“Dear Diary: My First Year at Uni.”

Have you ever tried to imagine life after High School? Do you think getting out of High School is the end of your troubles? Let me tell you of the purgatory that awaits. School and university are so totally different. It’s like you stepped from one planet, or even from one world to another. No, actually it’s worse, it’s like that ‘Stargate’ TV programme, or a ‘time machine,’ of some kind, and no matter what people tell you, it never prepares you for life at uni.
I mean, you are living away from home. What? That’s what you always wanted, your independence and freedom? You want to get away from having to do chores such as the dishes and vacuuming, and keeping your room clean and tidy?
Well, dream on sister. I’m telling you, you’ll wish every morning that you were waking up to argue and fight with your mum about getting showered, dressed and having your breakfast before catching the bus. Here in the hostel, you’ll share a room that will always be a mess, your stuff will never be where you left it, and you’ll have zero privacy!
And you’ll have to get out of the hostel to do your homework, otherwise there will be music blaring, arguments, fighting, clothes, books, even food flying all around the place. You’ll just have to get out to keep your sanity!
Oh, and did I mention homework, and did you think you were hard done by at school?
Here, all the teachers give homework, so it’s nothing like the ‘homework heaven,’ we were expecting, that’s another illusion, so it’s more like the other place, in the other direction!
And speaking of the other place, you know how we’ve learned everything for 12 years in Arabic? Even English sometimes… right? Though I don’t really remember how that worked.
Anyway, when you get here you’ll find that the ugly truth is that everything is taught in English, which means you’ve wasted the best part of twelve years.
Is this just all a big joke the schools are playing on us?
Okay, so I’m here, and I have to do it, so I try to get used to my teachers! OMG!
They talk clearly alright, just like film stars and singers, but I’m not really good enough at English to understand what they are saying, and after a while their words just all run together, and it’s like a noise that gets into your head and won’t go away.
You don’t really switch off when that happens. Well I don’t anyway, but I sort of start thinking about my next holiday, which is stupid really, because we always go to the same place, stay at the same hotel, and do the same stuff, which is as boring as the class is turning out to be!
Other times, I’m just too tired from the hostel noise, or social media bashing until all hours of the night (or morning), so I switch right off.
Sometimes I even try texting my friends while I’m in class, but that’s on hold for now as I’ve had my phone confiscated.
I sometimes, yes I admit it, let my mind wander, and think about how I’ll look when I’m a granny, with my face all wrinkled, and no teeth. Eeeoouurgh!
I even try ‘tricks’ to make what the teachers say go into my brain, like closing one eye, and focusing on absorbing the ‘knowledge,’ through that one specific eye, or looking out of just one eye trying to get smarter. But now my teacher just thinks I’m either cross-eyed, or that I’ve got serious mental issues!
The best teachers are those who give us things to do in groups, and between us we eventually understand what they were trying to help us learn, but they keep pushing us just soooooo hard!
“Did you get that? Do you understand? And if you say “Yes,” and you didn’t understand, they have this special radar that lets them see the ones who are ‘fibbing.’
I always get caught, coz I just say yes all the time, but when I didn’t ‘really’ understand, they always seem to know, and pick me out, and it always feels like a punishment. They are like aliens with the gift of some kind of second-sight!
I actually said to dad one day, “Why didn’t you marry a tall, beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, British girl, and then I would have grown up looking amazing, tall, slim, beautiful, light-skinned, blue-eyed, and speaking English? I don’t think you really thought things through properly at all dad, did you?”
Mum wasn’t too thrilled though, and now does that ‘throat-slitting’ thing whenever she sees me without dad around, which is a bit scary.
I wonder if he’s thinking about my suggestion, and that’s why mum has got so ratty?
I’m confused too about why we could study with boys at school from Grade One to Grade Four, making friends with them, and learning to appreciate the different ways we see things. Then, bang, they are gone to another school, never to be seen again! I wonder what happened to Ali and Salim? They were nice boys.
Anyway, here we hardly even talk to the boys.
They get to sit in the front row in class, always get to come in about one minute late so they can be seen by everyone, and then sit there saying nothing all class.
If this is how they are going to be as men it’s not a real good outlook, for us as much as them.
I’ve been here for a full year now and honestly, I’ve got more enthusiasm in my little toe than most of the male students I’ve studied with, or seen on campus.
And let’s not talk about tests or exams at all!
We have tests all the time, exams about exams, and exams on top of exams, and there’s no such thing as an easy one.
And it’s always the same. Study, learn, test, revise, exam, review, and then do it all again.
It’s like that ‘Groundhog Day’ movie, like a nightmare you can’t wake up from, or running on a treadmill, a monotonous, repetitive, unfulfilling activity.
As Michuko Katutani wrote (2002), “…of melancholy and loss, weary resignation to one’s lot, trudging round and round on the weary hamster wheel of life.”
Where did that come from I wonder? Maybe I found it as part of my literature class?
I didn’t realize I’ld learned anything. Oh well, perhaps there’s something to this ‘uni’ experience after all, and perhaps it’s not all bad.
I’ll just have some lunch at the cafeteria, oh it’s Tuesday, and they have a great Biryani on Tuesdays, and Tuesday is ‘Girls Night’ at the gymnasium too, I like the gym. After the gym our study group is meeting to discuss Kate Chopin’s “Story of a Hour,” and to sort out our news items for our Current Events class tomorrow.
Actually, forget all those mean things I wrote. I don’t always love it here, but I am learning, and that’s progress, and you know what George Bernard Shaw said about progress. “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

By Ray Petersen & Fatma Al Jahwari