Advantages of staying alone

28th August 2009

It is by far the single biggest of benefit of studying away from home. You get to spend time with yourself. Freedom and independence look the obvious benefits but it is an excellent opportunity to know oneself better.

I believe you can maximise the benefits of staying alone more after you have attained a particular age. I know a lot of people join engineering colleges, move to bigger cities etc. after their 12th Std in India but i think the self-awareness may be low at that age of around 17-18. That is why in my opinion, people tend to utilise their time alone more fruitfully during their post graduate course.

For an urbane creature like me, who has never lived for over 20 days outside Bombay it is a great learning experience. One is so dependent on people at home and one takes things like electricity, public transport, water so much for granted that you never realise the true value of mundane things like these. And I have not even started talking about food!

What it adds in a big way, especially to students from cities like Mumbai is self-discipline. It also helps you manage yourself better. You actually need top plan a lot of things. You need to start planning your day meticulously especially if you are at an IIM. Interestingly, I got great insights about my spending patterns and how I manage money. Infact, you never realised how much you were costing your parents when you were at home!

This time alone helps one to go within. You think about things you never gave priority in a hurried city life. This time can be used to reflect upon your various plans, your aspirations, your dreams. I am not saying your parents and friends don't allow you to do that but when you're alone it is just different. Surprisingly, you may feel you are more honest to yourself during this time. You will also realise which are those friends that you truly miss, the moments that you really treasure and the good things that life has given you. All these things are not applicable to a lot of people in IIMs who get caught in another race after getting in and may actually move further away from reality. One of my friends, Harini had very rightly put - 'Staying alone for extended periods of time leads to exaggerated feelings'.

Another thing I realised is the sheer amount of time I spend socialising in Mumbai! It is a great thing and also an ability to socialise but I think we don't know how to do things in moderation. I also feel great that I don't have to meet innumerable relatives and friends whom I meet just as a part of social obligations. All that time could have been used so much more fruitfully.

Yet another thing is the amount of time saved by not watching TV passively. It is a pain to go and watch the TV in the common room and so hardly anyone watches TV here. I don't really feel the need now except that I at times miss my share of sports and news on TV. One can of course always go and watch it but it's too inconvenient most of the times.

You also start doing a lot of things on your own. For e.g. washing clothes (I always had the luxury of a domestic help back home) I had thought it would be a pain. Funnily, I don't really mind it. Modern technology (read: washing machines) have made the task not too difficult. I must admit though that we have quite adequate facilities here at IIM. Maybe at other places it's slightly tedious. But basically you learn doing a lot of things. Any type of learning is always good.

It's the best time to ideate. Most of these campuses are huge and they foster an environment where you can think and work on your ideas. I am sure you will have a lot of eureka moments and moments of powerful realisations. Something really special may strike you. Something that may even change the way the world sees things.

What staying alone at a different place with different people around also does is that it introduces you to new trends , new interests, new food and new cultures. For e.g. You will not meet too many South Indian film fanatics in Mumbai nor will you find too many national level quizzers nor too many people who are obsessed with Poker. In cities like Mumbai, where getting space to play sport is a luxury a place like this always welcome.

Stating the obvious - you can indulge in a lot of activities when you are alone which you would dare not do overtly when you're at home! A little bit of fun did no one any harm ;-)