University is a great and life changing experience. Even though I wouldn’t change it for the world (I met my soulmate at University and my life changed for the better) here are five things that I wish I had known before I started!
What I wanted to be when I grew up
When I started to look for universities, I wasn’t in the best position. I had left home half way through my A Levels, so I sort of saw University as the next step. I had no idea what I wanted from life, what career I wanted to take up. Now that I have finished my degree, even though I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved, I still look back and slightly regret that I did not make an informed decision about my future. I literally chose the subject I was achieving the highest grades in at A Level. Now I’m older and wiser, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to pursue the career I want. Ideally, I would like to help others and wish I had done something like Occupational Therapy at University instead. I would love to go back and study again, but now just is not the right time.
How to Budget
I think every student learns this the hard way. As you receive Loan and Maintenance grants once every three months or so, you’re like “Damn, I’m Rich”, but the harsh reality is that once you’ve been shopping, paid three months’ worth of rent, bills and other expenses, there really isn’t much left to play with. I was lucky enough to find a job while I was in my second year, so I lived off my weekly wages once the big things had been taken care of, but the late nights took their toll and I eventually started to miss lectures on a Thursday morning. It’s a catch 22, you have to work to live but studying full time it is near impossible when you have no financial support from family.
What it is ACTUALLY like
Starting uni, I had this impression of what it was going to be like. I can’t tell you what I had imagined, but this was definitely not it. Maybe that’s because I didn’t live at a campus university, my halls were 8 miles away from the University and, although the halls were a massive student village, I found it hard to make friends. I hardly knew anyone off my course; most of them still lived at home so were not around the halls to socialise with. The people in my flat were great; and I did live with a friend who I’d been at secondary school with as well, but I found making friends HARD. So that obviously then has a knock on effect on the rest of the experience. I found suddenly being able to do what I wanted and go where I wanted a bit overwhelming, there was no one there to say “Don’t do this” or “Don’t go there” and it’s extremely surreal. I remember that first night, none of us went out we all literally went to bed at like 10 pm, shutting that door for the first time was the strangest feeling and I will never forget it.
Reading Week is not a HOLIDAY
Everyone loves reading week, I learnt the hard way that this time is valuable. By my third year I had realised it’s a great chance to catch up or get ahead with assignments. Most courses require at least an extra 20 hours of independent study per week to succeed, after all they don’t teach you everything. Reading lists can be daunting but as long as you read the core texts you should be ok. I used to read texts, and then add key studies and research to my own spread sheet so I could refer to it at a later stage. I honestly wish I had started to do this from my very first reading week, it made writing my Dissertation so much easier and I know it would have helped with other assignments too.
The Impressions you make last a lifetime ..
When I started at University, I was young, naive and extremely selfish (who isn’t at 18?) People judge you by your actions and as I have grown up, I have found that these judgements have never really gone away. I’m older and wiser now, as well as more considerate and kind now that I am a mother and a wife. I sometimes wish I could turn back the clock and treat a few people better than I did at the time, but everything happens for a reason, I am just glad that at least I have been able to grow and change from the experience.
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