While your parents and teachers would like you to think that going away to university is all about bettering yourself and studying hard, we all know that there is so much more to it than that. We’re not just talking the social aspects (though they are, of course, vital!) but also this is the time where you really mature and become yourself.
The combination of freedom from your parents, freedom in your budget and all the new people to meet and things to try means that this can be the most defining moment in your life – and that’s no exaggeration.
Life-long friendships are forged, partners may be met, new foods, hobbies, music, nationalities and so on can all be experienced, allowing you to come out the other side with a far better idea of who you are and what you like.
The way you also need to maintain balance between your work and pleasure, and the way you need to budget your money all encourage you to grow up, learn a vitally important set of life lessons and really discover who you are, what you like and what motivates you.
In fact, based on my own time at university, I would say it is this aspect more than the actual certificate you leave with which is so important and helps to set graduates apart from people who haven’t been to uni.
I hope that the following 5 tips can therefore help you achieve all of the above and enjoy your university years to the very maximum possible:
1) Freshers Week
Freshers week is unfortunately synonymous with pranks, dares and copious amounts of alcohol and while I’m not saying avoid this aspect altogether, appreciate that there is far more to freshers week than just this.
This first week or two is an opportunity to learn your surroundings, for exploring and find the location of your local dentist, doctor, laundromat, supermarket and so on so you know where to go for what.
Get to know your housemates – sober as well as drunk – so you can feel confident and comfortable where you are going to be living for the next year.
Also, this is the time when many of the extra curricular activities start-up so if there is a sport or pastime you are interested in, hunt them down and find out a little more. Whether it’s soccer or debating, don’t limit yourself to things you already have experience in – use it as an opportunity to learn and experience new things. If you don’t like them, drop them. But you’ll never know until you’ve tried them, and the worst case scenario is that you simply make some new friends.
And nobody can have too many friends.
2) Be Confident
When I started university I wasn’t the most confident of people. I was fine with people I knew but with new people – particularly those in a group – the idea of speaking to them filled me with dread.
Eventually I decided that wasn’t going to do me any good so I started to swallow my pride, hide my insecurities and started approaching people.
What surprised me was that almost without exception not only were people really friendly and welcoming towards me (meaning I had been scared of nothing!) but they later admitted they were grateful that I made the first move.
So be confident. If I had a class and didn’t know anybody in it, I developed the habit of just walking up to someone and striking up a conversation. Normally the next lesson was much easier and within a week or two we were best of friends.
So have the guts to go out and approach people. You’ll be glad you did. And remember, each of these people also has friends, so it actually works exponentially. For every person you introduce yourself to, you meet a whole crowd of others.
3) Be a Yes Person
To really get the most out of university you need to get into the habit of saying yes to any opportunity that arises (within reason).
Stop worrying, being scared or being boring. If someone asks if you want to go somewhere or do something, so long as you’re not genuinely risking your own personal safety then say yes! I have had some wonderful experiences after agreeing to the strangest and most random things you’ve ever heard .
4) Work Comes First
Boring! I know what you’re thinking. But you are here to get a qualification first. If you fail, you will have both the university and your parents on your back, so put your work first.
That doesn’t mean you have to be a boring individual – quite the reverse in fact. You can get your work done early and then forget about it. While everyone else is pulling an all-nighter trying to get an essay finished, you did yours weeks ago and are instead having an evening out.
I soon discovered also that people who do this tend to impress the lecturers. I managed to get a variety of work checked in advance by approaching the lecturer some time before the work was due for some constructive criticism and so came out better from it because I had a better idea of what the lecturers were actually looking for in our work.
5) Learning Doesn’t Just Happen In The Lecture Hall
Everywhere you turn there is a new learning opportunity – and never is this more true than at university. You will have vast swathes of books available to you, museums, some of the greatest minds in our country, exhibitions, people with different interests, people from different countries who may speak other languages or eat foods not familiar with you.
Use each of these as a learning experience to broaden your knowledge and understanding of the world. You have plenty of spare time as a student so make the most of this to experience as much as possible of what life has to offer.