Higher education has its own set of rules. Here are some of them
by mostly Chris Kirkland with a little Stephen Whitworth
Well, this is ironic. “We’ll run an awesome ‘Do This’ and ‘Don’t Do That’ list for the feature in our 2014 Back To School special!”, says the editor. “It’ll be brilliant!” he spews from his puffing chest.
Except he said that roughly three months ago, and then didn’t assign any bit of it to anyone. Sigh.
So, just like you’re probably going to panic more than a few times at school this year, here’s our panicked feature. Remember: we won’t judge you if you don’t judge us.
DO THIS: DRINK GOOD BEER (OR WINE, OR…)
Now clearly, you’ve never consumed alcohol before, because you were underage. Right? Right! Of course — why did I even ask? But still, I’m betting you saw your dad, mom, uncle, older sibling or skeevey dude down the street who never wears a shirt do it. And furthermore, I’m betting they were drinking some crap: mainstream ick beer like Canadian or Bud Light, shitty red wine or some sort of hard alcohol that shouldn’t be used for anything other than disinfectant.
Sure, I understand that you might just follow in your father’s footsteps, but here’s the thing: the world of booze is huuuge, and wonderful! So if you’re a beer drinker (like me), why settle for watery mainstream schlock when you could be learning about Paddock Wood’s 606 (or most any of their other beers — all local!), Prairie Sun’s Crazy Farm (also local, and an old-style Belgian farm ale!), Half-Pint Brewery’s Little Scrapper (hooray for IPAs, I say!) or roughly a gerbillion other quality choices? The exact same could be said for wine (don’t choose “the one with the bull on it” just ‘cause your great-aunt Norma did), hard liquors and even cocktails, martinis and so on. You can drink whatever you want now: why not make it something good? Ask around and you’ll even find good stuff that won’t overdraw your bank account.
DON’T DO THAT: DRINK SHITTY BEER
No Blue, no Coors, no Canadian. Unless it’s on special for really, really cheap. Life is short. Drink good beer. Also: don’t drink so much gin that your friend’s children nickname you the Gin Monster because they found you still passed out on their parent’s couch in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.
DO THIS: USE YOUR “FREE” STUFF
Sure, you’re mostly paying for these perks in student fees, so that’s a downside. But if you’re not using them at all, you’re just throwing that money away for nothing — and that’s an even bigger downside. So make that money work for you!
The library is of course a place to do research (do your research!), but it’s also a huge repository of awesome books, movies and music and free Internet access — and since you have a student card, that’s all “free”!
And hey, did you know you have a gym membership? Yup — campus fitness is “free” to all dues-paying students! Not a bad thing at all when your diet consists of Kraft Dinner and bulk Superstore muffins.
Speaking of computers, there are labs filled with them all over campus. That’s super cool if you don’t have the cash for a system/laptop at home. Also, here’s a hint: if a bunch of your friends are playing a wicked online game late at night, I’m betting you can find a “free” terminal where you can join them. Just remember your headphones, so some stressed-out studier doesn’t thump you with a heavy-duty coffee mug.
There’s free transit too, and way more — and if I remember correctly, much of it is outlined in the annual Students’ Guide. Which is also free!
DON’T DO THAT: CHEAT
Yeah, I know. Classes are now a helluva lot harder than they used to be — and there’s no Ms./Mr. Smith keeping track of what you’re doing! (Not to mention your parents…) Oh, the freedom’s great, isn’t it? Damn straight I’m gonna have a beer at noon, play Call of Duy ‘til 4 am and so on, whatever your druthers may be. But uh-oh: there’s that looming essay on Wuthering Heights or that seriously scary calculus exam. What to do?
Well first thing, don’t cheat. Full stop.
Trust me, youngsters: every cheat website out there is also one that your prof probably knows about, and they’ve seen this silly game for a lot of years. And here’s the thing: sooo many of us (yours truly included) have failed an exam, a class or even a year (yup), and gone on to turn out just fine. But get caught cheating? Well, there’s no detention in university — so it may well be straight-up expulsion for you. Not good.
DO THIS: MEET NEW PEOPLE
Yup, your best friends in high school were definitely crucial people. They saw you through some of (what you thought were) the worst times of your life, and rejoiced with you during some of (what you thought were) the absolute best times.
And trust me: I’m absolutely not saying you should just throw them all under the bus and move on with nary a backward glance. But here’s the thing.
In the social hotbox that is childhood/youth/high school, your friends are sometimes your friends because of common enemies (which don’t have to be specific people, mind you — sometimes they’re just things, like gym class or expensive trendy clothes), rather than common interests. Nothing wrong with that, but now that you’re surrounded by well over 10,000 other people on campus, it’s highly likely that you’ll find a lot more people who like a lot more of the same things that you do than a lot of your high school friends ever did.
DON’T DO THIS BUT YOU WILL ANYWAY: USE THAT CREDIT CARD FOR PIZZA
Soo, between your paltry monthly student loan payment and the teensy bit you saved from your summer job, you’re generally broke. By which I mean always broke — even if you get a part-time job. (All of this is the result of a system that’s been broken by many federal and provincial governments past and present, who’ve basically killed any sense of fairness in post-secondary education, but never mind. Back to the topic…) Even worse, all your friends are heading somewhere awesome / having a pizza party at Bill’s house / going on a sweet shopping spree.
You can’t go, obviously. But wait! You’ve got that shiny new credit card in your pocket, so why not?
Credit card companies hand their plastic out to students like sickos offer candy to children, and for the same reason: they know a lot of you are gonna take it hook, line and sinker. And once you start racking up charges on that puppy, the wonders of compound interest kick in to make them a crapload of cash — thanks to the roughly 20 per cent interest you’ll be paying.
Let’s just look at my last credit card statement, as an example. My last statement showed a balance of $1813.90, for which I’d need to apply a minimum payment of $42. Huh — that doesn’t seem tough, does it?
Well, no — until you realize I was charged $32.17 in interest, which means my minimum payment would take exactly $9.83 off my total balance. It doesn’t take a math major to realize that paying 42 bucks to earn less than $10 is a pretty stupid deal. And if you default at any point, say goodbye to the credit rating that you’re hoping will buy you a house, car or anything else in the future.
So maybe you don’t really need that pizza, right?
DON’T DO THAT: HAVE A HOUSE-WRECKER
Take that, parent! I’ve got my own place now and I can have a party whenever I want!
Yeah, it’s super-awesome — but just like Icarus and the sun (you’re in university now, look it up!), you don’t want to fly too close to the molten sun that is the out-of-control party.
Parties are awesome, in theory: you meet new people, get to better know people you already know, have some fun and maybe even meet that special someone. Hooray for the John Hughes ‘80s-style movie version of socializing!
But remember that house that was in 16 Candles? Super trashed. That guy was so lucky that he was a rich little twerp. (Let’s not even start with the “hey, here’s my girlfriend, have a good sex time with her” part.) His parents probably just sucked it up as harmless fun.
Your landlord, on the other hand, will not. You know that one-month damage deposit you (or your parents, or your student loan) put down when you got there? Gone. You know your chances of renting anything decent ever again? Gone. (Landlords are a seriously unforgiving bunch, and they share blacklists! They’ve even got websites!)
So if it’s your place, invite people you can trust (and not too many of them), and have a great time. If it’s someone else’s place and things are getting out of control, please don’t contribute to the idiocy: tell the host, then leave.
After all, if every party turns to shit, no one’s going to have them, right?
DON’T DO THAT: SKIP A TON OF CLASSES
Man, that schedule you’ve gotten yourself is harsh! Who the hell starts classes at 8:30 am, right? But still: go. Go to all of them. Or at least, go to the vast majority of them.
Take it from someone who knows — it may not seem like it in a room filled with 100-plus people, but your frequent absences will be noticed in your performance on essays or exams. And it’s even worse in smaller classes, where you’ll find yourself asking a crucial question of a prof, and realize that they’re thinking, “Who the hell is this person?”
If nothing else, dig deep inside, remember how broke you are at all times and realize, “god dammit — I’m paying for each and every one of these!” It’s not gonna make the morning feel any better, but it should help get your ass out of bed.
DO THIS: SEXY SEXY SEX-SEX
Keep it safe, fun. consensual. Be generous and respectful. Be well-groomed and bathed. Make sure your place is clean and welcoming to sleep-over pals. Wash your sheets! Be fucking polite and super nice to your naked friend. If you’re a asshole about this Zeus will fucking smite you. We have spoken to him, he’s down with it and it’s all worked out. SO PLAY NICE, GOD DAMMIT.
DO: Come Out of the Closet and Meet Real Live People
Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to coming out of the closet in 2014 than hooking up on Grindr. Going to university gives you the opportunity to meet real life gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and two-spirited individuals, and to build a support network for yourself bigger than the people you’ve slept with.
The URPride Centre is one way to do that. You can meet people who can provide you with the support you need at a challenging time in your life. You can access a range of programs from peer support to advice on your sexual health and supplies to ensure a safer sex life. You can check out books from the Pride Centre library — some of it is educational and some of it is lesbian vampire erotica for those of you who like that sort of thing. You can even, God forbid, make new friends.
There’s also the Q Nightclub at 2070 Broad Street. The dance floor is open Fridays and Saturdays, and Karaoke with Will is every Thursday night. Video may have killed the radio star, but karaoke stars are another matter. There are drag shows from time to time, the proceeds of which are used to support important causes in Regina’s queer community. /Rick Pollard
Do: Make Friends, Expand Your Horizons and Climb Out of Your Own Ass
Attending university is a great opportunity to reinvent yourself. No one is asking you to abandon your old friends, or pretend to be someone you’re not; no one likes people who turn into pretentious wankers the moment they hit campus. But at the same time, there’s no point in starting a new chapter in your life and trying to live your life the same way you lived it in high school, only with harder tests and almost-legal drinking. University is a chance to expand your horizons, to meet new people, and to imagine new possibilities for yourself and you should take full advantage.
A great way to do that is by joining one of the many clubs on campus. The Students’ Union website www.ursu.ca contains a clubs directory, complete with contact information for all of the various clubs on campus. There are clubs for people in your field of study, everything from MASS ( Math, Actuarial Science and Stats’ Students Society) to the Nursing Students’ Society. There are clubs for people who share your faith and spiritual beliefs, like the Muslim Students’ Association and the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
There are clubs for people who share your cultural background like the Saudi Club, the Korean Students’ Association or the Japanese Culture Club (which I was very disappointed to discover was not a Japanese Boy George revival). There are clubs for people who enjoy similar activities like the Regina Cosplay Club and Paratroopers Wheelchair Basketball and Tai Chi. There are clubs for people who want to change the world like WUSC, UNICEF, the Regina Public Interest Group or various political party organizations.
There is even a Ceramic Students’ Society. I will look into whether club members are composed of real ceramic or whether the club’s name is misleading, and get back to you. /Rick Pollard