There's lots of pressure surrounding university. There's pressure to make friends, get into a relationship, drink and socialise, do well in your studies and then find moving away from home a breeze because it's not "cool" to cry and be homesick. Well, this is all rubbish, it's okay to struggle to adjust, it's perfectly reasonable to say no to a night out if you're just not feeling it and it's completely acceptable to not do well in your first few assignments.
Although nothing is as valuable as first-hand experiences and learning for yourself, here are some things I wish I had known before starting university.
1. Freshers’ doesn't have to be the best week of your life –
There’s a common misconception that Freshers’ week will be one of the best weeks of your life, however this might not always be the case. You might feel pressure to settle in, find friends quickly, know your way around campus, join loads of clubs and have the best time socialising ever night. The purpose of Freshers’ week is to give you opportunities to socialise to start the friend making process. However, it is reasonable to say no to things and be homesick. On a personal note, I was so homesick during Freshers’ that I cried every day. And when I tell others that I did, they said they felt the same. Homesickness is a normal thing and the good thing about the RAU is that they have support systems in place where you can go and talk to someone about it.
2. Making friends –
The friends you make in university will be some of your closest friends, however, you don’t have to meet them during your first week, and you may not meet them until a few weeks into university. My closest friends I met around a month into my university experience. Good friends and close ones will be harder to find but so worth the wait when you do.
3. University is not all about drinking –
There is a massive misconception that university is all about drinking, however, that is down to personal choice. At university, we are here to get a degree and enjoy the social experiences but that doesn’t mean you have to drink, or you should feel pressured to do so. It is normal and completely fine to turn down a drink and to choose not to if you want.
4. Doing things last minute won’t get you the same great results –
Coursework written last minute will never be as good as something you genuinely have spent time on. Invest and plan time for each piece of your coursework as they carry a lot of percentage for your overall grades.
5. Don’t skip lectures –
You’re wasting your own money if you skip lectures. Studies have shown you’re more likely to do well and achieve the results you want if you go to your lectures and engage with them.
6. Use a planner –
This will be a life saver when you get given lots of different pieces of coursework all due at different dates, exam dates, socials and potential meetings. You need to learn how to be organised quickly if you’re not a naturally organised person.
7. Don’t sacrifice your physical or mental health –
Allocate time to relax, go to the gym, a walk around the town or park, or organise things with your friends that is different from what you normally do. For example, once in a while organise a group movie night with pizzas or go to a coffee shop and just relax on an afternoon out. You’re physical and mental health is key to success not only at university but also in life, you need to be able to enjoy yourself and make memories whilst also studying for your degree. You should never feel guilty for taking time off as you need to look after yourself in order to do well in the educational side of life. Furthermore, make sure you get enough sleep, you really don’t need to pull all-nighters or stay out ridiculously late and sacrifice sleep. Make sure you aim for 7-8+ hours of sleep a night.
8. Don’t feel bad if you don’t do as well as you thought you would –
You’re allowed to make mistakes, have bad days and most importantly of all, learn from them. You are not your grades and they don’t define you or predict the rest of your semester - learn from the grade for next time.
9. Your lecturers aren’t scary, use them; they’re a fountain of knowledge –
Your lecturers are more than willing to talk and sit with you in order to help you in both your degree and also any general concerns you have. They’re always happy to listen and get to know you. Take time to learn from them and show an interest in them as they value your time as well.
10. It’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life after you graduate –
That’s what university is about - trying new things and personal growth in the hope that when you do graduate you have some idea about what you want to do or have a job lined up, but in your first year, this really isn’t important.
11. Join clubs and societies or a sports team –
You get out of university what you put into it so join in!
To conclude –
University is an amazing experience. Yes, it is scary to move away from home, but you’re about to embark on an amazing journey into adult life and employment. It will be terrifying and unpredictable, but most of all an exciting and wonderful experience.