So here it is, part 5 of my uni life series: the top ten things I’ve learnt over the last 3 years. The previous posts covered living in halls, friendship, holidays and the academic side. This post pulls together the whole experience as I look back over my time studying for my degree. Some are directly course-related, and some are larger life lessons that I’ll be taking away with me.
This has always been a bit of a motto for me, English geek that I am, but my degree has taught me even more the value of reading. I have learnt so much from the pages of the novels we’ve studied, be they about different countries, experiences or time periods. Reading widely challenges you to ask questions, and that’s something we all need to do more of.
Take the support on offer
I remember sitting in the talks at the beginning of university and wondering why I’d ever need ‘welfare support’ or help from a supervisor for any more reason than filling in forms. But then your degree runs away with you. I was very lucky to have a brilliant supervisor. Friends of mine have sat in her office sobbing that they don’t know what to do with their lives. When my Nan passed away during my second year, she was there with exactly the words of support I needed. Even if something hasn’t necessarily gone wrong, it’s comforting to know someone is there watching over you throughout the course of your degree. Knowing there is support there if you need it is definitely nothing to be ashamed of.
Don’t leave essays until the last minute
This is a mantra that’s been drummed into our heads throughout school, but never is it more important than when you’re at university, with nobody chasing around after you and a huge volume of work and conflicting deadlines. Yes, there will always be the people on Facebook the night before the deadline joking about how HILARIOUS it is that they still have thousands of words to write… but it’s just not worth the stress. Pace yourself, and just get it done.
Take opportunities to build your CV
University isn’t just about the academic work, especially if you’re studying a degree such as English, which doesn’t lead directly down a certain job path. I’ve jumped on opportunities to build my experiences. I’ve been student manager for my department, working on the organisation of open days, and have worked during international orientation week. These skills of organisation, meeting a variety of people, and general confidence can only be an asset when embarking into the job world after university.
Don’t worry if you don’t have your entire life planned out
I only really decided the path I want to head down work-wise during my final year, and it’s vastly different from my plans during sixth form. But that’s ok. People change, people learn, and people discover their own assets. University has allowed me to realise where my strengths lie, and what I enjoy, which have then helped me form a plan of what I might want to do next. Realistically, people change jobs numerous times throughout their working life. Use university to develop those skills that will allow you to have choices.
You can choose your friends
Not everybody you meet will be your best friend. Not everybody you meet is meant to play an integral part in your life. Some people will be your closest, closest friend, but just for a short space of time. Relationships change as people grow up and learn more about themselves, and I’ve learnt that I’m fine with that. I have a cluster of friends that have been around for years, and some I’ve met during university. There are people I was really close to in sixth form that I barely speak to now. It happens, and it’s nothing to stress over. Spend time with the people you want to, and the people who make you happy.
Make the effort with the people that mean something to you
This is really a continuation of the previous point, but make sure you look out for those people that you do care about and want to stick around. Remember birthdays, get a thoughtful gift, or send them a text on the morning you know they have that horrible exam. What are friends for? You know you love it when they do the same back.
You’re not the only one that isn’t having ‘the absolute best time of your life’
All we ever hear is that university is ‘amazing’ and ‘the most fun years of our lives’. Parts of it are. But nobody is happy 100% of the time, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. As I mentioned in part one of this series, I found myself in a difficult position with the people I lived with in first year, and I found it really, really hard. I would then feel almost guilty that I wasn’t completely loving the experience. Months later, when I spoke about those feelings with friends, it was all revealed that we’d all felt the same way. Not exactly the same, but everyone had had their issues or bad days, yet felt like they couldn’t speak about it because it’s not ‘normal’ for a fresher. Be true to yourself: if you’re having a bad day, week or month, talk to someone. I promise it’s ok.
You can’t be the best at everything all the time
At school, you can juggle a lot of balls at once. You can get As, you can perform in shows or be on the netball team, you can go to lots of parties, you can be a prefect, you can…. You can do a lot. But as you move through your university life, the pressures of each element of your life increase. You have the workload of a degree, a social life, extra-curricular activities, job applications… You’re suddenly pulled so hard in so many directions that something has to give. You have to learn to prioritise. Don’t completely sacrifice huge parts of your life, but be prepared to bring certain things to the forefront at certain periods. You cannot do everything and be the best at everything every single day.
Do what makes YOU happy, not everyone else
The biggest lesson I’ve learned at university is to listen to myself. I’ve learned to do what is right for me. I was having lunch with a friend last week, and we agreed that moving into the world of work feels right for me. I like routine, I’m quite homely, I love going out or going away and doing things, but then I absolutely love getting home again. For other people, student life is ideal: they can arrange their own time, cram in as much as they like, and pull all-nighters to finish essays if they want to. Some friends will graduate and then spend months and months travelling before deciding where they want to settle. And we need to all do those things because they are right for us. I’m learning more and more who I am and who I want to spend time with and what I enjoy doing. And that is just fine.