To Freshies, With Love

Dear Freshie,

 

“ I’m in IIT Madras. I’m in IIT Madras.

 

Wow! Is that a real deer? There are blackbuck too? Oh look – there’s another one. And another one. Why is everyone here so unfazed by this?

 

Do I still remember how to ride a cycle?

 

It’s hot here in Chennai. I mean, people told me it would be hot. No one told me it would be this hot. These jeggings are not helping – is it too late to return the other 5 pairs? “

 

Long long ago, when I entered this campus as a wide-eyed freshie, these were the first few thoughts I had. Still, everytime I come back to insti after a vacation, these same thoughts relay in my head (in varying degrees of course). I suppose that’s by design – no matter where you are on the insti age scale, some part of you is still a freshie. But you – you’re as fresh as it gets, freshie.

 

So firstly – Hello! Congratulations on making it in! If the seven rounds of counselling threw you from one place to another and you landed here in the last moment, take a couple seconds to digest and realize that you’re here. And here is a really nice place to be.

 

Your first semester is often the most defining semesters of them all. Every aspect of the institute is new, exciting and beckoning. There are orientations happening every week from, what appears to be, an endless list of institute organizations. Whether it’s sporting events, club weekenders, cultural club events or tech orientations – the possibilities seem endless, and they are! There’s something for everyone here, and if you overcome any initial hesitations, you simply cannot be bored. Each of these events will introduce you to so many new people – each sharing interests with you. Some of them will become your close friends. And one of these friends is going to be there for you and with you, when 4 semesters later, while writing an article, you have an existential crisis about how half your stay at IITM is over.

 

If there’s a piece of advice that you should pay attention to the most, it’s this: 

 

STEP OUT OF YOUR ROOM!

 

Even though it’s hot – and humid – and staying in the room seems like the most appealing option, don’t. If there’s any case where the ‘fear of missing out’ is real, it’s all of your freshman semester. You’ll realize with time, that it’s important to have an outlet from academics. Some activity or extracurricular that gives you purpose. That could be anything! Were you a star high school debater? Well, now’s your time to give the insti oratory scene a run for its money. Or is your ace game in tennis to be reckoned with? The institute sports teams are always looking for talented freshies! Or would you like to get your hands dirty in tech? CFI is the place for you!

 

And if you feel like every part of your individuality was drained out in the JEE race – don’t worry. You can always start and pick up new hobbies here, as people often do – most institute clubs conduct beginner events just for freshies.

 

Soon, you’ll be counting down the days to two of the most fun nights in the semester – the Institute Freshie Nite and your Department’s Freshie Nite. I still remember both vividly. The biggest takeaway being this – there’s no such thing as a wrong way to dance (in insti, at least).

 

By the way, there are these two events that pop up during the semester. They’re called Quiz 1 and Quiz 2. Quite a bother! Turns out that’s what we’re actually here for. In the midst of all the fun, do remember to study. Most insti regrets that we have are rooted in academic regrets.

 

Did well in Quiz 1 and Quiz 2? The finish line is after the endsem. A lot can change!

Did poorly in Quiz 1 and Quiz 2? There’s still an endsem. And yes, a lot can still change!

 

If you’re pining for a branch change – god bless.

 

Insti will change you as a person in so many ways. You’ll begin to notice in a few weeks. Three baths a day will soon turn into a generous 1 bucket bath a day. Which needn’t necessarily be in the morning – evenings and nights constitute ‘today’ too. (I’m just saying some people do it, not me. Really mumma, I have bath every morning – promise). Those 7am alarms will turn into 7:15s, 7:30s, 7:45s and for the daring – even 7:50s or 8s. You’ll condense your erstwhile 1 hour ‘getting ready’ schedule into an impressive 15 minutes – only for the momentum to be stopped at those knee-length poles at the entrance of CRC. Why are they there? And how does that guy manage to cycle through them without stopping?

 

The change of course, is not just limited to questionable hygiene practices. Invariably, at the end of the semester, you’d find it hard to recognize who you were as a person just a few months ago. And a lot of that change and growth is good and welcome. Especially if you’re surrounding yourself with the right people.

 

As for the seniors – we’re mostly nice people, but for the sake of our mutual safety we shall only interact in the next semester. Probably at Ramu, and if the date is aligned with our cycles of existential crises, we’ll ‘put’ the entire story of our time here, our biggest regrets and lessons – hoping you’ll learn from them. Not this semester though – I’m not willing to take any chances.

 

Insti can be a bit difficult at times. There will be situations or courses or even semesters that will wring you for every last drop of effort you can muster. And sometimes even that may not be ‘enough’. As hard as those times are, remember that they really really do make you more resilient. And those times will pass. You are among some of the best minds in the country – and that’s no mean feat. It’s only natural that things feel a little ‘harder’ here. Always remember that you deserve to be here, and you’re enough. The ‘golden ticket’ to IITM isn’t hidden in chocolate bars – it comes out of years of hardwork – and you’ve earned it. Never forget that.

 

Still, if you ever feel like things aren’t quite going your way, or that you’re stuck in a rut – know that you’re hardly alone in feeling that way. Always ask yourself these two questions – ‘Am I trying my best? Am I making the best use of all the opportunities that insti is giving me?’. If the answer to both of those questions is yes – you’ll do alright.

 

And if you’ve followed my advice thus far, you won’t be alone in those days either – you’ll have an amazing senior who’ll treat you out to some chocolate at CCD or a long walk for Sulaimani and it’ll all be fine.

 

Everyone seems to have been telling you that you’re so close to ‘making’ it. In 10th, they say – just do well in the board exams and you can rest. Only for you to be told the same thing about 11th. And 12th. And JEE. Surely now you must have made it? Well freshie, 4 semesters of wisdom and 6 strands of grey hair later I’ve come to realize that there’s no such thing as ‘making’ it. And even if there was, it differs wildly from person to person. It’s now time to find out what drives you, what means the most to you, and what you think you enjoy and have a flair for. Pursue that. IITM is a great platform, and you’ve ‘made it’ some distance, but ‘making it’ is a work forever in progress. Or as they say in cricket (and baseball) ‘It’s not over till it’s over’. A few dot balls or maiden overs are a part of the game, you still have plenty of overs left. But your new innings is just starting.

 

In short, my dear freshie, a beautiful new journey has just begun. Don’t forget to have fun!

 

Treat me anytime,

A marginally wiser senior.

 

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