Monday, December 22, 2014

University life lessons

I am coming up to my last few months at university, and they have absolutely flown by. It genuinely feels like just yesterday I was in the car driving down to Plymouth for the first time, a tad teary at the realisation I wasn't going to see my dog every day (don't judge me), but also incredibly excited at the prospect of moving away and being on my own. 

I have learned a lot in my three years at university; and not just about my course! Mainly, I have learned a lot about myself as a person, as a friend, and as a writer. 

There have been some largely significant ups and downs over the last few years, but in typical cliché format I wouldn't change a thing. 

For anyone going to university, it is inevitable that you will go to university as one person and come out the other side another. Your likes will change, you will find new intolerances, you may even decide that you don't want to work in the field you have studied.

I am going to share with you my main life lessons I have discovered in my three years.

Leaving your work to the last minute is stupid, even if you manage to do it.
Believe me. I did it last year; going 3 days with a few hours sleep just to write a few essays that you should have done months before really isn't worth it. No night out, or wholehearted procrastination is ever worth mastering sleeping with your eyes open.

The library is your friend.
Although I feel slightly hypocritical for writing that, is really is. I am not a massive fan of the library (for some reason it just isn't a place I can sit and do work), but it is somewhere with thousands of books which can answer that essay you have been mulling over for days. 

So are your lecturers. 
Over the last year or so my lecturers have been a massive help. Whether this be with actual uni work, or just someone to rant to when things are getting a bit much. They have your best interests at heart. Even if you might not like the way they teach, or their voice makes you want to fall asleep in their 9am lecture, they will do their best for you. Make sure they know you (and for the right reasons!), and you will get something good out of that

Budget your money - your loan isn't the lottery.
Your loan might look like free money to you. If you're like me, your loan only just covers your rent and you don't get a grant or a bursary, then you'll know what I mean. Keep an eye on how much you spend, and where you're spending it. Always make sure you have money for food. That litre of vodka might look appealing, but when your morning hangover comes and you have no money for food to nurse yourself back to health, you'll be thanking me!

Try new things.
Although uni is all about getting your degree, it's also about discovering who you really are. Try something you haven't tried before (and no, I don't mean going to get smashed off your face, or ending up as a massive heap on the floor because you got too high last night!). I mean try a new sport, take up a new hobby, or even try a different food. Experiment with the good stuff!

Don't be afraid of failing at something.
Behind every success story are many failed attempts at getting it right. Don't be too bummed if you don't get the grade you wanted on an essay, or if something you wanted to work didn't go quite right. You will get there!

You have lectures for a reason.
Yes, 9am lectures suck. No, you probably don't want to go. Yes, you probably should go. Especially if you plan on passing your degree, lectures are normally the best way to go about it.

Stick it out - it'll be the best thing you do.
This applies especially to something I called the "second year itch". The jump from your first year to your second year is quite big, and it doesn't normally tend to hit until just after Christmas. Believe me, it'll be shit. The only thing you will want to do is go home, curl into a ball, cry a little, and then never go back to uni. Don't. You pay a lot of money to get that degree, so stick it out until that final moment. It'll be worth it, I promise.

People come and go; focus on what matters.
There will be people over your time at university, and even life, who won't be your friend for the entire 3 years. That just happens, and there is nothing you can do about it. Focus your attention on those who do stick around, and keep that end goal in sight.
Do your research.
This is both on your degree choice and for your coursework and exams. I didn't do masses of research regarding my degree (I chose it as I didn't think I was good enough for law...turns out I am), and feel like I made the wrong choice. I learned that doing something I loved doing would have been a lot more fulfilling than doing something I am good at. In the long run, being good at something won't always get you anywhere, whereas enjoying something would make you stick at it wholeheartedly. 

A diet of beans on toast and pasta isn't that great.
I don't really like beans anyway, but please don't live off things that take 5 minutes to cook. Keep a balanced diet. You'll get to the end of your final year and wish you didn't end up putting on loads of weight (believe me!).

Don't be pressured into anything you don't want to do.
This applies universally to anything at uni. If you don't want to do something, or go somewhere, or be a part of something, then don't. Saying no is better than regret. 

Think for yourself.
Although in some ways it can be good to be influenced by people, make sure you make your own choices. Take a step back and think whether you honestly think something is a good idea.

The sky is your limit.
I am aware that this is the biggest, and crappiest, cliché in the entire world, but it really is true. If you want something and you are determined enough to do it, then why should anything stand in your way? 

Nothing is handed to you on a plate.
Despite many people's views on university, you have to work really hard for everything. You won't suddenly get a first if all your essays were written hungover, hours before the hand-in time. Don't get complacent with one really good mark, because that doesn't mean you are automatically given another high grade. Work your butt off.

You don't need alcohol to have fun.
This is something that I am currently finding out. Having a night in binge watching Netflix and ordering a pizza really can be a lot of fun. Some people don't quite understand this (I still get a hell of a lot of drama because I gave up drinking), and you will get shouted at and pressured into drinking. If you don't want to, then don't. If you do want to, then go ahead! But not having a hangover for months is amazing!

When things get tough, keep going.
Things will be thrown at you left, right, and centre all throughout your degree. Things at home might not be great, things at uni might not be great,  and situations with your friends might not be great. Take my advice and throw yourself into your work. It acts as a distraction and you end up doing a lot more without procrastination. 

You get out as much as you put in.
If you don't bother with your work and prefer to go out 5 nights a week, you'll end up with shitty grades. If you find a good balance between work and play, and realise that your work should be a priority, you will excel. 

Know your limits.
It can be easy to get carried away with things (believe me, I wish I knew this last year...) and you can go slightly off track. Learn where your limits are, and try not to pass them.

Plan your time well.
Get a wall planner and actually use it. Mine has been the best £3 I have ever spent. 

Have a goal.
It doesn't matter how big or small your goal is; being able to work towards something gives a great feeling of satisfaction when you reach that goal. 

Don't worry if you don't have a life plan.
This is also something I wish I realised this time last year. People still pester me, and family ask me all the time, about what I plan on doing when I graduate. My honest answer? No bloody clue. For all I know I could go on a mission to Mars (not going to happen). I don't know what I will be doing this time next week, let alone this time next year. Learn to brush it off and don't feel pressured.

Be open minded.
Don't shun something just because it's not something you would normally do or like. Just because it's not honestly "you", doesn't mean that it won't work.

Do what you want to do.
Don't do something just because someone tells you - that includes going to uni. If you're doing something for someone else then you're just going to fall at the final hurdle. If you do something for yourself you will go a million miles.

Don't be afraid to take a break.
Don't be afraid to throw your hands up and admit you need some time to yourself; that doesn't make you a failure. I found this out last year when I actually went home for a weekend (the first, and so far only, time this has happened). The time away from your uni work will probably do you good.

Feeling down is OK.
It's fine to feel a bit crap about stuff once in a while; it's only natural. Grab a cuppa, throw your favourite movie on, jump into bed, and don't move. You will feel thousands of times better.

And finally: don't panic.
Breathe. Find a way to relax. Keep your head above the water. If you feel like you're sinking, try not to panic, and ask for help. There is nothing you do that can't be fixed in some way.


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