A HOSTEL could be a paradise for some and nightmare for others. Mostly, it falls somewhere in between.
The first images that pop up in one's mind upon hearing the word "hostel" would likely be packed schedules, strict wardens, not-so-delicious food and uncomfortable beds.
This could be due to scenarios depicted in movies. My six-year hostel staying experience – in secondary school and now in college – will tell you otherwise.
In Malaysia, we have hostels in tertiary institutions, boarding schools and even some primary schools, and the rules, amenities and systems in each of these can differ substantially.
I love staying in a hostel as I get to learn new things, be independent, join extracurricular activities, and save up on commuting time.
If you are headed for a hostel in a boarding school or college, here are five tips to help you make the most of your experience.
• First and foremost, practising room etiquette is the rule of thumb. One must always be considerate and try to coexist with people from various backgrounds.
Don't leave your room in a mess and make too much noise when people are sleeping or studying. Try to think of your roommates as your second family. Bonding with them can definitely take the edge off your homesickness.
• Secondly, you must try to build a healthy circadian cycle. Typically, students should sleep seven to eight hours a night.
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day promotes better cognitive function.
Signs of adequate sleep include feeling mentally sound upon waking, and feeling refreshed. Symptoms of poor sleep include inability to focus or dozing off during classes, and lethargy.
Having adequate sleep provides countless benefits, such as improved grades, reduced stress and a better memory.
• Thirdly, write your names visibly on your belongings. This is very important if you're in a boarding school.
You may end up losing a lot of your clothing and needing to constantly purchase new ones, especially stockings, pants and uniforms.
• At times, however, you need to practise sharing – that's the fourth tip. You don't only share a room, but also food, notes, fun and more.
Your hostel mates are likely to ask if they can borrow your possessions, which is normal and an important part of hostel life.
Don't hesitate to lend things to them, because that's how you'll be able to widen your social circle.
• Last but not least, take part in sports or join a club which is active in your school or campus; otherwise, you may end up napping every evening, which is not recommended, as you should make your hostel time as memorable and worthwhile as possible.
Basketball, football, archery, golf, rugby and cricket were some of the prominent sports in my school. If you're an indoor person, you can venture into badminton, chess, taekwondo, debate or orchestra.
Overall, staying in a hostel is all about getting out of your comfort zone and being self-reliant.
It could be intimidating at first but once you have acclimatised yourself to the new environment and made friends, you will be in for an experience that will forever be seared in your memory.
Thasarathakumar, 19, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star's Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team.
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