Whilst doing my A-Levels all my teachers would say ‘University will be the best time of your life!’ Well here I am half way through my second year and I can tell you that it’s not all what it’s cracked up to be, at least for me.
Making friends is hard. It’s not like in school where you were mostly stuck with the same group of people for five plus years. Where you had to form friendships because it was sink or swim. When I attended my first lecture it was as if everyone already knew each other, and I was the outsider. Obviously, that wasn’t actually the case, everyone was most likely feeling the same inwardly but were able to project confidence. The trouble was, even when you made friends in a seminar, by the time you got to know them and actually managed to find them on Facebook, it was the end of the semester and after Christmas you were in a room with a whole new bunch of people. What I’ve learned from this, and it’s a tip I think everyone can use – be nice to everyone. If someone needs a pen, lend them one. If someone missed last weeks lecture, send them your notes. Extend an olive branch sort of speak.
Learning at university is nothing like school. At all. Whatsoever. Firstly, who knew that a guy actually sat in a room and wondered why we call a tree a tree? I sure didn’t, and when learning about it for my English degree I thought I was completely wasting my time. I wasn’t. Eventually all these ideas that seemed silly whilst you were learning them can be applied to actual work – your essays/exams etc. To make you appear like the smarty pants you probably don’t feel like 95% of the time, and get you that grade you need for uni to pay off.
Feeling dumb. I can honestly say that I have never felt so stupid in my entire life. Other students in my seminars have studied Latin and Greek and have gotten A*A*A* at A-Level, making my three A’s which I was really proud of feel like nothing. You have to remember that a lot of these students have received a high quality private education that was paid for. Just because you don’t know Latin or haven’t been privately tutored, doesn’t mean that they are any smarter than you are. I’ve learnt to believe in what I know and to go with that, even when I feel stupid.
Grades. Feedback in uni is different to school. You aren’t mollycoddled here. You submit your work and you get feedback, usually shredding the piece of work you spent the last three weeks working your ass off for. Read the feedback, don’t just throw it to the bottom of your drawer. I’m terrible for getting bad feedback and ignoring it, but that isn’t going to help me. Some tutors will go the extra mile for you, some won’t. I had one lecturer palm me off to the writing centre and another sit with me herself and help me with my grammar. It depends on the person, and if you find a tutor that will work that little bit harder with you then you’re in luck, take advantage of it.
The feeling like if you aren’t joining every society the university offers that you aren’t getting the full university experience. I didn’t join any societies when I came to uni, in all honesty I was trying to settle in with living by myself and getting to know the people in my flat. I was also nervous to go and join one. If you want to join something, do it. But also, don’t feel like you have to. University is what you want it to be. If you want to be a member of six different societies then go for it. If you want to spend eight hours a day nerding out in the library then that’s fine. Whatever you want to do you can do, and don’t feel like you have to explain yourself.
Lastly, alcohol. University is a place where a lot of young people take the opportunity to become bottled most weekends. If that’s your thing that’s great, uni is a place where you can basically be an alcoholic and not be judged for it. However, if you don’t like drinking THAT IS FINE. So many people I know feel like they can’t have a social life because they don’t like to drink. I know it’s hard to go out with a load of people who eventually get so wasted you end up having to carry them home. You can go to pre-drinks (this amazing British idea to get drunk before you leave for the club to save money) and have a laugh and then go back to bed when they all pour out singing in the street. You can find other people who don’t like to drink either and go grab coffee together. Never feel bad for not wanting to consume alcohol, your liver will probably thank you for it in the future.
These are a few truths/realities I found when attending university. It can be the best time of your life, or maybe you’ll stumble over a gold mine when you’re thirty and become insanely rich. Who knows. Life is only what you make of it.