What to watch out for as a freshman in Ethiopian Higher Education
When I first found out that I had to move 780 kms away from home to study at Mekelle University, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. No one told me exactly what I’d be facing. They either sugar-coated it or didn’t give me right amount of information. But after all, it is the 21st century so I thought I would find something on the net so I Googled it. I did find a few things but the tips and warnings I found on a few blogs were not suitable to the typical Ethiopian campus. They were more for higher education centers in western parts of the world. So I’m here to mention a few of not all of the challenges you are likely to face as a new student in an Ethiopian Higher Education Facility.
1) Money! Money! Money!
There is always a visible difference in levels of maturity between campus students that live away from home and students that live at home. I’m clearly saying this to persuade students who stay at home for fear of the change of scenery and responsibility not to do so. It’s obvious that when we live at home, every meal is served to us, we find warm clean laundry and we do not worry too much about where our meals come from so we spend much of our allowances elsewhere. But as a campus student you have to provide for yourself and you do worry about where your next meal comes from. I personally don’t recommend the university provided cafeteria food unless you are super confident about your immunity. So there needs to be a certain budget you require from home. Because keep in mind you have to buy your food, sometimes your drinking water, your personal toiletries (your deodorants and razors for men, your pads and perfumes for women and the common others like tissue papers, soaps, and etc…), your stationary (papers, notebooks, pens, etc…) and several other things you might use.
I guess we all know the common denominator to all this. Money. We’re going to need money and while no amount will seem enough, I recommend you set a budget before you jump into anything. I was asked to put a number here on what amount of money you will need to survive at campus. I am not going to do that because I do not want to make anyone uncomfortable because they can’t afford it or too confident because they can. I will say this though, think of the things you will use and will need out there and make a budget list, you will find more or less the amount you need.
Tip: When that generous relative you see once every two years offers money, kiss hands and accept. Do not shy away from any source of cash.
2) Night and Day shift
There were times when I used to call home in the middle of the night thinking it was still early. Yes, I do own a watch but there’s a work load you cannot begin to fathom. Assignments and studying will keep you up nights and mess up your whole sleeping routine. In Mekelle where I am, we tend to sleep in the day sometimes just to pass the hottest times in the afternoon and we work during the windy nights. I do not mean to scare here. It’s nothing you won’t get used to. It can even be enjoyable if you do it with your dorm mates.
Tip: While sleep is always a sweet and welcome idea, it will not do you any favors in campus. I advise you to regulate your sleeping habit if you have certain fixations on it.
3) That Boy / That girl
We’re all romantics at heart. We all want that movie romance and campus is where most people see it happening. It’s difficult to say the real thing doesn’t exist but those cruel college love pranks we hear about also exist. While there are people out there looking for the real thing, there are also people just looking to mess around. We all think it’s going to be different with us but there is a big chance where that won’t be the case.
I generally don’t recommend hooking up in fresthman year. To those who might argue that love is lawless or something, I say better safe than sorry. It’s always better to be familiar with the environment and our society before we do anything.
There will be that cute guy/ girl sitting in your class you most likely will have a crush on. Or there could be that person who insists has fallen in love with you first day in. what I can say here is, know how to deal with this scenario. Don’t appear too dismissive, you might get a whimsical nickname out of it. Don’t be too easy either; it won’t do you any favors. You could be friendly and reasonable. Be smart. Don’t let the promise of what might be love be the reason you can’t focus on your studies.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to say NO. You can do it nicely, you know.
4) Be resourceful
Campus has the kind of resources that test your patience. Our country lacks several basic proper administrations when it comes to several things we may need. But that doesn’t mean we can’t handle it. You need to know your way around the campus. There are several shortcuts for survival you need to get a hold of if you know what I mean. You need to communicate with people for information but be careful how you filter that information though. There could be several people out to set you up.
Tip: Here are a few things you might want to seek. Pack a first aid and a sewing kit. (Trust me when I say it comes in handy). You might want to look for any family connections you might have in the city. You don’t have to stay with them all the time but they can be useful for emergencies.
5) Peer pressure aint a myth
I remember a lot of my friends used to say that they have self control and that there was no way peer pressure would get to them. That’s because most of us don’t understand how peer pressure basically works. You don’t need to be asked do the drugs or handed the beer bottle. You’ll see your friend doing it; he seems fine so maybe it’s okay if you do it too. That’s how it works. For us to be victims of addictions or related problems, we don’t need to be asked. We’ll be tempted and it’s something we think we’re “trying”. As a campus student, you’re likely to be exposed to one thing or another at some point. Don’t ever do something you’re not comfortable with and know that no one can really make you do anything you don’t want to do.
Tip: I’m not against having fun. But make sure you’re not falling into something you can’t climb out of. Don’t just say you have self control, have self control. There are pretty series demons out there. Pregnancy, financial issues, STDs, embarrassing yourself in front of everyone, disappointing the family….to name a few.
6) Be open to diversity
They call Ethiopian universities, little Ethiopias. That’s because there are people from literally every corner of the country. And recently south Sudanese pupils have come into the mix. There will be people everywhere around you and they’ll all be so different from you. Different religious and political views, different language, different traditions and cultures, different views and opinions.
Racial slurs and misunderstandings happen a lot. My advice is don’t get involved because these disagreements tend to get messy. Practice what you learned in your civics class if you ever paid attention. “Tolerance in diversity”
There is an incredibly rewarding side to this diversity. You can learn several languages, and see how some people live. You can learn about several views and opinions and cultures. All these people you meet can have a very inspiring effect on you.
Tip: Never EVER get into an argument where you declare your view or religion or culture is better.
7) A crew? A gang?
Call it what you will, you’re gonna need it. You may not be the type to mingle, you maybe a social butterfly. But you need a few people who you know will have your back. Meals are a common affair which people normally don’t do alone. Studying and going out also needs a few people. So I say chose them carefully but have a few people to hang out with. They’re one once who’ll have your back when you get into a fight, the people who’ll lend you money when family cash is late (or you wipe out early), the people you’re most likely to experiment several things with, and the people you study with. These are the people you make your campus memories with.
Tip: Choose them carefully and make sure they don’t take advantage of you. If they aren’t worth it, you can always ditch them.
We may have hated our family when we were with them. But trust me when I say, we miss the most annoying one the most. Let’s remember to keep in touch with them no matter what our relationship with them may have been.
We’ll miss our friends as well. I have been asked if we actually keep in touch with our friends from high school when we’re away at campus. People tend to drift apart sometimes. But you have all the power to avoid that. Ted Mosby said “…when you find someone you wanna keep around forever, you do something about it.” So call your friends a lot. If you’re that tight, meet each other halfway; spend your breaks with them like you were never apart.
Tip: Don’t feel too bad if you can’t keep your high school friends. You can always make new ones in campus. They say friends we meet in college are the ones we keep for life.
9) Know your neighbours
Campus can be a fresh start. Not a lot of people know who you are. While it’s a place where you discover yourself in the independence, you can also decide who you want to be. In a place with no authority over what you do, you can develop into the person you want to become.
However, you will be met with several things as a freshman student. I’m sure you all heard about seniors bullying and pulling pranks on freshman students. It can be pretty difficult. I have not been a victim of this but all the people I’ve talked to assured me that it does get better. It gets old after a while.
There’s also verbal abuse and theft from your own people. You do not know the person sleeping in the same room with you so I’ll remind you to keep your valuables in check. Lock and key aren’t enough until you’ve gotten used to your dorm mates. And it’s not just your dorm mates. It’s good to know who your neighbors are. I have a theory that works about how you can build some respect so you don’t get your stuff stolen. Sharing some of your things with your dorm mates is pretty common. So don’t let them go through your stuff without your permission, but do share. Set up a boundary where you don’t let them pass the line towards disrespecting you.
Tip: If the seniors tell you there’s a ghost on campus, they’re kidding.
10) Don’t lose sight of what’s important
You know first and foremost why you are at campus. It’s not for the hot chicks or for the bunk beds. It’s to make somebody of yourself. Keep in mind when you’re enrolled in a higher education, something is expected of you. There shouldn’t be something to distract you from what you went there to do. Your schoolwork should always come first. Or you’ll regret not having worked up to your potential when your grades come. This feeling of failure is not to be taken lightly. It can be quite depressing.
The school work is not as hard as you probably heard. In fact, there may not even be much new material to learn. You might need to put more effort and time into it than you did in high school because the scoring and teaching techniques maybe different. In spite all that, a good grade is not impossible. You just need to adjust yourself to a study routine more serious than the one you were used to in high school.
Tip: NEVER ditch class!! It’ll cost you a lot. Study smart and put time and effort into it. Stay motivated and inspired.
I hope I didn’t make campus look like a battle field. It can be difficult at first but it’s actually a rewarding experience. It’s a place where many shape their lives. I’ve tried to touch some subjects but I’ll be happy to personally answer any questions you may have regarding what to expect in campus as a freshman student. You can contact me through my facebook page or via studentethiopia.com.
Compiled by Qal Fessehaye