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Mean girls at the university!

  1. Apr 15, 2017 #1
    hello all
    i've just started university about a month ago (studying for a single major in mathematics) and in desperate need for some advice from the wiser and older.
    since i've started at the second semester (you can do that in my uni), we are a relatively small group of people, only about 20-30 or so and we all have the same lectures. i thought this would be a good thing, but since the semester started i've been encountering so much drama? everyone seems to be competing for "class genius" status and refuse to study together and associate with "lesser beings" unless they deem you worthy of their attention (aka they think you're smarter than them and working with you will somehow benefit them in the future). in the beginning people were really nice to me but once i've admitted that i'm struggling they're suddenly turning their noses up and are kind of ignoring me and refusing to study together. theres one girl in particular who is clearly very intelligent but seems really insecure and spends breaks spreading negativity about other people or stressing everyone out. i don't understand why people are like this, it's only the first semester, there's no way anyone actually understands what they're doing (cmon, trying to cram down math that took mankind hundreds of years to achieve in 4 months?) and i can't wrap my head around why people think that their academic background grants them superiority and that people like me (which seem to be the minority) who've never studied any form of mathematics previously other than basic high school are brainless weaklings?
    how do i deal with this? do i just go down the lone wolf route and wait until people chill out? i don't want to draw any more fire towards my direction or get sucked into this primary school behaviour. this will pass right?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 15, 2017 #2


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    If you're lucky. The thing about people is that they don't change very often and even when they do it's often very slowly. And then you throw them under a monumental amount of chronic stress and sometimes everything just goes right out the window.

    Who knows what goes on in the mind of another? I'm sure that from their point of view they're doing nothing of the sort and whatever way they're acting towards you is perfectly logical and without ill will.

    If they make you feel the way you do then I recommend ignoring them. Petty drama exists everywhere. You'll probably be dealing with some even after you get out of school and get into your career, so I'd say just do your best to avoid the kind of people who create or spread it. By all means confront it if it gets out of hand or becomes a serious problem, but the thing with drama is that getting involved usually only feeds and perpetuates it. So just ignore it if you can.
  4. Apr 15, 2017 #3
    I cant give you any advice. But I am really surprised how childish your fellows are. After all you are talking about nearly the whole department of mathematics students "or at least a large part of it".

    Clearly your department lack social relations between the students. Every student is there for the sake of grades only.

    I might say you are in a bad department. Because I think it reflects with no doubt how your department is administered.

    I might be wrong though.

    Anyway, I think you need to ignore them and be merciful. If they needed help and you can offer them a hand, just do it. Dont be them, so they can be you.
  5. Apr 15, 2017 #4


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    Sometimes it can take a while for first year university students to figure out that they are no longer in high school. I'm sure a lot of this will pass, though as Drakkith said, there will always be people who are like this. It's best to avoid them if at all possible.

    One thing to be aware of is that some people can be sensitive about others who might leech off of their work. Some of the people in your group may have had experience in the past with others copying their work, or dogging them with questions about stuff that was covered in the lecture or textbook. And so when you first approach them, they might tend to give you the cold shoulder if you come across as someone like that. (I'm not trying to imply that you're like that at all, just that you can't always control how people see you.) If that's the case, I wouldn't worry too much about it. It might just take them a little longer to come around and realize that you're genuinely interested in friendship and mutual engagement.

    From a general social point of view, if you're having a hard time connecting with people in your classes, why not look elsewhere? University is a great place for meeting interesting people. Try an extra-curricular activity, or an intramural sport.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2017
  6. Apr 18, 2017 #5
    At one point in my career, I went to grad school after a decade after graduating with a BS. After about a week, I met another grad student who openly contradicted/ dissed etc. me. I have no idea what I did to upset him. Maybe he just did not like older students, although truth be told, there were other older (than he; not me) students in the same program. There was no explanation for it.

    Just before Thanksgiving, I met him at the airport, and we were both waiting for our planes. To my surprise,,we spent about 30-45 minutes talking. I do not remember what we talked about, but it may not have been technical or schoolwork at all.

    After Thanksgiving, I ran into him in the offices again several times. Relations between us were never warm or kindly, but after the airport meeting, he never was nearly as hostile.

    Seems you can never understand human behavior.
  7. Apr 18, 2017 #6


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    You seem to be in a difficult group. Try to figure if they are like that just to you, or are they like that to each other also. Most of the time, a group of 20 to 30 people is NOT like that, at least as a group. You might expect one or two being like that, but not a group. Is this just in YOUR Mathematics courses, or is this same group in other related or needed courses at your school?
  8. Apr 18, 2017 #7
    Lots of selfish people in that age range.

    I always tell my daughter and sons: to have a friend, you need to be a friend.

    There are not many people reliable enough for them to count as friends. But they are counted as reliable by all who know them.
  9. Apr 18, 2017 #8


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    I can't stress this enough. Don't get sucked in. I stayed on my own, a friend to all and a friend to none and had zero problems. Don't get pulled into gossip. If it starts, you have somewhere else you have to be. I remained neutral and it worked, it can be done if you do it right. Luckily my friends attended nearby Universities or had already graduated. I had my own apartment, which helped. I know it's harder if you are forced to live on campus (some Universities require this for freshmen), or you are in a small town and far away from home. Just do your best to remain neutral, the best way is, as hard as it may be, just say nothing, if you do, you will be judged to be either with or against the group you are with. Good luck!
  10. Apr 19, 2017 #9
    My chemical engineering program was like this, I still managed to find a very small group to work with and did a lot on my own and managed to graduate, although not with the GPA I wanted. Now that I do one class at a time towards a masters it is much better as I can hyper focus on a topic instead of playing games to pass a test and load up on 16-18 credits.

    There was no drama or anything like that they just wouldn't work with you, probably because that was about the time that internships were getting really cut throat so if they knew they were smarter then they would have a higher grade and snag the internship. I ended up doing extra class work during the summers as I was unsuccessful in competing for the very few internships, did a few odd jobs at a liquor store in the summers after I turned 21. Then it took me a year to find a job after graduation due to the lack of internships.

    If you can build wealth some other way and just do mathematics for its own sake that is the way to go, most of the greats were in social positions of wealth, fourier, newton, laplace, etc did not have to grovel for jobs picking grapes they were unhinged to study these things.
  11. May 1, 2017 #10
    The best advice that I can give you is that stop caring about your university and rely on your own.
    You will learn nothing from that university, if it is the way you described it. Use the internet to learn the material with your own pace. Solve problems. When you get stuck, talk to others. Many of these people are probably doing the same to stay ahead of their class. I also studied in a university that admitted only 1% of the students participating in the entrance exam. But also, it was the first choice for students who had won medals in International Mathematics Olympiads. The atmosphere was very competitive and very close to what you described. The only advice I can give you, based on my humble opinion and experience, is to stay away from that atmosphere and learn on your own.
  12. May 1, 2017 #11


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    I don't quite see how you came to that conclusion based on what the OP posted. There are almost no details of the university, only some issues with classmates.

    One of the issues was that the OP's classmates wouldn't help them when they had difficulty, so I don't see how "talk to others" is helpful advice. Perhaps you meant find people other than classmates to talk to?
  13. May 1, 2017 #12
    I can tell you from firsthand experience that if the problem is as serious as I thought it to be, and probably that's why the OP has considered posting it here, then it can negatively affect his/her self-confidence and cause depression. The OP might very soon start questioning his/her capabilities and might become less motivated to study at all. If you have no motivation to study hard, if you have self-confidence issues, and if you feel no one around you appreciates you and think that you're a "brainless weakling", you will end up performing terrible and you will definitely look for a way out as soon as you can.

    Yes, I wanted to advise him/her to talk to people other than his/her classmates.
  14. May 1, 2017 #13


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    While certainly a possibility, and definitely worth keeping an eye out for, I feel that this stems more from their classmates and not the university itself, which is what you appeared to be criticizing in your post. I don't think that telling the OP to stop caring about their university and to learn from things online is helpful. It can alienate them from their teachers and other resources that the university offers. We don't know anything about the university nor do we know anything about the OP, so it's difficult to make any "factual" statements about the university in general.
  15. May 1, 2017 #14
    You're right that I wrongly assumed that the problem was the university. And I admit that my tone to tell him that he should stop caring about their university sounded differently than it sounded in my head. Yes, the OP should maintain good relations with the professors and they should use the resources that the university offers.

    In my case, the problem was with the university because it was a very competitive one that actually fostered competition among the students. And it was seen nearly in every department, even though arguably it was the worst in the math department. It took me a while to realize that the atmosphere was my problem and if I hadn't wasted my time trying to fit in with their standards, I would've done much better.
  16. May 8, 2017 #15
    Well, the two best kids of my graduating year are (from what I notice) quiet and unassuming instead of annoying and competitive. So I'd just ignore the insecure egos and focus on getting the homework done with actual friends (or alone).
    Last edited: May 8, 2017
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