How I’ve grown and changed since starting college

By ZUBIA HASAN | November 7, 2019

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COURTESY OF ZUBIA HASAN

Hasan reflects on how she’s changed and stayed the same since high school.

This article was going to be many things, but what it was not going to be was this nostalgic throwback to my freshman-year-fresh-out-of-high-school-self. But a Snapchat memory, some hasty scrolling back to 2017 and some three hours later, here I was thinking about how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.

It’s strange that I’m thinking of the past right now because someone asked me just yesterday whether I thought I had changed since coming to America. And as always, the answer was an unsatisfactory yes and no.

I have changed since then, but in some ways some aspects of my personality are more certain than ever — some parts of my identity more rooted than ever. Usually people write this sort of article when they’re graduating from college, and while I’m nowhere near donning that black graduation robe, I think a little introspection and a little reflection is good for the soul — so that’s exactly what I’m going to do now.

I came into freshman year with a blazing sense of entitlement about what the world owed me. I also came in ignorant of what the world does to people who think they are owed something. To say that Hopkins was humbling for me would be an understatement — for the first time, I found that working hard was not enough to get what I wanted.

For the first time, I was also beginning to understand that perhaps I was supposed to work hard for the sake of working hard, not for the sake of a letter grade. That sounds stupid because we are always taught that we work for an end result — that we work towards something. But I have realized that there is something capitalistic and sinister about wanting to work just for accolades and accomplishments.

Yeah, honestly, perhaps the biggest thing I have realized is how capitalism is such a scam designed to depress us. That realization probably had something to do with how unreasonable it was that I would feel guilty for taking breaks, feel guilty for enjoying myself or feel guilty for taking classes that didn’t really contribute to my future in the “practical sense.”

Basically, when I realized I felt guilty for pretty much anything underneath the sun that wasn’t directly related to a practical, tangible gain I realized that there must be something wrong with the values we are being given. Having said that and having effectively complained about that, I still feel guilty: Apparently it’s not very easy to snap out of a mindset that has been cultivated since the Industrial Revolution. Who woulda thought?

I am really not “wiser” or anything now that I’m in my junior year, but I would say I have had more experiences than I ever did living my sheltered life in Pakistan.

I live alone a bajillion miles away from home, away from everything I knew for the first 18 years of my life. I experienced being lonely and being foreign (apparently something completely different from being lonely; it is a state of feeling like an alien in front of people who look, talk and act differently from you. Turns out diversity matters or something).

But rants on how capitalism sucks aside, here are some things that didn’t change.

I started out college in love with physics, and I am still here so, so, so much in love with physics. I started out hesitant that literature and physics were linked, and I am here now, utterly convinced that physics and literature are interlinked. For me, the love for one subject cannot exist without the other.

I tried to change this so many times during my three years here because it seemed foolish, romantic and unreasonable that I thought of physics in such soft terms. I tried to be the person who could take a thousand physics and math classes and still be okay. But for me that was suffocating.

I needed literature in my life, and the semesters that I didn’t balance out my physics load with a writing or a reading course, I would suffer terribly. Turns out gut instincts are sometimes correct.

I think a lot of my gut instincts didn’t change. My gut instincts about people who weren’t good for me were right — the times they weren’t right were because they weren’t my gut instincts. They were my mind judging amazing people because I’m a dodo bird.

Another thing I followed my gut on would definitely be mom jeans. Skinny jeans were invented by the devil; high-waisted skinny jeans that hoist your organs all the way to your face were invented by the devil’s devil.

It’s too late for me now but for those of you who are reading this — save yourself. Buy jeans with your gut and your gut will never ever want to squeeze into a high waisted torture cell. 

I think I’m more brown than ever and more Muslim than ever. A healthy dose of xenophobia with a sprinkling of Islamophobia tends to do that. In that way, my identity is more solidified, and perhaps against my will, even more politicized now than it ever was before.

I wouldn’t say all of these changes have been for the better but I would say all of these changes have been for reasons that are perhaps not yet revealed to me.

The past has a peculiar quality of seeming not so bad. So for better or worse, I think today I’m grateful for where I am. Talk to me in 10 years; perhaps I’ll even be grateful for this present moment.

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