1. The university itself. You imagine hushed halls, quiet libraries, and intellectual discussions where people quote “Hamlet”. What you get are fish markets, torn library books and people asking, “Ye Hamlet kaun sa naya banda aa gaya?”
2. Your department. Seriously, is it too much to ask for a set of couches for the department when the teachers themselves sit in a room with stuff worth your house’s yearly rent?
3. The teachers. They will ask you to write an article and will then berate you about how little you know about writing an article and how you are wasting your parents’ hard-earned money. Then, when you ask for pointers on better writing, they will tell you that they can only point the way, not give you actual directions to your destination. You can never win.
4. Fashion. You struggle every morning to wear appropriate clothes, slap some kajal on your puffy eyes and somehow make it to your class where, as you stumble in, you see your other female classmates with smoky eye makeup, fabulous clothes, and no sign of sleep on their faces.
5. The boys. Guys strut about as though they are the love children of Brad Pitt and George Clooney — pants around their hips, huge sunglasses, heavy incomprehensible grunting which pass for words. While they smoke outside class, their girlfriends do their homework for them.
6. The girls. Really, just because I’m better than you, is no reason to badmouth me behind my back. It only shows how much you envy me. It’s not my fault that you think wearing earrings and form-fitting clothes is anti-feminist.
7. The drama. Better than Star Plus, and no plastic surgery! You get it all: tears, fights, break-ups, scheming and even revenge. There is no way of getting bored when you get to witness a fight between a boy, his ex-girlfriend, his new girlfriend AND his fiancé.
8. The projects. All the presentations, assignments and group projects … it’s like the teachers are pairing you all up and then going back into the staff lounge to place bets on the all-out catfight that is sure to break out.
9. The cliques. I heard this term in the movie Mean Girls and was quite fascinated by it all, until I came to my university and got into a clique. Here you have the too-cool-for-you(but not)s, the A-level crowd, the rejects, the snobs, the shy/conservatives ones, and then the ones who really come only once a year and therefore, do not matter.
10. The experience. You spend four or more years in this hellhole. You look at the bruises to your ego and the tears you’ve shed and, as much as you hate to, you have to admit — you actually did learn something, though not necessarily what you paid to study.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 13th, 2011.