Whether you’re a First Year or a Third Year, you’ll likely have learnt a lot of valuable lessons at university. It’s always beneficial to reflect on what your university experience has taught you beyond the lecture theatre.
There are ~40, 000 students at University
Okay, this is a fact rather than a lesson, but the lesson comes from the fact that there are so many people at university – all with different personalities, with different hobbies and humours – that if you’re not happy in the ‘group’ you have now, then all you have to say is: thank u, next.
When you’re in your 6-person flat it can be easy to forget that people exist beyond this shared living space. A lot of people start feeling down or face depression when they become lonely from not getting along with their peers; it’s important to remember that there are so many different types of people at university and that this isn’t a cliquey secondary school anymore – it’s in your control to decide who you surround yourself with.
Catered halls are far more social than self-catered halls
I lived in catered halls for the bulk of 2018 as a First Year, and now for second year live in self-catered halls. Don’t get me wrong, bonding over cooking, or setting the fire alarm off, is a great way to make friends in self-catered halls, but it also comes with the danger of restricting your socialising solely to members of your flat – or, as mentioned above, thinking these are the only possible friends for you to make at uni.
This year I’m in a flat with 6 boys and one girl; although I get along with all of them, I’d likely have been terrified (having spent 6 years at an all girls’ school previously) if that had been my layout last year. If you can afford to, going into catered halls is a great way to be exposed to a much greater number of people. If you can’t, don’t forget to socialise outside of your flat.
Goals and ambitions are constantly redefined
Some people come to uni with a game plan: they know what career they want and they’re here to get the degree for it. I am not one of them. My uni experience has mainly been about discovering what I’m actually interested in, and also what I never want to look at again (Beginnings of English comes to mind – if you know you know).
Uni is a great time to suss out and explore areas of interest; my degree has benefitted me most by providing a platform for me to explore different things so that I can use it as a stepping stone onto newfound interests. Though not a certainty, it’s likely you’ll end up formulating a new life plan along the way.
I also think it’s important First Years manage their expectations and redefine what they call ‘success’. At A-Level, success may be getting full marks in exams, but at university success could mean obtaining 70% – I’m not encouraging people to aim lower, but the best grades at uni are very different to A-Level. In my degree, it’s unheard of to get over 85%.
Discipline is down to me, myself & I
When I’m at home I get frustrated by my parents interfering in my business – how dare they tell me to tidy my room when it gets messy, right? But when I’m at uni, admittedly I miss that nudge from my parents to keep me on track.
Nobody’s there to tell you to wake up and attend those 9ams other than your alarm clock, or to save money when you’re nearing your overdraft. It’s daunting, but the responsibility lies with you when it comes to looking after yourself. Sure, you’ll hopefully have a great support system in the form of friends and family back home, but the onus is on you to see it through.
The rumours are true: societies are worth joining
Before I came to uni, the cacophony of voices from older students told me the importance of joining societies. First Years may shrug off this advice as being obvious, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of shirking attendance at societies because of increased workload, or being over-ambitious and signing up to a plethora of clubs and straight up not attending any.
Be realistic with what extracurricular activities you can manage and attend them. It’s a great way to meet people, make the most of opportunities at a great price and it helps maintain student sanity as a balance alongside workload.
Putting yourself first will get you a First
Firsts rarely come from you hunched over a desk typing your coursework, Red Bull in hand, bleary-eyed as dawn breaks. Nor is it likely to happen if you’re draining your energy by being in Hallward 24/7 and asking questions about essays due in a month’s time at 4am on your subject group chat.
You have to take care of yourself; get those early nights of sleep, eat healthily and gym, keep up a balance between workload and socialising. Be ‘selfish’ and don’t feel bad if you have to miss nights out for the sake of studying. When you master putting yourself at the forefront of your decisions, success is inevitable.
It’s simultaneously the most lonely and social experience
This is a realisation that occurred in 2017 but carried over and became more prominent in 2018. Uni is weird because there are so many people, but sometimes you will find yourself completely alone, or with hundreds of people and lonely, or with a small group and having the best time.
It’s definitely not unusual to feel polar opposites; in fact, uni brings about such emotional turmoil that it’s likely you’ll enjoy the highest of highs and lowest of lows. So long as the latter isn’t for an extended period of time, just remember it’s all a part of the process and almost every one experiences both extremes.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it
This is a lesson almost every one learns over again at the end of each year, but it’s particularly realised at university each time you return home after months away and your family have got that little bit older, or you’re packing for your year abroad, or you’re writing a blog post about what you learnt at university officially halfway through your time there – and just like that, you’re out into the real world. Adulthood.
University is all about gearing you up for the future, so it can be pretty easy to forget to live in the present. Take a leaf out of Ferris Bueller’s book and make the most of it.