Saraswati Niwas in Jawahar Nagar. She’s a student of B Com (Honours) at Sri Ram College of Commerce.

Taking responsibility
At home, you would dump your clothes in the machine and find them washed and ironed two days later. The food would appear at every meal time. If you were ill, parents instantly knew and accorded you special care. It’s almost like there was magic at work.

Now though, those soiled clothes will sit for as long as you want. Food, in case you want something special, will have to procured or you’ll have to go to have it. Feeling out of sorts but don’t really know what’s wrong? You might have had the flu for the past two days but are just not so aware of the symptoms to actually diagnose it.

With money, though you might have felt that your parents were always being misers, they were actually managing money while catering to your demands. Now,

when you end up broke on the 11th of every month, you wish you knew how they managed to always have money for your “unexpected” needs. However, you will

manage well if you keep a daily tally of expenses and always know how much you have left, says Kaur.


With inputs from Eva Mary Pangracious, Akansha Malik and Prachi Kathpal