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    On the Feeling of Incompetence In College

    Education Abroad Life in Ivy
    Getting admitted to a selective university means you will consistently communicate with highly successful people. In my very first interactions in college, I met students who were Nobel Prize nominees, successful startup founders, international olympiad winners, and many more.

    These interactions might cause a feeling of personal inadequacy, making you feel that you do not belong in the community and that your college acceptance was just a mistake. When you apply from, say, a regular local public school, it is almost a given that you might initially struggle academically and culturally.

    On the academic side, you will be challenged to regularly write thousands of words of essays or finish seemingly unapproachable problem sets. On the cultural side, having no prior experience of studying in an international environment means that you may not recognize insider jokes, movie references, song lyrics, etc. Such cultural unawareness might make communication a bit harder than it normally would.

    Unsurprisingly, these and other issues lead to suboptimal results and mental blocks where students may not be performing at their highest capacity. Many of my peers shared that they experienced similar feelings in college, so I reasonably assume this is a widespread phenomenon.

    What helped me deal with the feeling of inadequacy were personal reflections on what caused my struggles and how I could address them.

    First, I recognized that academic challenges were inevitable since I had to adapt to an entirely different educational model. It is critical to acknowledge that there is nothing inferior about you. Sure, others might have had more resources to be more skilled than you are at the moment, but there is always a potential to catch up.

    Secondly, I observed that awkward situations or cultural misunderstandings were also natural. In fact, they were critical for me to learn from them, educating me on a range of diverse cultural norms and practices. This finding helped me more freely explore new things and interact with more people while not blaming myself for every silly mistake I would make.

    Four years later, I feel as comfortable in the international crowd as I was with my friends from a public school in Uzbekistan. My main advice is to avoid being too harsh with yourself and give yourself time, accepting that transformative learning is not a matter of days but often months or years.