Even though it’s been only three years, my THINK Global School (TGS) graduation feels like a lifetime ago. I had never cried as much as I cried the day I left TGS, and I haven’t cried as much since.
I knew that my life was about to change drastically. I knew that I was about to face more independence than I had ever known before, that I’d be spending less time on planes, and I was afraid I would never meet the same type of people I met at TGS again. I was excited by the prospect of university though, excited to meet new people, join clubs and societies, maybe even try a new sport. I remember my first day at University of Southampton well; I spent hours walking around the main areas, taking in the glory of being on a university campus, trying to memorize the buildings and pathways. I was excited to become a “new person” at university.
What I came to realize was that the most challenging part of my university undergraduate experience was not actually the academic side as I had assumed. I felt pretty lucky coming from a boarding school like TGS, as living alone in a new country was not as difficult or daunting as it was for a lot of the incoming freshman. Despite this, the most challenging part of university was definitely the “adulting”. I think almost all graduates feel excited about the prospect of independence as they venture off to university. However, when you arrive, you realize you actually have to be an adult.
Adulting is real
When I arrived, I realized I was completely alone; I suddenly had to balance studying and cooking and cleaning and laundry, all while participating in extracurricular activities and attempting to be social. At TGS, we were independent to some extent, but there were many things we didn’t have to deal with that went by unnoticed. All logistical and administrative planning was taken care of by offsite and onsite staff, Reslife and/or parents. If food wasn’t already provided, we’d receive an allowance to buy food. At university, all of the logistical things are left to you, including managing your student loans, banking, getting a job, paying rent, paying bills– even deciding whether turning on the heating is worth the bill (yes, a legitimate conversation you will have with your housemates). You’re forced to learn pretty quickly how to deal with adulting, especially when something suddenly goes wrong.
At TGS, you have a community around you at all times. Your friends, Reslife, advisors, teachers and staff are only a knock-on-the-door away. To be honest, university is a much lonelier experience, and I went to a big university. I would often meet people and then never cross paths with them again. There’s not as much of a 1-on-1 relationship between students and professors. It took me by surprise, but I learned a lot about independence in my first year.
Another aspect of adulting at university revolves around managing a reasonable academic schedule, and again, it is up to you to plan this. Studying, keeping up with course curriculum and completing assignments is your choice. No one will chase you down to make sure you’re doing your work or to guide your success. At university, you can choose to schedule an entire day free from classes, or you can decide you want to schedule only one class in the afternoon. It is really easy to get into a lazy rut of sleeping in until 1 p.m. Adulting requires learning how to organize and discipline yourself. TGS definitely helped me cope with this as managing academics, traveling, and participating in activities was routine. The time efficiency and organizational skills I gained at TGS really paid off at university as I was learning how to balance everything.
As a Psychology student, I was required to take a few classes that I wasn’t necessarily interested in, and often felt the same way as I had while taking the IB. I learned that the most important part of each class wasn’t necessarily the content itself, but the skills you develop, such as essay writing, analyzing, thinking logically and critically understanding content. You won’t even realize how much you’ve grown until you read back an essay from freshman year and marvel at how bad you were at essay writing. When you realize this, you begin to develop an appreciation for every single assignment instead of simply viewing it as tedious and annoying. Someone once told me that I would never again be in an environment where I was learning so much in such a short space of time as in university. And it was true. University is not easy. It will discipline and humble you. And above all things, it will teach you to never take for granted the amount of knowledge you are exposed to.
The truth is, I didn’t become a “new person” at university. Although I feel so far away from who I once was, at the core I’m still the same person I was three years ago; I still like the same things, believe in the same things and value the same things. I matured and outgrew my adolescence, as we all do. While my yearning for travelling never disappeared, I also realized that you don’t need to take a plane to travel. Learning to be a home explorer, at the end of the day, is what TGS is really about– not being a tourist but a discoverer, and noticing the small and uncharted details of every place.
I remember one day while at TGS, I heard a student say, “I can’t wait to go to university and find my people,” and Lindsay responded with, “Your people are everywhere.” She was right– maybe you’ll never meet people like your TGS people, but you’ll meet like-minded individuals everywhere you go, who are just as curious about the world as you are. Leaving TGS may feel like greatest heartbreak initially, and you’ll definitely have withdrawals for some time after. Adulting is tough, but the tools, skills and friendships you gained from TGS will help you navigate as you enter the next stage of your life. Keep asking questions and looking beyond the surface and you’ll find yourself continuing to discover new things about the world, and ultimately, yourself.
by Luisa B.
TGS alumni, Class of 2014