Saturday, 19 July 2014

7 things I've learned from my first year of uni

I've recently finished my first year of university. I have loved the experience and am thankful to say that I have met some amazing friends. Admittedly my viewpoint is fairly limited because I'm still living at home as I study locally, so I can't give you much of an insight into the living/moving away aspect of it, but I still think there are some valuable things that I can share. I've listed (in no particular order) some random things I've learned and, in retrospect, aim to improve for next year. Most of them are quite obvious but should nevertheless not be overlooked. This is a fairly lengthy post but stick with me!

1) Ask, ask, ask - ask as many questions as you want to, regardless of whether you think they're 'silly' or too obvious. It's best to ask and know now rather than be stuck on something simple later on.

2) Don't waste seminars - Depending on your degree, lectures are information-rich and great, but I think seminars are what you're really paying for. They're much more intimate than lectures which can sometimes include hundreds of students, so don't waste these invaluable opportunities with the experts. Seminars can be awkward if nobody speaks! Ask for advice on that recent assignment you've been confused with, get some practice in, get yourself involved if you can.

3) Take advantage of Book Lists - If you are lucky enough to have the book list available before you start the course, then fantastic. You'll know if it's a heavy one or not, and if so, I would definitely suggest starting it before the course begins, even if it's just 15 minutes of reading every evening during the week before class begins, or a few chapters here and there. It saves so much stress and time if you gradually tackle the books rather than having a panicked frenzy the night before a book is addressed in class.

4) Consider a dictaphone - These are a godsend for days where you really don't feel like making notes at 127mph, plus they're so ideal as revision tools and something to go back to if you didn't quite understand a lecture the first time around. Some people buy actual dictaphones but the built-in iPhone 'Voice Memos' app worked perfectly for me. Other apps are available - if you want something more professional, perhaps Super Note would be more suitable, or if money isn't a barrier Dictate + Connect is highly rated. Don't forget to name and date the recordings after each class (i.e. date/class/topic) - trust me this saves a lot of fuss and confusion!

5) Enjoy your social life! - a dominant one for most, but for people who aren't that keen on or familiar with these situations/meeting new people/partying/etc it can be daunting. Although I did join a couple of societies, one of which I enjoyed and got involved in considerably, one of my regrets/aims for next year is to get involved with more of the social side of uni. After all, university is supposed to be a UNIVERSAL experience, only part of it being academic. Though keep in mind that socialising doesn't necessarily have to mean hardcore partying if it's not your thing (if it is though - fab); me and my friends usually have a laugh over a meal/day out etc.

6) This includes making the most of the time with your friends. Most of the friends that I've made in uni this year actually live pretty locally, so in a way I'm quite lucky that we can still catch up throughout the summer. However, for most people in uni you will be saying goodbye to your friends for the summer while they (and you) go home to families. I have at least 4 months off from uni so make some memories with your friends during term-time while you have the chance! One thing that I underestimated was how fast this first year has gone - it has absolutely flown by.

7) Relax - This one is important for fellow worriers out there. Please don't stress yourself out! By all means try hard but don't have a break down for god's sake. Many first year courses don't count towards your final grade, and while this doesn't mean they aren't beneficial, consider this year as a period of trial and improvement and for gathering all the tools you need to tackle your further years. I struggle with stress/anxiety and am not ashamed to note that I actually attended a few classes/workshops held by the wellbeing services regarding controlling it, so if you feel that would help you, go for it. It's such an obvious fact but a lot of people (including myself!) forget that the only way to "better yourself" is to MAKE MISTAKES and address these mistakes directly, in order to see how to handle things better next time.

Lastly........ENJOY! Like I said, it will go so so quickly (my sister would know a thing or two about this - she graduated a few days ago), so make the experience count :)

Proud and my sister at her graduation, 16/07/2014 
Hope this is helpful! Any questions are welcome, and good luck to all you almost-freshers. You'll be fine.

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(Photos 1 and 5 belong to Danielle at Cupofloveliness)