I brought with me a lot of myths about the system of education in North America, and it took me a while to figure out how everything worked. Here are some of the things I discovered on my first day (or in my first couple of months) as an undergrad in Canada:
- To begin with, I was absolutely convinced that the admission to North American universities was not competitive. I believed that anybody would be admitted to any university, as long as they could pay tuition.
- I believed that writing an essay consisted of copying every single word from books and articles. Only my complete ignorance of where the library was located and how one could gain access to it prevented me from proudly submitting a plagiarized essay. Which, of course, would mean the end of my academic career.
- I had no idea that expressing my opinions (which even then were very strong and worded in a very forceful way) was actually a good thing that would turn me into a stellar student.
- I was strongly convinced that all North American students were stupid and I would shine brightly among them. The very first day of classes disabused me of this silly notion. I came out feeling vastly inferior in knowledge to my classmates, most of whom were several years younger than me. This feeling of intellectual inferiority was very productive for me because it made me want to work hard to catch up with everybody.
- I expected everybody to be a feminist (another myth that traveled with me across the ocean) and was shocked to discover that people were terrified that anybody would suspect them of being feminist.