What is college experience: Insider Secrets from the College Senior You Deserved But Never Had (Part 1)

April 03, 2023

Part 1 of 3-part series. Some anecdotes and experiences to describe the essence of life as a college student.

As a college student, I faced the challenge of balancing my studies along with the founding and growth of a startup - Writee. In this three-part blog series, I will explore the different aspects of my journey as a college student and an entrepreneur. From learning invaluable skills to the highs and lows of business, from friendships to dating in college, I'll be sharing it all with you. I hope my experiences will serve to inspire other student entrepreneurs out there and give you a  glimpse of the entrepreneurial life. I'll outline the structure of this series:

  1. Part 1: What is the college experience - Some anecdotes, the essence of student life etc
  2. Part 2: What is a college start-up - The nuances of starting-up, its pros and cons
  3. Part 3: How a start-up and a college experience intermingle - The conclusion

What is the College Experience?

Before talking about the risks of losing out on this very special experience, it is important to define what it means. In simple words, it is literally every happy and sad thing you do as a result of you being a college student. If that means being a part of 15 different clubs, going out with friends every week, reeling from a break-up or even studying your way through difficult courses, then that is what YOUR college experience is. No 2 individuals can ever have the same college experience. I'll outline a few primary elements which are often found in varying amounts in everyone's campus life.

Friends & Parties:

Friends have been the driving force of any campus experience since time immemorial. From the late-night ragers to the post-exam cheers, friends have always been instrumental in making college life irreplaceable. The best memories are created when your friends and you are stuck in an impossible situation and you have to make the best out of it. The same can be said for the parties. These wild events offer a kind of freedom that seems to bring everyone together despite their individual differences and make them bond over music and the atmosphere of the night. Jadavpur University, my alma mater, is famous for its never-ending set of fests, concerts and events. I've spent countless nights in the massive Open Air Theater of my college enjoying the incredible energies of the crowd cheering to incredible and subpar music alike.

I particularly remember a night when a local band was playing at the OAT (Open Air Theatre) and it started raining heavily. Loud music, alcohol and the mighty Kolkata rains (read Kalbaisakhi) at midnight with your friends beside you is an experience no one would ever forget. The energy was so contagious that amidst the dark stormy night, all we could see was a sea of dancing people.

A friend once told me that generally friendships made earlier in life are stronger and last longer than ones made after you've entered your professional career. There are multiple reasons for this like going through similar problems & situations, common interests (studying the same or similar subjects) and similar experiences pre-college. But, the primary cause of this is the fact that no one is looking to gain anything from the other person in college. As college students, all you are looking for is someone to hang out with. This dynamic changes as soon as you reach the professional sphere. All of your colleagues are now your competitors fighting for the same promotions and appraisals. Everyone is looking to network with the boss and grab a job at the other company paying higher salaries. Friendships fall apart under these testing circumstances. College friendships are the ones that last because they come with little baggage.

Dating in College Life:

A major difference between school and college is the fact that we are legally adults, and societally semi-adults. That gives us the freedom to make our own decisions with lower interference from those around us. This makes dating a real possibility in college. While a lot of people do date in school, I believe that school relationships are generally friendships disguised as relationships to seem cooler than others. Things are a lot different in college. College relationships are significantly more serious, and people are looking for more than just someone to make them seem cooler.

There is not a single guy or girl who doesn't want to get into a relationship in college. Your first serious relationship is an essential step away from home. As a school student, your primary sources of love and affection were your family. But as you grow older the source of love shifts from the family you are born with to the family you create, the one with your spouse or your partner. It is this transition that is made possible through your first relationship.

I have spoken about college relationships with a number of my friends and it's interesting how everyone who's dated in college believes that it was the best time for them to do it. Most of them felt that it gave them newer perspectives on life and their futures. It is essentially impossible to imagine the experience of loving someone without doing so yourself. I too, like many others, had multiple wrong notions about relationships. It took a long-term relationship to convince me of the complexity and beauty of love. Through the initial days, I was pondering over questions such as

I spent the first 3-4 months irritating my partner over these questions and a lot more. She was patient enough to let me find my understanding of what a relationship should look like and what importance it holds in my life. I acknowledge the fact that I was lucky or blessed enough to get a girlfriend that is caring and supportive towards my expectations from life. Most people end up going through a toxic relationship or one that is non-functional. While in the moment it seems to be the worst thing to happen to a person, but, as my girlfriend likes to say, in the grander scheme of things it is better for you to face this and learn from it earlier on in your life than with someone you've married. Having experienced the rollercoaster of emotions and self-doubt you will think twice before jumping into a relationship with the wrong person.

College Clubs:

We've discussed dating and friendships but we haven't touched upon the meeting ground for everything social in college - Clubs. These form an intrinsic part of any university and lie at the heart of the college experience. College clubs are collections of students who are interested in a particular activity, for example, a group of students interested in photography join the photography club. I spent the better part of my college life with the Entrepreneurship Cell of my university. In hindsight, it was too obvious for me to join the E-Cell and I should've probably taken up something more eclectic. Nevertheless, joining E-Cell was one of the best decisions I made during my college life because that is where I found not just my co-founders but also my girlfriend.

As students, you don't have a lot of access to the professional world or the extracurricular space. You are stuck within the massive premises of your university. This is where clubs come in. You follow your passions through these clubs. I always had a knack for business and wanted to try my hand at it since the very beginning. This got me to the entrepreneurship cell. I worked tirelessly for months there to first cement my place, then gain from what it has to offer and eventually work hard again to give back to the community. College clubs are the place where you learn, enjoy and make bonds which stand the test of time. Two of the most important relationships I formed in college came through these clubs.

My co-founder (Sk Shahnawaz) is a year senior to me and he was an integral part of E-Cell when I joined. 6 months after I had joined, we organised a massive event named Mock Stock (3-week long stock simulation contest) which saw the participation of 300+ students from all over India. The fun part about this event was that Shahnawaz had created the stock trading platform from the ground up and I had helped him with the algorithm. As soon as we launched the platform, we had more than 100+ concurrent users (wanting to win a cash prize of Rs 35,000) using a stock simulator which used web scrapers to get the updated stock prizes. Our servers were under a lot of pressure. Within 3 hours of launching the platform, we noticed that someone had 10x his money. This was obviously a bug in the system. That is where a 3-week long saga of 5-7 hour-long G-Meets of detailed data analysis, scam detection and bug fixing began. Shahnawaz and I went into the competition as acquaintances but came out as very good friends. Just 3 months after Mock Stock, we incorporated our very first company - Writee.

This brings us to the end of part 1 of a 3-part blog series. I hope you related with some of the stories I shared and can imagine yourself making these memories as well. In the next part, I discuss the nuances of a college start-up. Check it out here!

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