10 Things I Learned From My First Year At Uni

One year abroad and I already feel all grown up. Here’s everything I learned from 12 months at NYU in New York City…
10 Things I Learned From My First Year At Uni
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Ines LadhaBy Ines Ladha -

Going to university was a big deal. It was the beginning of my adulthood, of living alone and hopefully discovering who I am. I just completed my first year at NYU and here is what I learned in just one year. I can’t even imagine what I’ll learn by the time I graduate:

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1) Accepting My Emotions

I learned that I can feel whatever I want and shouldn't be ashamed of it. I was often told that I shouldn't feel in public. If I needed to cry, I had to do it in private. If I was mad, I had to breathe in and out and get over it. However, when I moved to New York, I learned in my acting class that it was important to let your feelings out. Keeping everything bottled up takes a toll on your mental health. Because I started allowing myself to feel more instead of pushing it down, I became a lot more sensitive. But you know what, this is the best thing I ever learned. It taught me how to deal with my emotions, it taught me how to be human, how to respond. Thanks to accepting my emotions I feel a lot calmer when something happens because I only deal with the emotion of the current situation instead of everything that was bottled up.

2) Knowing I Wasn't Alone

I found people who are like me and share the same interests. Growing up in Oman in a high school that had 400 students and 60 students in my graduating class it was hard to find people who were similar to me. In fact, I'm the only one who followed acting and theatre as a major in college. Most of my friends went into med schools or law schools. In New York, the theatre scene is so big that it wasn't hard to find people who liked the same things as me. It was even weird at first to see other students like theatre. This group of friends has now become my community and a place of comfort and encouragement. And no matter what you like you’re bound to find someone!

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3) Learning To Stand Up For Myself

I learned to stand up for myself and not let people step over me. Back in high school, when someone would tell me something that I didn't appreciate, I would just laugh and pretend that it was alright. However, in my acting class, we would do this exercise which forced me to stand up for myself. My acting teacher, Karen, would constantly tell me to stand up for myself. And eventually, I did. When I went back to Oman, one of my friends had said something, and I must've replied with a sassy comment because he looked at me stunned and said: "Oh, she stands up for herself now". I was so shocked that he said that because I didn't realise that I stood up for myself, but I'm so grateful that I did.

"You have two choices. You can keep running and hiding and blaming the world for your problems, or you can stand up for yourself and decide to be somebody important."  Sidney Sheldon, Writer

Having a voice is so important, and no one should take it from you.

4) Finding Independence

I had to learn to navigate around the city on my own and travel on my own. I can tell you that Google Maps became my best friend very quickly. The city is confusing, and I have to admit that I got lost a couple of times. Okay fine, a lot. Once I learned how to navigate the city, I could do whatever I wanted and go anywhere. I felt so free. I also had to travel alone for the first time, and it was a ride. In the process of checking my luggage in, I learned about a little thing called visas. Sadly I had not filled for a Canadian visa since I thought I didn't need one as I was only doing a three-hour layover. But apparently, you do. It was alright in the end because I filled one, and it came in 10 minutes so I didn't miss my flight.

Camille Awbrey wrote for The Odyssey about how "I felt the need to validate my every move with someone else's permission, but in college, clearly that is not the case." Being pushed into independence taught me that I could achieve a lot more than I thought I could. It forced me to learn how to survive and that like Camille, I didn't need validation for my actions. 

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5) Celebrating My Quirks

I've always wanted to fit in. I mean who doesn't? I never changed myself in order to fit in but I was always self-conscious because I didn't want to do something that people thought was weird. When I left I realized that people really don't care about what you do. I learned that what I think makes me 'weird' is actually what makes me, me, like the babbling when I'm nervous.

“I find that the very things that I get criticized for, which is usually being different and just doing my own thing and just being original, is the very thing that’s making me successful.” Shania Twain, singer.

In fact, I need to use my quirks to my advantage and use them to create my path to success.

6) Stepping Out Of My Bubble

Growing up in the Middle East I was very sheltered from the realities of the world. It is so safe here that I've always been protected. So moving to NYC was a bit of a shock. Everything was so different. People were different, the weather was different, and the culture was different. Basically everything. But being immersed in this new culture made me look at the world differently. It made me try new foods, activities, modes of transport. It made me more aware of world poverty, mental health, and politics. The way that people live. It made me more open-minded and made me want to take a stand for what I believe in.

Shannon Cieciuch wrote for The Odyssey in her essay entitled Pop Your Bubble And Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone "life begins at the end of your comfort zone". And this is so true when you try something new, you discover yourself, and you learn about the world, and that's when the magic happens.

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Gals

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7) Making Real Friends

You know when someone says quality over quantity for an essay? Well turns out that it applies to friendships too.  In high school, I wanted to be friends with everyone. In fact, my best friend was friends with everyone. Everyone loved her. I wanted to be the same but it sadly did not work out. When I first moved to New York I figured that this was my chance to make my whole studio (my acting class) like me and I could be like her. This did not work out either. I get along with everyone in my studio but that doesn't mean that I'm close to everyone. I'm ok with that. I learned that I wasn't going to be close to everyone. I found a couple of friends that I'm really close to and who I know I can rely on. And it's better to know that I can trust them, then go around and hope that one of my 30 friends will be willing to help me out.

In a research project by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois they discovered what makes people "very happy". They found that people with close relationships and friendships were the happiest. If one has 30 friends it's hard to become close to all of them or even some of them because you'll be too busy fostering all the friendships. Therefore, if one has a couple of friends only then it's easier to become close to them and thus be a "very happy" person!

8) Discovering My Strengths

I've always been a family kinda gal. I'm close to my parents and because of that, I have separation anxiety. Leaving for college was a terrifying experience. But I had to do it, and because of that, I learned that I could do so much more than I thought I could.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” —Nelson Mandela

I learned that I can only achieve things if I take a risk. I have to believe in myself and know that I can do it. I have to trust myself and only then will I be able to push myself further and discover what I can do.

9) Learning To Accept Things

I had a "thing" with this boy near the end of my freshmen year. I liked him but things didn't go far. Our "thing" ended pretty quickly in fact. I learned that things happen for a reason. And if we didn't work out then it was for a reason and that we weren't meant to be which is totally ok.
Tiny Buddha wrote in their article 6 Life Lessons on Embracing Change and Impermanence "Embracing the situation can help you deal with the change effectively, make the necessary shifts in your life to embrace the change, and help you move forward after the event."

I have a similar technique with dealing with things that don’t go my way. When something doesn’t go right I usually have a “pity party” that very same day where I feel all the emotions. This allows me to get over something quickly and live life fully.

10) Becoming Confident

There's something so empowering about taking care of yourself and knowing your surroundings. I remember the first time I went grocery shopping for myself. I didn't buy a lot, only a couple of snack and some fruit but I felt so confident. I felt like I knew what I was doing even though I had no clue! I felt like being an adult gave me the capacity to trust myself and thus become confident. According to the University of Sussex, making decisions boosts your confidence. They mention that sharing skills and communication improves confidence too. When you teach someone what you learned it makes one feel confident and proud. This is a reason as to why one learns confidence in college.

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