I moved to Birmingham to start university four years ago today. Although I had an amazing time, there are a few things that I wish 18-year-old me had realised.
Starting university can be a tough transition, but I don’t think I was aware of this and the help that was available to me. Also, I believe that I am a completely different person to who I was back in 2012, so I probably would have done a few things differently in hindsight.
1) Be yourself and put yourself first
There seems to be this unwritten rule that in order to have fun at university you have to conform to the stereotypical student’s lifestyle. This requires you to go out constantly, anything otherwise renders you boring. But a lot of people, including myself, do not enjoy going out every night. Every so often, yes, but not constantly. Fortunately, I managed to get over this obligation quite quickly. Sometimes I chose not to go out because I didn’t feel well, because I had to be up early the next day or just because I didn’t want to, and that is fine! I learnt to put myself first, even if it meant missing out on something. If you want to sit in your pyjamas eating takeaway and watching Harry Potter instead, you do that.
2) You won’t get on with everyone you meet
There seems to be this myth that every single person you’ll meet whilst at University, will end up being your best friend. Obviously, this isn’t the case. In normal life you don’t get on with everyone you meet, so why would you at university? Because of this overarching pressure to get along with everyone, it’s easy to feel like you’re doing something wrong if you don’t. But that’s not the case, it’s normal to not want to be best friends with every Tom, Dick and Harry, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to do otherwise.
3) Your plans will change
When I started university I had my whole life planned out. I planned on doing a PGCE straight after graduating and then going into teaching right away. Towards the end of my second year, I realised that this was not what I wanted to do. Because I wasn’t prepared for my plans to change I had quite a large existential crisis that spanned a few months. I think it needs to be made clearer that it is okay not to have a plan for your future, and even if you do, it’s likely to change.
4) Graduation does not mean you have your life sorted
There is this myth that when you graduate you will go straight into a job and live happily ever after. This is not the case, as I am experiencing first hand. I wish I had realised earlier that I would not walk straight into my dream job. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pressures for you to try and do this, which almost led to me taking a substandard job that I would have hated. Instead, I have chosen not to rush and settle for a job, and that means it may take me a while to find something. We need to stop pressuring students to find employment as soon as they humanly can and in doing so compromising their own happiness and wellbeing.
5) If you need help, ask for it
A lot of the time I felt that I couldn’t ask for help if I was struggling. I lived in fear of people thinking I was stupid because I did not understand something. Instead of asking for help and quickly resolving the issue, I’d often keep things to myself and stew over them until they were massive issues. Realising that asking for help wasn’t a sign of weakness made my life a hell of a lot easier. I now would have no reservations about asking a friend, lecturer or welfare service for help and know that it will make things better in the long run.
6) Find your own opportunities
There are so many opportunities available whilst you are at university, but I did not take advantage of this until at least my second year. At first, I was nervous about trying new things because I was on my own or because I was nervous about how I’d find it. Getting over this unwarranted fear made my university experience much better. If I had just stuck to doing my course and done nothing extra-curricular then I would have had a very different experience.
7) Don’t overwork yourself
I worked very hard throughout my degree, but in hindsight, I should have relaxed a bit. I ended up stressing myself out and overworking myself quite a lot when it was not necessary. Although I did very well as a result of my hard work and am very proud of this, I realise now that I should have focused more on taking care of myself. Also, I think we need more awareness of the help that is out there if you are feeling stressed or overworked.
8) Make the most of your time
You will never have as much free time as you do when you’re at university, so take advantage of it! Don’t just sit in your room reading or doing nothing, go out and make the most of your time. Also, do not feel guilty for taking time to do fun stuff instead of working, you deserve it.
9) For Christ’s sake don’t buy all the bloody books
In first year I took the required reading lists very literally and bought a ton of books that I did not need. For example, I have four books on developmental psychology that I bought for an MOMD in first year and only looked at them once. Save your money for better things!
10) It goes bloody quick
I know everyone says this and it can get quite tedious when people keep telling you ‘don’t blink ’cause you’ll miss it!’, but it’s true! Because of this, it is really important to relax and enjoy yourself whilst you’re at university, if you don’t you will regret it.
Article by Emily Birch, surelyitsnotonlyme