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7 things you’ll learn at university

Jo O'Shea

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(at least once)

  1. University is overwhelming.

When you move to university or attend whilst living at home, it is an entirely new and scary world you will need time to adjust to. The first few weeks, and even months, fly by, meeting new people, learning the way without getting lost, attending lectures and seminars (and of course nights out), completing assignments and the many, many hours of reading. Not to mention also keeping in touch with family and friends back home.

It will be overwhelming at times. It’s okay to admit this. It’s okay to feel home-sick and miss home comforts. I remember on the last day of ‘fresher’s week’ in my first year I woke up with this sense of anxiety and fear. I can’t do this, I can’t live here almost 200 miles away from home on my own. I can’t even make pasta. Maybe university isn’t for me, maybe I should go home. Talk. I spoke to my roommate and she said she felt exactly the same way. It was scary, of course it was. We had moved away from our family for the first time. Flown the nest. It was a natural response.

It can be difficult adjusting to your new life and new surroundings and getting the right balance to ensure your ‘old’ and ‘new’ lives can live side-by-side. I lived 160 miles away from home whilst at university for three years. A few tips: regularly book time to visit home, ring family and friends and actively involve them in your new life. Schedule phone calls or Skype meetings and stick to them. Prioritise them. You’re a big part of your family and friends’ life. Don’t forget them just because you’re starting a new one.

2. Your mental health is the most important thing in the world

At some point (once the highs and excitement has worn off) you will feel low. You may be homesick, you may have struggled to make friends, you may have 47 essays and reports due in a week, you may feel like you do not fit. Whatever it is, you will have bad days. Some worse than others. It’s okay to ask for help. Trust me. I’ve never been good at talking about my feelings. I actively avoid it. But trust me, asking for help (from a friend or even uni counsellor) is not a sign of weakness, it is strength. It really is true a problem shared and all that. Looking after your mental health is the most important thing you can do at university above grades, money, friends, lovers etc. There is nothing more important in life. Talking about how you feel and what you are struggling with is so so important if you want to flourish. Check in on your friends, if they’re sleeping and eating properly. Or if they’re drinking too much. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. It WILL get better. It always does. And when it does, remember the difficult times. During university it is these times as much as the amazing experiences you go through that will shape you.

3. It’s okay to like your own company.

Growing up as an only child and an introvert I had gotten used to my own company. I actually enjoyed it but didn’t realise this when I went to university. It wasn’t even something that I had thought of. The first weeks and even months can be overwhelming; away from your family, friends, home town, normal routine, school, gym. I room shared in my first month of uni. I remember after a week I just wanted a few hours alone. I remember thinking maybe I’m wrong, maybe university isn’t for me, maybe I’m too home-sick. But none of these were true. I just like my own company. Being able to admit this and be comfortable with your own company is a skill.

4. Friendship can be based on convenience.

When you start at university you meet A LOT of people (especially if you are blessed with campus accommodation), and this can continue throughout your time there. You’ll probably become friends with these people for a while. At some point in your first year you’ll probably decide to rent a house with them for 2nd year. Choose wisely. Think before you decide who to live with. If I had a pound for the amount of people that jumped into choosing a house share in the first semester of uni and I could have funded all the £1-a-pint Monday nights out I went on (I can drink A LOT).

You don’t have to be friends with everyone you meet. You’re not a bad person if you don’t like everyone you meet (there will be some people you cannot bear to be in the same room as without rolling your eyes and there will probably be some that feel the same about you). If you become part of a large friendship group, it is okay to admit you don’t ‘click’ wth everyone.

During my first year of university I stopped talking to a few friends from back home. To begin with I would try really hard to keep in contact but life gets in the way. Daily chats would turn into weekly chats which would turn into monthly catch ups which would then turn into another thing my to-do list. There wasn’t any arguments or bitchiness. We just stopped talking.

5. You’ll make some of the best memories of your life and you’ll miss it. Time flies when you’re ageing.

As each year starts it finishes quicker than the last. Cherish every moment. Even those late night library sessions. Cliche I know but having left university almost 4 years ago I can still say hand-on-heart I still wish I could go back. Only for a few weeks though (I love having money to spend now). Embrace every opportunity, even the little ones. One of the things I miss the most is living round the corner from my best friend and sitting in her room on the windowsill and drinking a cup of tea (with a cig). Or spontaenously deciding at 6pm to go out out on a Monday. Now we live 111 miles away and everything has to be planned and organised. At least 1 month ahead.

6. You will probably not be prepared for the outside world.

University is a bubble. A big giant bubble (especially if you study at a campus uni) that is popped as soon as you walk out the door (metaphorical door of course).You still have a lot to learn. So you’ve officially graduated and most likely moved back home. You’ve got the summer holidays to look forward to. You’ll enjoy the summer holidays and then start looking for a job. It is SO hard. Unless you’re one of those lucky bastards that land an internship or place on a graduate programme. Where do you even start when you look for a job? Everywhere is the answer; LinkedIn, Google, Indeed, recruitment agents, company websites etc. It’s also important to be open minded about your first job from uni. It will help you learn what you want to do and what you don’t want to do.

Another thing I learnt is renting as a professional is a completely different ball-game. Bills are not included in rent costs. Who knew?!

7. Regret is healthy but living in the past is not.

Definitely one of the harder lessons to learn. Whether it’s that guy you shouldn’t have hooked up with , the night out you didn’t go on, the night out you went on instead of doing work, you will at some point feel regret. It can be really hard to realise you’ve done something and really wished you hadn’t. Or regret not doing something. But it’s a part of life. Hindsight and regret are wonderful tools you should learn to use as a way to help you improve and grow. They’re also wonderful things to show how far you’ve come and to teach you a lesson. Remember how they made you feel. Own your decisions. Own them but learn from them.

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