From An NIT Bhopal Student: My Advice To 17-Year-Olds Scared Of Hostel Life

I left home to pursue my undergraduate studies from NIT Bhopal when I was 17 years old. Just a teenager who had never been on his own anywhere, the idea of living in a hostel was a blend of scary and exciting. Yes, I really was scared when I was moving out of my house for my graduate studies.

It’s not like it was unplanned or something. I always wanted to move out, nobody wants to stay in Gwalior (context: it’s my hometown). There’s no space for growth there.

But, this dread is actually about how your life is going to take a drastic turn. This dread is what you were always aware of, but now when it’s finally at your doorstep, it feels different.

I entered college with the same inhibitions everyone enters with: how am I going to make friends here? How am I going to survive?

I’m an extremely introvert person with minimal socializing skills. So, the idea of being around a bunch of new people has always put me in an awkward position; and the fact that I’d be living with these new people, all on my own, was scary on another level. Relatable, isn’t it?

The risks and fears associated with ragging ran right through my first year, added to which were preconceived notions and rumours. The mere thought of someone slapping me without any reason or making me do something against my wishes was enough to make me stay put in one place. I had fixed my routine to just stepping outside to attend classes in the morning and coming back and staying in my room for the rest of the evening. I was terrified of ragging. Well, who isn’t?

But to my relief, the anti-ragging cells are really effective and strict in college these days. Yes, it exists. Yes, the seniors might ask for your introduction, make you dance, make fun of you, but it’s all in good spirit. I have learnt that there’s nothing to be scared of. Just interact freely with your seniors, and it’ll all be fine. It’s okay to be scared at first, but you always end up making the best of friends with your senior batches, as always!

I moved from Gwalior to Bhopal, so there wasn’t much difference in terms of culture. Yes, Bhopal is a big city in comparison to Gwalior, and the latter is more conservative. As I realized, it’s okay to feel a bit out of place for a while.

People who hail from metro cities and speak in fluent English, talk about Hollywood movies and TV shows and go on dates might daunt you, but trust me, you’ll find people who resonate with your thoughts.

And eventually you’ll settle in, you’ll get a hold of the environment, and it’ll all unfold right in front of you. So, it’s okay to be scared, because it pushes you to learn more stuff. Just maintain your originality and you’ll ultimately stand out from the crowd.

It took me just 3-4 months to figure all this out. And that’s all it takes, you soon stop missing your home, and start living this newly achieved and much needed independent life!

It’s okay to be scared. It really is. But it’s also important to know that everything is going to turn out absolutely fine. You’ll meet your people, you’ll start scoring good marks, you’ll do stuff that you wanted, all it requires is a bit of patience in the beginning. This patience will be worth it because the journey is going to be the best part of your life.

You’ll also go through phases which won’t be your happiest, but you’ll live through it. For me, I overcame those phases by indulging in extra-curricular activities that I liked.

Takeaways from my hostel life have continued till date. It has taught me how to respect everyone, to be accommodating of varied and conflicting perspectives, and to cherish the unexplored night time.

I did things I never imagined I’d do, realized that I enjoyed them eventually – right from blasting music on speakers at midnight, to getting high, to chai and bike rides to getting caught by the police. All these experiences added to my personality and defined who I am.

Every person enters college with similar feelings, and it all works out in the end. Maybe not the way you planned, but the way it is supposed to be.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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