Rainbow Rowell: University Survival Guide

Rainbow Rowell: University Survival Guide

I love people and I love having friends.

But I hate meeting people. And I hate making friends.

Which made the first few months of university especially painful for me. I’m probably the last person who should be giving social advice, but here are the best tips I have for surviving those first few months away from home. They’re probably most useful for people who are as socially inept as I was.

1. Get out of your room.

Even it’s just to sit by yourself with your laptop. Even if you like to sit by yourself with your laptop. You might meet other people who like to sit with their laptops, too, and you can maybe start doing this together.

Like Cath, the main character of Fangirl, I’m a huge proponent of Internet friendship. But it’s nice to have people in your life who can hand you a pen, give you a ride to the store, or share their popcorn. You can also be friends with these same people on the Internet.

2. Make eye contact. Say things out loud.

These seem obvious, I guess. But my instinct in new situations is to stare at the floor and fade into the walls. My second semester at school, I resolved to hold eye contact with people in classes, in my dormitory and in the cafeteria – rather than immediately looking down. I made a special effort to do this with boys, who terrified me. It was shocking how well it worked. I found myself getting to know people and learning their names.

This also led to me dating a guy I always saw in the line at the cafeteria. (Seriously: Un-creepy eye contact, “Hello” — it worked.) We broke up very painfully two years later, but I don’t think that undermines the validity of this advice.

3. Don’t get drunk. At least not right away.

Actually, my advice would be to avoid getting drunk until you’re 30. But really, really, don’t get drunk those first few weeks and months at school. You think it’s going to make it easier for you to get to know people, but really, it just makes you drunk. And then you’re drunk with strangers – which is sometimes fun, but sometimes tragic. And it’s hard to predict “fun” or “tragic” at the beginning of the night.

Also, if you show up at school and immediately start getting drunk to have fun, it makes you less resourceful about having other sorts of fun. Getting drunk will always be an option. Don’t make it Plan A.

4. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent yourself.

I mean, not just for the sake of it. University is an opportunity to experiment and try things on, to learn more about yourself. But don’t feel like you have to change who you are – or sacrifice the things you loved as a child at the altar of Becoming an Adult.

This is a big issue for Cath in Fangirl. She feels like she has to let go of everything that makes her feel safe and happy – her family, her favorite books, her fandom.

You’ll definitely change and grow when you leave home, but you’ll still be you. You get to bring the things you love with you when you grow up.

3 thoughts on “Rainbow Rowell: University Survival Guide

  1. Eeep wish I could enter this but I never went to Uni, I had a baby at 16 and life kept me away from higher education. Good luck to all who do enter, my best advise in any situation I suppose would be to try something new (like a new class/hobby) and learn what you can from the people around you :]

  2. I didn’t realise how much the “vital” core text books would tot up to. Buy all your text books second hand. If you’re not going to buy them, make sure the uni has enough copies as you’ll find all copies are on loan close to that deadline and panic will set in. And make the most of your first year. I wish I’d joined course-relevant society groups and gained more work experience in my first year. During my third year (the hardest and most stressful), I’m having to contact agencies for work experience to beef up my CV, which has eaten up crucial study time. Don’t leave gaining work experience until the last minute.

  3. What I’ve seen a lot of friends and people I know doing is going to Uni and expecting that having that degree is going to guarantee them a job instantly when they graduate. For some lucky people, sure! For others, it’s not that simple. Gaining valuable work experience during university, whether it’s volunteering or a part time job, try and relate that to something you want to do. Employers want references, experience, to know they can trust you. Sure, working hard for a degree is great, but a mixture of that and some good work experience is what bumps up your status. Also, create a LinkedIn page, and make sure you update your CV. Make the most of your time, don’t take it for granted.

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