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A little past a year ago I was a soon-to-be high school graduate from Ecuador who dreamed of studying abroad, as I write this post today the last day of classes from my freshman year is about to come to an end. I lived in Washington, DC for a few years when I was a little girl and I knew from that moment that I wanted to experience things that my country and the society I grew up in would not be able to offer.
As I grew up, I realised studying in a world-known university didn't have to be a dream, I had the potential to make it a reality. So I decided to change the label from dream to goal. I worked hard for it, I studied and tried to get the best grades possible whilst building my rookie resume with extracurricular activities. I was never a straight-A student, I valued the activities I did outside of a classroom just as much as my education, but I kept all my courses on track, and the grades I got were pretty good.
So by the end of my senior year I had applied to a total of 11 universities from North America and the UK, ten of which admitted me and three which gave me partial scholarships. I was thrilled to receive my first admission letter from the university I felt the most identified with: The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
I never thought I would go so far away, but it didn't scare me and I felt this was the right place to go to (sounds cheesy but it's true), so I accepted my offer. I left Ecuador with certain preconceived opinions about certain topics, and I'm going back to it in a week with a different mindset. I have always been open-minded and my parents raised a girl who doesn't judge anyone without knowing their story, but there's a few things that parents and friends will tell you about the future that are merely reflections of the local culture or their own experience. What I was told involved the expectations I should have.
1st expectation: "The best friends you'll ever be able to make come straight out of high school."
This is a very common one in Latin America, but I'm here to tell you it's not always true. I came to UBC telling myself that if I made at least two loyal, good friends, that should be enough to make me happy. Well, I'm glad to say I've made plenty of friends, but out of these number of people it's good to know a few more than the initial two I expected have proven to be real friends so far. Sure, it's only my first year and I don't know if we'll be as close as we are now by second year, but I know they've gained my trust throughout the past eight months. Additionally, I should warn you that not all of your high school 'BFF's' will keep their loyalty. Some might let you down, or you might just grow apart as you both live very different realities. But that's okay, everyone is a part of your path to teach you something important.
2nd expectation: "Using dating apps means you're desperate, it's also filled with creeps."
I think this one is a bit more universal, as I've heard people say this in Ecuador and in Canada, but again, it's not always true. In fact, the truth in this saying will depend on how you feel and act for the most part. Sure, you can use a dating app to meet someone and hook up with them, then completely ghost them and erase your account, but you can also use it to meet people who look interesting, and to enjoy your goddamn youth, you're not married LOL. Besides, there's plenty from which you can choose, hate to break it to Tinder, but they're not the only players in the field. I used Bumble only during my second semester, and although I dated only one guy, turns out, he was not a creep, and we've made it to the third date so far without him revealing any weird fetish.
3rd expectation: "It's normal to separate from school friends when you get to university."
Yes and no, it is hard to keep the communication flowing with everyone you hung out with during high school, but if we're talking about the best friends you can count with the fingers on your hand, you should know it's completely possible. Don't buy the BS of "I'm too busy all the time," believe me, this is coming from a person who is freakishly productive, and who fills the short free spans of her time with more activities. Whoever wants to talk to you, will talk. Everyone has stuff to do, and I'm not saying you should expect the people you care about to reply to your texts every five minutes, I'm saying if they care, they will make an effort. My best friend and I text most days of the week, and it's completely offhand. If something happens to either one of us we'll send a voice note and if it's some major gossip that requires a call, I'll FaceTime him. You don't have to separate an hour of your time to talk, I call him while I'm walking on campus getting other shit done.
Morals of the story:
- Don't believe everything you're told, open up to people and see what they've got to offer.
- Don't generalise, try things out for yourself if you're interested, and if you're not, don't fall into the stereotypes just because it's unknown to you.
- Learn to appreciate who's there for you and let them know they're important too. Don't resent the ones who don't prioritise you, that doesn't make them bad people, it just opens your eyes to see who will be there 100 percent and who won't.
And most importantly, if you really want something, give it your best shot, nothing great randomly shows up at the front of your doorstep.