Freshie Toolkit 2020

Author: Gayathri S

Design: Rohit Gadarla

Ah, the first semester in Insti.

In an ideal world, back when the word unprecedented wasn’t thrown around every two sentences, you would have watched wide-eyed as you came through the gates into the campus, maybe spotting a deer or two.

Everything would have seemed rosy and beautiful, and full of hope; like a scene out of a Ruskin Bond novel. And then you would enter your hostel and the background music would have stopped, and you are dragged back into reality quite abruptly. You get used to the concept of balance pretty quickly. The first two months would have been characterised by getting lost in insti, getting used to the freedom, trying to decipher insti lingo or just attending the infinite number of orientation sessions being organised. 

You would have had heads of departments and clubs and groups and teams fighting over schedules and venues to organise events for you. You would have gotten to interact with seniors and take “fundaes” and learn to “put peace”. If you were lucky enough to know somebody from your “factory”, you might have even gotten away from having to “put intro” again and again and again. And again. But this year’s freshies are dealing with an entirely different beast. Even without the physical challenges of the freshie year, certain traditions persist.

With no seniors (or alternatively, too many seniors) to tell you what to do (or not to do) as a freshie, The Fifth Estate has got you covered.

Oh, dear. How rude of us. Allow us to introduce ourselves. You were probably wondering who “we” are.  We are The Fifth Estate (T5E), the student news body of IIT Madras, bringing you the latest (now virtual) on-campus buzz and so much more!

Below is a curation of T5E’s best freshie content to help you get your bearings into the wild jungle (both literally and metaphorically) that is insti.

The Basics

To start, we want to officially welcome you to the IITM family, with this heartwarming article that will (hopefully) give you all the insti feels: To Freshies, With Love

Not yet used to the strange language every senior seems to be speaking in? Worry not, for here is a quick guide and you will soon be putting pseud like the rest of us: Freshie Guide: ‘Insti’ Lingo!

Finally, here is an article we wrote at the beginning of the semester, when we were all missing freshies: Virtually Nobody (K)new

Bonus:  An historical account of over 60 years on how our much-loved campus came to be: The Grand Design

The Big Changes

Now let us get the academic queries clarified and out of the way. The first semester for the batch of 2020 will start on 16th November, Monday, and is tentatively scheduled to last until the end of February 2021. 

  • All classes will be conducted online until further notice. 
  • For UG freshers, the first year is split across 3 semesters (around 6-7 weeks of study followed by 2 weeks of exam + vacation). All the 3 semesters will be over by early June 2021. A detailed schedule will be intimated later. 
  • Courses which require labs will be conducted as and when the situation becomes conducive. 
  • One of the major changes would be the scrapping of the Branch Change option for the BTech and Dual Degree students after the first semester (only for this year).  
  • NSO/NSS/NCC/NCA, one of the credit requirements to get your degree, is postponed until it is possible for students to arrive at the campus. 
  • All the departments have taken various initiatives to connect with the incoming freshies of their respective departments. Whatsapp groups, Google groups, Discord servers have been utilised to engage discussion and help students get to know their classmates. 

How Things Work

Multiple orientations would have introduced you to a whole lot of new terms, here is a quick rundown of all the important things that may or may not have quite sunken in yet:

First, of course, here is a simplified guide to understanding the beast that is the credit system: Demystifying the Credit System

Here is a quick crash course on the academic curriculum: Changes in Academic Curriculum

This will be handy a bit later, but while you’re at it, here is a guide to understanding Minors: A Not-So-Minor Issue

And finally, here is a quick overview of faculty advisors, and how they help in your academic life: Faculty Advisors

Save for Later

These are some helpful links to save for later when we (finally) get on campus:

For the uninitiated to the city, the (unofficial) guide to surviving Chennai: Freshie Guide: Surviving Madras 101

After arriving on campus, you’ll be faced with a choice of NCC, NSO, NSS or NCS. Here is an article to help you make up your mind: NCC, NSO, NSS or NCA – Making an Informed Decision

To Branch Change or not to Branch Change? This comprehensive guide is sure to help: How Things Work: Branch Change

A (not so serious) look into the freshie experience

We know you are missing out on the full freshie experience, so here a few fictional freshies’ stories from last year:

Freshie Hari is on his way to insti for the first time. Will he make it? Of course he will. This is not that kind of a horror story:  On My Way

Meet Jay. His first day at Insti was exactly the same way that Harry’s at Hogwarts wasn’t: farces & firsts

What to Expect  

Online classes will be in full swing, very soon. Your academic routine will be filled with Google Meets and Wi-fi dependent interactions and lower back pains (the last one might just be me). We know this isn’t how you expected your college life to start. We understand the frustration of having cleared the hardest of exams and getting into the topmost institution in the country but not being able to experience the things you’ve heard your seniors brag about. Maybe you don’t get to attend Freshie Nights, or in-person classes. Right now you might be figuring out your schedule and dealing with the indisputable glamour of  “speed-friending” over Zoom. 

But, on the bright side think of all the cool things that you can do. From waking up 5 minutes before lectures, to having a free-pass to attending classes in your PJs, with full access to the mute and camera buttons.

I’m sure a more optimistic person could go on with this list. But once you move past the awkward phase of getting acquainted with your classmates, there is no looking back. Fumbling through the different platforms will quickly give way to hacks where you can have private conversations while your professor is trying to figure out how to share a screen. 

Do not let the fact that all of us are sitting in front of laptops keep you away from reaching out to people and making friends. Avenues for human interaction have not completely disappeared.

There are plenty of potential friendships waiting for you in that long list of Zoom participants. Try switching on your camera once in a while. Turn on your gallery mode and maybe just start with a ‘Hey :)’. 

Maybe you are excited. Maybe you aren’t excited enough. Know that it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed. Remind yourself that you are in the middle of a global pandemic. You prepared and wrote and cleared the toughest of exams to get where you are. So take a deep breath and remember that insti and its people will have your back. 

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