5 Things I Learnt At University.

Something a little different today.

With Covid chaos impacting on new university students, I wanted to share some tips/pieces of advice that I learnt during my time as an undergraduate. 

I was lucky enough to get into my first choice and was very happy with my grades. On paper, it would look like I was off to have the time of my life; easily complete assignments, have a good social life, and get to know myself. However, sadly ‘on paper’ doesn’t always directly translate into ‘real life.’

With the beauty of hindsight, I can see how my anxiety really got a grip on me and didn’t really let go, where things I thought were catastrophes weren’t worth the tears and where I could have relaxed and enjoyed myself more. 

But don’t get me wrong – I loved it . I made some fabulous friends who I am still close to to this day, I studied a subject I love. I am in a position where women are allowed to study at University, I learned some vital lessons, met people from such a wide variety of backgrounds and it gave me some independence. And I grew so much in learning about life and in confidence. 

Number 1 – Don’t put pressure on yourself for fresher’s week.

Now, things are going to be very different this year, but I can only write from my experience. 

Moving day has arrived, and you’ll probably have a mixture of emotions running wild in your head. Feelings of excitement and anticipation, to dread and homesickness, before you’ve even left home. They are all normal. Please don’t think you have to feel a certain way. People have different personalities; some will seem so unbelievably confident, whereas others may take their time to adjust to university life. 

I would suggest, socialise with people in your accommodation, whether that be flat or floor. You don’t have to remain best buddies for the rest of your life, but making polite acquaintances will either lead to a more permanent friendship or just make living harmonious and you can find your feet with the safety of others (especially on now socially distanced nights out). 

You don’t have to go out every night if you don’t want to. Most Universities offer alternative fresher events, and there will definitely be something you will enjoy. I would suggest doing something though; you get to know yourself as well as others. 

As term goes on, you will find that you all have your different routines, which means the pressure is off to do something every night, and people will be more accepting and easy going as the workload increases. 

Number Two – Get your work done.

This might seem like a no brainer, but getting caught up in settling in to University, can sometimes mean that any first bits of work you are meant to do, may get left until the last minute. 

My advice is obvious – get it done as soon as you can. Whether that is form signing, registration, getting equipment, finding buildings where your lectures will be, finding the library etc. just do it. It will make it so much easier when you are set assignments  and lectures/labs begin.

Once you are well into university, do your assignment prep quite soon after it’s set. It means if you are worried you might find it challenging, you have more time to ask for advice and complete it.

It also helps because it means you won’t feel guilty when you are socialising, or just having the evening off chilling or exploring your surroundings. 

Number Three – Get Organised!

Buy a planner – it helped me so much!

Spend a Sunday night filling out your planner with your timetable of lectures and/or labs, appointments, deadlines, events etc.

If you are super organised you can also plan your meals for the week. I would recommend using supermarket delivery. When I moved out of halls I used to pop into town and pick up my shopping, but this would sometimes be quite difficult, and trudging back in the rain with ripped shopping bags was really not fun!

Notebooks, folders and files!! These are an essential. Store your notes in your files when you get back in – it stops them from getting lost and crumpled and makes it so much better when it comes to revision.

As I was a science student, my days were pretty full, some days were 9-6, so I didn’t often have to structure my day. Arts students, however, usually have less contact time and so I would advise you structure your days, so they don’t all drift into one and you can enjoy yourself!

Number Four – Look after your Mental Health.

Now I don’t want to make out that University will lead to poor mental health, but I do want to point out that it is a great opportunity for making sure you look after yourself. 

You get told that ‘it will be the best time of your life‘, ‘you won’t get this opportunity to make friends again‘ or ‘If you don’t get a good grade/classification, it will affect you for the rest of your life‘ to ‘You might meet your husband there.‘ 

As a graduate, I can tell you that these statements are complete RUBBISH! Right now you need to master the art of calculating if the amount of pasta you put in the pan will be enough to feed you alone or the whole accommodation block.

This is a lot of pressure to be put under. I remember being at University for 3 weeks and being asked ‘So what are you going to do after University?‘ Come on, give me a break!! I haven’t even got over fresher’s flu yet!

Once I moved into years 2 and 3, I noticed that my mental health was really suffering as a result of various factors. Please seek help. Universities often offer their own support, but if they are busy and you are still struggling, go to your GP. Please do it. I wish I had. If I could go back in time with the mind frame I have now, (part of it does come with age and experience too) I would have had such a different outlook and dealt with things in different ways and probably enjoyed it more. Don’t worry about mistakes, you are human – and I bet you your lecturers and class mates have made the same mistakes as well. You live and learn.

Number 5 – Make time to have fun.

I fell into the trap of thinking that University life = work . This meant that I would often feel guilty for having the afternoon off and spending it shopping in town or putting a film on, or having lunch out with friends. Yes you have to do the work, and try your best, but don’t make that the sole purpose of your existence. 

If you want to go on nights out (unlikely this year), visit nearby areas or just sit and chat, do it. Don’t feel guilty. That is why I emphasise planning, because it means that you can fit in work amongst your other commitments. 

Find new friends, new hobbies, new places and blossom. 

Oh…and don’t spend all your money at once!

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