This article is a long one, and has been broken into four parts.

Part 1 describes the formation of the expectations and the attitude with which I start my graduate and post graduate academic journey. This is important as it sets the tone of expectation management that is necessary later on.

Part 2 (this blog) describes  my shock at the mismatch between expectation and reality and its psychological impact.

Part 3 talks about how I react and try to deal with the shock – trying to overcome it or succumb to it.

Part 4 suggests various realistic measures that I can take in order to resolve the situation. It may be tempting to go directly to this section, but it is important to understand and identify with the other sections. By doing this, I create detachment, and I see myself as a third person undergoing trauma, and with this detachment the solutions make sense to me.

Part 2: The Shock

When I come to the new institute, the following things happen:

  • The teachers are teaching a bigger crowd. Their focus is not just on teaching, but promoting themselves in the academic field. They are focussed on writing papers, doing research, completing their doctoral / post doctoral thesis, getting projects and being part of committees. I am not saying this is wrong. This is needed, as the professors have an academic career in front of them, and they need to do all the above to progress in their professional life. The teachers have neither time, nor the inclination to personally look after my needs. They do not behave like my school teachers (now I miss my school teachers!).
  • The subjects are all new, and the standard suddenly goes up by a notch or two. The method and speed of teaching changes. There is an expectation that I have to study a lot on my own. The number of courses go up, the type of assignments and exams are no longer mug-and-vomit and require a higher level of thinking and reasoning.
  • Instead of a subject being taught in one or two years, there is a semester or a trimester system, and each subject is taught in its entirety in this short period. Furthermore, each of these subjects become a building block for subsequent subjects. So incompetence in a subject may lead to incompetence in subsequent subjects.
  • The same subject, depending on our capability and the teacher’s capability, can become boring or tough. Either way, there is a tendency to avoid the subject and focus on others which are interesting or easier.
  • I am an young adult and do not stay at home. So there is no monitoring. There is complete freedom and I overdo the freedom. I spend time with friends, pursuing whatever catches my fancy. My habits change, I eat differently (read junk food), sleep later and less and get side tracked with other diversions. There is no one to motivate me by “Saam” (explaining), “Daam” (bribing and cajoling), “Dand” (punishing) or “Bhed” (comparing with others). Since I can escape all these methods, I gleefully run away from all methods of motivation. When things do not go as per expectations, I live in denial or in hope for a rosy future.
  • Parents are also not there to support and help in structuring my productivity. I am becoming an young adult, and I mostly refuse their support as I want to find my own path, and I believe that I can handle my own problems. Furthermore, parents treat me like a school child and use the same methods of motivating me. I can see through their strategy and do not like their attitude.
  • In school, a board exam means comparison with hundreds of thousands of aspirants. There may not be relative grading. So, in school, I do not have a tendency to compare or worry about my academic ranking. In college, I am compared with at most 150 other competitors and I know where I stand. If there is relative grading, there is an automatic comparison and hierarchy. Be it professors or parents or peers, everyone judges me  in terms of my academic ranking.
  • If the class is smaller, because of my specialisation or electives, then the comparison becomes more apparent. If the bottom rankers are automatically failed, I may get a “Failed” score, and I will be judged on this result by the entire universe, including the recruiters coming to campus. I will have to explain to everyone, why I am dumb.
  • I was a “frog in a well” in my home town. I compared only with my peers in school and I did not realise that there were people in the world who are smarter, who have been taught better, what have better strategies of studying, who are better motivated. Suddenly, I am not good enough. My home town thinks I am  brilliant, but here I am nothing.
  • A lot of changes are happening to me and to the environment and I am overwhelmed. I am going through adolescence, with hormones changing the body, and the emotions. The opposite gender has its attractions. Friendship change. Peers pull you down. Support comes from unexpected places.  Respect of the peers is very important to me, and I change my habits and my thinking to be accepted by them. I may get “bad” habits.
  • My time is not my own. At home, once I am home, my time is controlled. Here, peers can come to my room any time, distract me any time and force me to change my habits. They do things behind my back, and disturb me and distract me and make me do things I do not want to do.
  • I joined the graduate / post graduate course in the hope that this course will help me get a job or determine my future. I find that I am not doing well academically, socially, emotionally and therefore I doubt my capability to determine my future. I hear horror stories from my seniors about placement and the job scene. The professors and the parents add to the clamour by painting a bleak future if we do not study. My parents have a lot of expectations from me, they are paying for my education and they expect some decent returns on their investment.

In short,

  1. I have doubts about my capability
  2. The environment is more competitive and no longer conducive
  3. My attitude towards academics, peers the teachers and the future is not positive.

Part 3 talks about how I react and try to deal with the shock – trying to overcome it or succumb to it.


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