It would be weird if the person writing this article were still studying in high school or has never joint college before. How do you believe a guy who never even studied in university to talk about life there?
So, because I have finished my Bachelor of Education in English language (TEFL) from the Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL), Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I think my message in this article will be given credit to if it doesn’t go beyond truth and facts. I will write the following points based only on my experience at the university and personal observation on freshmen which I have done over the past years. The following are 9 stupid mistakes that most freshmen in Cambodia and probably other countries make.
1. Feel too proud.
The first silly mistake is about ego. In Cambodia, if someone is able to pass high school (which is relatively easy if you study hard and smart enough) especially with good grades such as A, B, or C, they are sure to be applauded by their surrounding people such as parents, relatives, friends and etc, which makes them really proud of themselves.
Cambodian people treat high school (12th grade) examination as one of the most important cornerstones in their children’s academic life. Therefore, it is a great honor to the family if their children are able to pass it and continue to study in college. This may sound silly to some people, but some families do throw big party for their children who did great job in their high school examination (my parents did that for my brother, sisters, and me).
Personally I have no objection to high school students’ feeling proud of themselves because they are able to pass their high school exams. But, I don’t like it when they take such pride with them to college.
Such pride will even get intensified if the students are accepted by good colleges such as IFL. Maybe because of the fact that they can finish high school, they just feel that there is nothing more for them to learn. This mistake is indeed stupid and hazardous.
They say it is not good to have too much pride about yourself or whatever you are doing or have accomplished. I think it is true because I have seen most freshmen in IFL and other Cambodian universities, who feel too proud of themselves, seem to have problems with their study and don’t feel like learning at all.
Probably, their ego just blocks them from enthusiastically preparing themselves for their new academic journey which is university life, conforming to new ways of life in university such as new administration work, learning new lessons and meeting with new people, etc.
In short, freshmen should let their ego thing go or else they can be facing with a lot of academic problems and may end up quitting from college because they can’t and don’t learn.
2. Rapidly expand network.
Actually, I am a big fan of people who like people and who try to make friends with people because no man is an island.
But, I am not sure whether I support students who forget themselves and their study because they are too busy making new friends. I myself really like to meet new people. Most of the time, I am not lazy to know and learn about people surrounding me.
When I was at IFL, I can say that I knew a lot of people maybe because I participated in many IFL extracurricular activities and big events such as IFL Debate Forum, etc. I made friends not only with people in my generation but also those in other generations and IFL lecturers.
Yet, while I was trying to expand my network in IFL, I was always cautious with my status quo because I wanted to be certain that I was going on the right track. I kept reminding myself that ‘It is not good to be a nice, friendly guy who fails his exams.’ In fact, I made a lot of friends in IFL and was still one of the top-performing students in my class and IFL as a whole.
Certainly, I have seen a lot of freshmen (or university students) who are too curious about new life in college and new people, so instead of investing their time to learn, they extravagantly spend it to know people and rapidly build network, which will be automatically built if they get good results and stay long enough in the college.
However, they choose a different approach; and their approach is to know as many people as possible without caring about who they are. Lao Tzu—a philosopher of ancient China and a central figure in Taoism—said that “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power”.
I can’t agree with him more because people will come to you if you know who you really are and are good at what you do. For example, if you are the most outstanding student in your school, you don’t need to go find people to be your friends because people will come to you automatically. When you are famous, you no longer need to go out to tell people who you are because you are already known.
3. Enjoy too much and take it easy.
Another mistake that freshmen make is enjoy too much and take it easy. This mistake can be traced to the fact that those freshmen actually believe that they have worked so hard in high school in order to get a pass, so it is high time they enjoyed themselves in university especially during the first year because things have not gotten so difficult yet.
Naturally people are like that. They don’t like to prepare for things in advance when they are still easy. They procrastinate until those things or problems get above their head or almost impossible to solve.
When I first became a college student, my high school friends (some of them were in gang groups with me) advised me not to take my study so seriously. They said it was time to take a rest from high school’s loads of work and enjoy life as adults. They repeatedly convinced me to buy their advice, and sure enough, I bought it and plunged myself almost two years in gang groups until I was shot in the right knee (I’ve no regret about that. Why? Read my other article: How I got out of gang groups)
Personally, I strongly believe that all students who are accepted to college should not pause their study to enjoy too much and too long, but keep up their study momentum from high school. They should study even harder because college is way different from high school and requires more from them—physically, mentally, emotionally and intellectually.
Speaking about momentum, I just want to remind you that momentum is not that easy to build, which is the reason why many people hate Monday because resting on Saturday and Sunday (losing momentum) just makes it too difficult for them to start working again. If you observe, the hardest part in any activities such as sports, studies, etc. is not the ending.
Yet, it is the beginning. While I was training in Habkido martial arts, my instructor told me that I had to stick around and train hard during the first 3 months because this period is excruciatingly painful and tiring, and most people gave up during this period. He said that if I was able to do it, I would find Habkido easy. You bet, I stayed and got training for almost a year and really the first 3 months was torturing for me.
Therefore, if you’ve got learning momentum from high school, please don’t lose it. Don’t let any excuses—internal and external—stop you from pushing forward and trying even more.
4. Compete with their lecturers.
Again, it is about ego. Students express their ego differently. As I wrote above in point number 1, some freshmen live up to their ego by not trying to study hard or focusing on the lessons from their teachers.But some students show their ego in another way by challenging their presumably know-less-than-them teachers.
I had an experience of doing that myself when I was in the 10th grade (high school). (If you are interested in knowing my consequence of not respecting my teacher, please read: Always respect your teachers).
Egocentrically challenging your teachers gives you two main bad effects. First, you will no longer want to study with him/her. Fearing that you will lose your face if you follow them, you will try hard not to listen to his advice, wisdom, and knowledge. You will try to be as stubborn as possible not to listen to do what they tell you to even though you know that it is the right thing to do. When you do this, you don’t learn anything at all, at least those lessons or lectures given by your teachers.
Second, your teacher and you will become enemies, rather than teacher and student. In my humble opinion, I can tell you that the objective of living a life is to make friends with the surrounding people and live a good life. How much you earn, how much money you have, how beautiful you are or how good you are, doesn’t matter unless you have people to share those things with.
No man is and should be an island. So, if you don’t like your teachers, you should not dislike them either because you really don’t know whether and when you are going to need their help.
5. Refuse to conform to the school administration.
One of the obvious mistakes that most freshmen make is that they don’t want to follow new regulations their college sets for them. For example, they don’t want to wear school uniforms in schools (in most Cambodian colleges, students are required to wear uniforms). They just don’t want to accept the new way of life in college such as study independently, do a lot of assignments, and etc. Maybe, they have not learnt the proverb “Do it Rome as the Romans do”.
Actually, their objection to a new way of life in college can be understood because it is not easy for people to suddenly change something that they have been doing for years. Not all people are that flexible and not all people like change.
From Personal Development point of view, people respond to change differently. Some people can’t live without change; they change almost all the times. But some people just don’t like change; change, to them, carries more negative than positive messages.
Personally, I don’t like ‘either…or…’, but I like ‘both…and…’ So when it comes to change, I try to balance. In some aspects of my life such as relationship, I prefer to change in a considerate level. But in other aspects such as learning, I would use change to a maximum level if my current status quo is not up to the level that I want yet.
For instance, before I came to IFL, I had already admitted that I had had academic problems. I did not give myself any excuses; I knew that my way of learning had not been so effective at all. So, I did not waste any time considering whether to adopt the new learning system that IFL had to offer. I just grasped all the new things that my big palm could, which made me who I am today and which makes me believe that change is not always negative.
6. Start college with no goals.
This mistake is not only silly, but dangerous. For over the past years, I have interviewed a lot of students to find out the reasons they decide to join colleges, why they choose the major and college they have chosen and what they are going to do exactly in the college.
Don’t be surprised, not many students can provide me the reasons that I believe all college students should have. Those who are able to are not clear with what they are saying either. Some students are influenced (or even forced) by their parents or relatives and a big proportion just followed their friends.
Freshly out of high school, I also made this mistake by choosing a major I thought I would like and college where people (not me) liked. Briefly, I finished high school in 2004 and after that, decided to pursue Information Technology (IT).
I am not complaining or blaming someone, but it was originally not my idea or passion to study IT. I was convinced by my brother who thought IT would be a prosperous subject and had big job market. He was right actually and did the right thing for me as a brother because I really did not know what I was going to study.
Simply put, I was blank. So, I just followed his advice suit without thinking clearly about the consequence or any back-up plans had anything gone wrong. You can guess, it did happen which led me to quit almost a year later.
After quitting, I had around 4 months before new academic year started. During this period, I started to ask myself a lot of soul-searching questions especially those that could help me to find out what I wanted my life to be and what I was really good at.
Quite honestly, I did not do it in an intensive way at all. Many times, I just asked for the sake of asking, and those questions were not well structured either.
Also I asked people around me what they thought I did best. Most of the time, I discussed with my mother because she understood my feelings and could give great advice. In short, I really found what I wanted to do with my life; that is: talking and teaching. I knew I was (and am) good at the two things. So, I decided to become a teacher and chose English language as a mechanism (since then, I have tried hard and smart to learn English language as quickly and effectively as I can).
Then, I came to IFL with completely different reasons and views. When I joint IFL, I set only two goals: (1) I am going to make myself famous in this school as the most outstanding student in my promotion and (2) I am going to receive my Bachelor certificate directly from the Prime Minister of Cambodia (Mr. Hun Sen).
Guess what, I achieved them both because these two goals stayed in my mind and head every single day when I was at IFL, and they just did not allow me to take my study for granted or in a relaxing way.
(If you want to read more about this, please read: Why did I come to college).
Personally, if I were asked to give JUST ONE advice on how to do well in college to all students, I would say “Set your OWN, SPECIFIC goals before you join college”. Do it and I am sure your study results will be way better. (If you want to know more about goal setting, please read: The purpose of goal setting and Why goal setting is so important).
7. Start working immediately.
When I write about this point, I actually know that my point can be easily misinterpreted. But let me try to be as clear as possible. This point is more related to students who come from financially-struggled families and who have to work in order to earn money to support themselves and pay for the tuition fee.
In fact, I really admire students who value education and do whatever they can to continue studying regardless of their family conditions. But, I just don’t like the fact that they sacrifice education (their study) in order to work.
While I was at IFL, I also worked. Financially, my parents could support me. But I still insisted that I work for some money to cover my personal expenditure and for experience.
During that time in college, I used to work as a freelance English-Khmer translator and interpreter, teacher of English language, research assistant, sales executive, and etc. (In fact, I started working after I got into year 2 of my Bachelor program).
I really liked those work, but I was clearly aware of the fact that I could not put my academic performance at risk for some short-termed benefits. I really liked to work, but I did whatever I could to keep enough quality time for my schooling and self-learning at home.
I clearly understand that some students who are working and learning at the same time have no choice because if they don’t work, they have nothing to feed their stomach and money to pay for the school fee. They have very few choices, which restrict them to believe that there is no choice, but to work.
In fact, they still have a lot of choices, which is to choose the types of work which don’t take much of their time, which offers enough money (I don’t recommend any students go for the jobs that give them surplus money yet because those jobs require a lot from them and as students, studying and getting good grades are more important than making a lot of money), and which allows them to practice what they learn at school, thus strengthening their knowledge.
When it comes to working, timing is crucially important for students; they’ve got to learn to choose the right time to start working. For me, I honestly believe that freshman year is not the right time for students who have never worked to start working at all.
College is actually a big transition event in students’ life, which means it takes some time for them to get accustomed to everything; it is quite tough already for all freshmen just to cope with completely new things in college that they have never experienced in high school.
So, if they also start working, which is also an important transition period for students, it is like double pressure. Or, if they really have to work, they should at least make sure that they can cope with everything especially their school’s workload. By being able to cope with, I actually mean that they are able to perform well, if not the best, in schools.
8. Possess Low self-esteem.
This mistake is the opposite of ego. I wish there were a new English word called “E-stop” so that it makes me easier to write about this point. Never mind, English language has a very good word for this, which is called ‘low self-esteem’.
This ‘low self-esteem’ thing happens to a lot of freshmen especially those who come from provinces to study in the city, and who come from not rich families. They just don’t feel comfortable in their own knowledge while they are surrounded by strangers called local or rich people.
In fact, there are many reasons leading to ‘low self-esteem’. First, it is to do with being too humble. Most students who have low self-esteem, at first, just pretend to be humble (over-confidence or even confidence is not a good sign for most people in Cambodia), but unnoticeably their modesty just robs them their creativity, confidence, and everything they have in themselves.They stop trusting in themselves anymore and most of time feel nervous to express their opinion even when they know what they are saying is right.
Second, too much comparison with other people is also a problem. I wish I would have had a car in college. Whenever I walked in IFL campus and saw others driving nice cars, I was really jealous. This jealousy, most of the time, led me to see myself very low. It also stopped me from doing many things. It sounds so stupid, right? But it really did.
Third, ‘low self-esteem’ also results from fear of making mistakes. No one on earth is fond of making mistakes; therefore some people choose to avoid making mistakes by not doing anything at all. Not doing anything for the first time is actually okay because it doesn’t affect you much. But if this ‘not doing anything’ keeps continuing, it is not good because it just blocks them from showing initiatives and believe or not, people who stop initiating new ideas will always listen to those who have more ideas.
9. Restart learning.
Frankly speaking, I learnt about this point from observing how my sister learnt. When she finished high school (I am proud to say that she was very good in high school and got grade B), she kept not only her high school books away, but also most of her knowledge gained from high school.
One day, she told me that everything in college (IFL) was new for her and her knowledge from high school was kind of obsolete, so she had to start learning again. By her comment, I simply thought to myself “Is that true?”
If I had not joint college, I would have probably believed in her comment. But I did, and my experience there taught me different things. It taught me that my knowledge in high school could be used in college.
For example, during the first year of my undergraduate degree, there was one subject called Mathematics (It was a new curriculum that I had to learn Maths though my major was Bachelor of Education in English). I got 92% in my final exam from this subject because I simply used my Maths knowledge from high school. Actually, there were many more subjects to which my knowledge from high school could be applied. So, why should I make a mistake to restart my learning when I join college? Why don’t I use the knowledge which is already in my head?