Since my post about things I wish I had done at university went down so well, I’ve decided to write that ‘part 2’ with some more tips that I didn’t include, for fear of typing an entire dissertation.
Most of the advice I offered in part 1 was to do with the academic side of university and doing everything you can to give yourself the best career prospects – everyone wants to be one of those lucky people who seem to walk into their dream job as soon as they graduate, right? Well, in this post I want to write a bit more about what it’s like being a student, and how to be your best, happiest, healthiest self whilst you study.
Find friends that you have things in common and enjoy spending time with. I know it sounds cliche, but be yourself! There’s this huge ‘party culture’ at pretty much all universities, and it might seem like the only way to socialise is to go out and get smashed. This works for plenty of people, but personally, I hate going out clubbing (I just want to have something nice for tea, watch a film or read a book and go to bed at a reasonable hour, is that too much to ask?!) but felt a lot of pressure to try and have fun by going out drinking during freshers’ week. My flatmates were all into that scene and I quickly felt like the odd-one-out, and like I wasn’t as ‘good’ at making friends as they were. Looking back, I realise that there’s nothing wrong with being selective about who you hang out with, even if it means having fewer friends. Of course, it’s not a bad idea to try new things and meet lots of new people, but it’s perfectly okay to stop doing things you don’t enjoy and not to keep in touch with people who you don’t click with. You’re not weird or boring if you don’t drink, if you don’t go on nights out, if you don’t have crazy stories relating to being drunk or high. You’re also not weird if you do. Whatever kind of person you are, there will almost certainly be lots of others like you. Join clubs that interest you, talk to people on your course, and just do what you want to do.
Manage your money. Student loans are amazing. It’s like going from having 45p in your bank account one day to getting £1,500 dropped in out of nowhere. It’s a fact of student life: everyone is counting down the days they have to make those pennies last until their loans come in. The thing is, that money is supposed to last for about 4 months; it’s supposed to pay for rent, food, bills, school supplies, and anything extra…it’s not a lot to last for that amount of time. I know how much you are lent depends on various things and some people get more than others, but either way, it’s important to try and budget that money so you don’t have to keep asking your parents for pay-outs or friends to cover your bills this month. I’m not trying to lecture or tell anyone what to do with their own money, I’m just saying 1) you’re not going to have much fun for the next 3 months if you spent your entire loan on clothes, eating out and whatever else takes your fancy during that first month, and 2) budgeting is a great skill to have. It’s also a good idea to get a part-time job if you have time.
Stay healthy. Student life consists of a lot of late nights, takeaways, (often) excessive alcohol and general disregard for physical and mental health. How to care for your physical health is pretty obvious – eat some vegetables once in a while, join a gym and don’t pull all-nighters unless absolutely necessary. The less obvious, less-talked-about health issues facing students are to do with mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 4 students have a diagnosable condition and 40% of those do not seek help. Students commonly suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and high levels of stress. If you’re at uni now, or will be starting this year, get to know the signs of mental illnesses in yourself and in your friends, and look into the support systems in place at your uni. Remember that you can ask for accommodations if your mental health is affecting your academic performance, to avoid getting caught in a vicious circle of being stressed about work, falling behind, and getting more stressed about falling behind! Also, talk to your GP – that’s what they’re there for. Mostly, know that you are not alone if you are struggling. It’s hard to talk about it, but you won’t be judged for reaching out to friends, family, teachers or doctors. They are there to help. There are solutions that will help you feel yourself again, get back on track, and enjoy your university experience.
Don’t live alone. This tip might not apply to everyone, but if you’re considering living alone after your first year, I strongly advice you to not. I thought it would be a good idea to live alone in my final year (I’m a pretty solitary person in general, I like to have my own space and socialise only on my own terms) but truth be told, it was not fun. It was boring, lonely, and so, so expensive. I thought I was the ideal candidate to live alone and would much rather do that than risk having housemates I didn’t get along with, but soon after moving into my own little flat, I changed my mind. I couldn’t really afford it and I missed just having other people around. It’s actually really nice having someone there to hang out with, study with, eat with and just be there to help you through this awkward, almost-adult stage.
Start a blog! Or a Youtube channel, or any other creative side-project that will not only serve as a sort of diary of your university experience, but could even end up being a portfolio (or if it really takes off, your own business!) I wish I had focused more on blogging and writing when I was a student – I didn’t realise how much time I had and how much I would have grown as a writer if I had been consistent for 4 years, stuck to the same project and worked on growing it, rather than starting over 100 times and not writing anything for months at a time. Now, I love seeing 16-20 year-olds creating amazing blogs! You never know where these things might take you in the future.
This concludes part 2 of what I wish I knew before I went to university! It isn’t as long as part 1, but I think these points are equally important. University isn’t only academic – for most people, it’s their first experience of living away from their parents and having to learn how to fend for themselves. It’s the first time you’ve been really free to make your own decisions about how to live your life, and that can be a big learning curve. I hope these tips are helpful and give you some things to consider when you’re making that big leap!
Is there something I missed? Let me know in a comment!