Bhondoo @ MIT – Freshman Year Pain and the Joy

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A year ago last spring, when seventeen-year-old Bhondoo first realized he’d be going to Manipal University the following fall, he cried for days. His parents had chosen Manipal because it had a good reputation. But Manipal students were stuck-up, he’d heard, and the thought of going to such a big college made his a little nervous.

Though he tried to remain calm and indifferent as July drew near, Bhondoo felt overwhelmed with emotions about the upcoming year. He was confident about a few things: the “tons” of clothes he planned to bring to College, the subjects he’d chosen, and that some of his close friends from high college would stay close — particularly one friend who was attending KMC Manipal, less than 500 meters away.

Bhondoo also had some definite ideas about what kind of extracurricular activities he’d go for in his freshman year. The top player on his high college tennis team, he planned to try out for MU’s varsity team. He wanted to swim and take aerobics classes to keep in shape, and he was seriously considering taking photos, a longtime hobby, for ManipalBlog.

These were things about freshman year and about college in general that made Bhondoo nervous. One was the twin sharing room he’d requested – “to avoid getting stuck in a boring room” –and now had doubts about. Another was the famous freshman fifteen. “My mom keeps saying she has nightmares that I gained a lot of weight,” he said. Most of all, though, Bhondoo was worried about academics; the classes, the exams, even the professors at a college with some thirty-five hundred students in his class-alone w6uld be a challenge to a student from a graduating class of fifty-four. “I’m worried about getting lost at Manipal,” Bhondoo admitted.

When Bhondoo finally got to Manipal, the first thought that crossed his mind was “I can’t believe I have to spend four years here.” The weather was cold and rainy, his room was drab, and he felt completely lost on the huge campus.

He found college even harder and more impersonal than he had feared; it amazed him when he went to his first class –an 8:00 A.M chemistry class– and saw four to five hundred other students there, too. “I felt like I was in a movie,” he said. He got a little more accustomed to the big classes by the end of the semester, but he still felt swamped with work – and too intimidated to approach his professors for extra help.
It didn’t help – academically, anyway–that Bhondoo stayed out late at DeeTee and often ended up cramming for tests. But with the help of a below-average report card, Bhondoo learned his lesson the hard way. “I abused my freedom at first,” he said. “I had too much of a good time.” Other disappointments: he had too many late-night munch-out sessions. He missed his parents, his house, and his dog, more than he’d ever thought he would, and he lost touch with many of his high college friends.

In his second semester, things clicked for him at Manipal. He felt he’d learned the key to academic success in college: Study until you can’t study anymore, and if you have serious work to do, never go to the library–where you’ll undoubtedly run into everyone you know. His grade point average (GPA) rose rapidly.

Bhondoo laughed, when he looked back on the things he’d thought he’d accomplish this year. He never even visited ManipalBlog, let alone shot pictures for it. He gave up on swimming and aerobics long ago, as he’d once anticipated; there just wasn’t time. “Time goes so fast, it’s scary. You put things off, and before you know it, it’s time to go.” What really made Bhondoo laugh, though, was that he’d ever had doubts about spending four years at Manipal. “I love this place,” he said, “I definitely picked the right college for me.”

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