1. Thou shalt get up early for class.
Even if your classes are at noon, chances are you still won’t wake up before it starts. In the long run, this can be a big problem because it can have serious consequences on your schoolwork. Don’t be influenced by the roommate who never wakes up to go to class or who oversleeps and has difficulty hearing their alarm clock.
2. Thou shalt sit in the front row.
“Yay, my professor can see me now.” Whether you go to a small liberal arts college with a low student-to-faculty ratio or huge research university with big lecture halls, you should sit in the front row if you want to succeed in your classes. Teachers will notice you and it’ll be easier to pay attention. If you start dozing off, sitting in the front row will snap you right back to class.
3. Thou shalt attend class.
Going to class is probably the most important thing you can do in college. Homework assignments, new ideas, and material that will appear on tests are explained during class. Missing more than three will knock points off your attendance grade at many colleges and universities.
4. Thou shalt help out students missed class.
Unless you have a very good relationship with your professor, don’t email them asking for homework; it reflects badly on you. If you help out a classmate who missed class and emailed you about homework and notes, they’ll return the favor the next time you’re sick or absent. But if you slack off too much, nobody – not even your classmates – will want to help you out.
5. Thou shalt be civil to your roommates.
If your roommate is slamming the door or frying up burgers in the wee hours of the night, you need to tell her it’s not cool. But for the most part, roommate problems should be dealt with respectfully. Since you’ll have to live with this person the whole semester or school year, don’t sweat the small stuff but stand up for yourself if she crosses the line. If she wants to eat your kiwi peel (true story), let her; it’s weird, but her gastronomic quirks aren’t harming anyone. If she doesn’t clean up the bathroom for one day, let it go. In the long run, you’ll realize that it’s much easier to live and let live.
6. Thou shalt be smart about your personal belongings.
It’s easy to get lulled into a sense of safety when you live in a dorm, but thefts do happen. Get a safety box with a lock if you need to store some cash or have valuable jewelry. During my first year of college, someone decided to take my Burberry perfume and makeup from my room. They weren’t stunningly expensive, but it irritated me to know that I wasn’t living in a safe environment.
7. Thou shalt not sign people you don’t know into the dorms.
Signing in people you don’t know as a favor to your roommate can seem like a nice thing to do, but what if the person you sign in causes trouble or ends up hurting people? That person then becomes your responsibility. Unless you’re willing to shoulder that burden, just don’t do it.
8. Thou shalt call home once a week.
It really depends on your relationship with your parents and what kind of person you are, but calling home will make mom and dad very happy. You’ll also feel less homesick and more caught-up with the people you care about.
9. Thou shalt stay in touch with old friends.
I don’t mean all the time, but emailing, calling, or simply Facebooking close friends every few weeks or month is rewarding. Relationships take work to maintain; invest some time in it. Knowing that you have good friends elsewhere in the world takes the loneliness of being in college away.
10. Thou shalt find your own niche.
It’s as important to make new friends as it is to keep old ones. Being part of a group gives you a sense of belonging and is one of the most fundamental parts of university life. That being said, be sure to give yourself enough alone time to clear your thoughts, set goals, and determine your priorities. In college, you come into your own as an individual. No one will have the same classes as you all the time, so learn to enjoy your own company and fend for yourself. Finding a personal hangout spot will help with this process. Try going to a campus cafe to study do some studying or get away from the general hubbub.
In conclusion, this is only a small portion of what you can do as a college freshman. Every person will meet different obstacles. In a large public university, some might feel the need to join a sorority or fraternity to find friends or engage in more lively activities. In an urban school environment, others might need to learn how to be more independent since there’s no one there to hold your hand.
Ultimately, your own personality, upbringing, and perhaps the core values of your school will affect your college experience as a whole. Try to make things work for you instead of waiting around for them, but also remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you’re unsatisfied with your college, it’s not the end of the world; you can always transfer. Finding the right fit can provide you not only with an education, but peers and experiences that you never thought possible.
“Life Beyond Beijing” is a series of posts that chronicles a former international school student’s experiences in college. This is the final installment of the series. They’re written by Elizabeth Wu, a returning beijingkids summer intern. A former student of BWYA and CISB, she just completed her freshman year of journalism and will be returning to The New School in New York City this fall. Good luck, Liz!
Photo credits (in order of appearance): Jellaluna, UC Davis College of Engineering, Tulane Public Relations, anitakhart, and baslow via Flickr