Wednesday, 13 July 2016

20 Things I Learnt In My First Year At University

Last september I finally started my degree doing an english language course at one of my local universities. I spent two gap years deciding what I wanted to do and I'm so happy that I'm finally on the right track. As my first year has now officially ended, I thought I would share some things I've learnt over the past year and give anybody starting university this september some knowledge/advice that will hopefully make them feel more calm about starting their degree! As someone who still lives at home, I can't really give any advice on halls/housemates/handling money and things like that, but most of these will apply to you regardless of whether you live at home or at uni and if you are planning to stay at home instead of living in halls, then all of these will apply to you! 
(also I apologise for this being so long, I had too much to say!)

1. You will not be the only one, of anything, ever. I thought I would be the only person on my course who didn't live in halls... turns out almost everyone in my social group lives at home and the minority live in halls! There will always be someone in the same position as you.

2. You will worry far too much. You will not have done as bad as you think on that assignment, you will not fail everything and you will always have someone, whether that be a friend or a lecturer, who will talk to you and calm you down!

3. If you live at home, don't worry, you will not be left out of everything. I'm quite lucky because most of my friends from uni still live at home so when we want to meet up, we all go for food in town or go for drinks in a bar somewhere. But if you are the only one of your friendship group who lives at home then make sure they know you're willing to travel to uni to go on that night out, or happy to make the journey to meet them for a day trip if that's what you want to do. Most people will assume you're coming anyway but if you feel like they're leaving you out because you don't live as close by, let them know! Also I can guarantee someone will let you crash at their halls so you don't have to travel all the way home.

4. You won't get along with everyone, and that's 100% okay. There are some people on my course who I absolutely adore but on the flip side there are also others who I will just never get on with. The great thing about uni is that the courses are so full of people that there will always be someone on your wavelength!

5. Some lecturers will be fantastic, others not so much. I feel like this always happens regardless of whether you're at school, college or university. You're not going to love every single teacher but hopefully the majority will be amazing!

6. No matter how organised you are, at some point in the year you will be doing an assignment the night before. You start off the year with all your notes organised by colour and every single assignment written a week in advance... you end the year desperately trying to find that piece of information you need in the mountain of mismatched sheets of paper and end up writing your assignment the night before/the day it's due. I only left an assignment until the deadline day ONCE and it was the worst day ever. I have never been so stressed in my life so please, if you leave an assignment until last minute, pull an all nighter and get it done the night before!

7. Plan your assignments! Plan what you're going to talk about, section it off into paragraphs, write how many words that paragraph is going to be and then write a paragraph a day. Planning my assignments helped so much and it makes them so much less scary if you're looking at a paragraph of 250 words to write that day rather than a full 2500 essay! 

8. You can still make friends, and damn good ones, without going on student nights to sweaty cramped bars. One of the things I was most scared about when starting uni was only being able to make friends if I went to disgusting sweaty student nights in the local clubs. I much prefer socialising by going out for a meal or bowling or something where I won't have drunk people spilling their alcohol all over me. If you're like me, don't worry, I can guarantee the people you meet will be more than happy to go out for food or do something that you want to do, all you have to do is ask them. And if they do want to go out on the student nights and you don't then simply say no to their invitation but arrange something else for a later date so you don't miss out on socialising.

9. I don't know if this applies to every single university, but first year doesn't count towards your degree. I did not know this when I started university. In some ways I'm glad because it gives you the chance to make mistakes and learn without it affecting your degree grade, but in other ways I'm really annoyed because I managed to achieve an overall grade of a first this year and it doesn't count towards my degree. Not happy!

10. Lecturers will make you do cliche things like introducing yourself to the class or pairing up with a random person to get to know each other. This was another thing I was dreading about starting university. I am the 'sit in the back minding my own business in the corner' kind of person, so when I was asked by every single bloomin' lecturer to stand up and introduce myself, or introduce myself to the person next to me, I was a nervous wreck! 

11. This won't feel as nerve-wracking or scary if you bite the bullet and introduce yourself to someone, anyone, who is nearby. On my first day I was waiting outside the classroom on my own with one other girl. We were both stood there in silence and then I decided to just bite the bullet and break the ice with 'I hope we're at the right room', which she laughed and agreed with, and then I asked what her name was and told her my name. We then got chatting about where we were from and things like that and it made it so much easier when later on our lecturer said 'turn to the person next to you and learn 5 facts about them to read to the class', I already knew them! Also when I was walking to a lecture in the first week this girl ran up to me and said 'I remember you from the other day in the induction meeting, can I stay with you?', I of course said yes and she is now my closest friend I've made on the course. Honestly, it's so much easier if you just start up a random conversation with someone, everyone is just as nervous and eager to make friends as you are!

12. The lecturers will over exaggerate some things. When I first started, my lecturers for each of my modules told me how the textbook they were showing us was going to be very important and we would need it for every lesson and I must go out and buy one as soon as possible! Of course I listened to them and I went and spent £60 on just three textbooks, only to be told 2 weeks later that actually they were just secondary reading options and the primary reading that you had to do each week was available online! This annoyed me so much because I had essentially wasted £60 on books that I could have just got from the library as and when I needed them. If you can log online and look at the lecture plans for the module I highly recommend doing that! Then I would've known not to waste so much money on books I never even took out of the packaging. 

13. They will also be completely relaxed about things you're freaking out over, so don't worry. I had a lecturer that told us our assignment actually contained something we hadn't covered in the lessons but that we shouldn't worry about it! I then of course started freaking out because a) so was I supposed to ignore that question and only answer the others and b) what if I ignored the wrong question?! Turns out you just have to calm yourself down, do the best you can and trust that the lecturers know what their doing. I answered every question as best as I could and amazingly I managed to get a first on that coursework, so honestly, don't stress yourself out. If your lecturers aren't stressing, then you shouldn't be either. Just trust them!

14. Reference everything! Ahh referencing... something you will grow to hate when doing a university degree. Every lecturer at some point will drill into you the fact that any quote, paraphrase or any bit of information that you have read somewhere else, needs to be referenced in a certain way, otherwise you can be accused of plagiarism. I of course, being the professional stresser that I am, took this way too seriously and actually got comments on one of my assignments saying that 'I didn't need to reference common knowledge'. How do I know what's considered common knowledge and what isn't?! At the end of the day, it's better to over reference than to be accused of plagiarism!

15. Bring snacks from home. If you live at home and commute every day, bring snacks or a packed lunch! You will get hungry in your lectures and I can guarantee you'll have breaks that last 2 or more hours so make sure you bring some food. Continuously buying from the canteen shops will seriously hurt your bank balance and also isn't the healthiest option!

16. There will be people of so many different ages on your course. As I took two gap years I was under the impression that I would be older than everyone on my course, which for the majority I am, but there's also people of every age group there as well! I have a close friend who is 26 on my course and I'm sure there are some people in their late 30's/40's. I kind of love that about university, age really doesn't matter in your friendship groups!

17. Classrooms are so much nicer than lecture halls. I remember feeling like I hadn't had the 'proper university experience' because all of my lectures were in classrooms instead of lecture halls. Then I had a module that had every lecture in a lecture hall, and oh my goodness I hated it. You become so cramped because the benches have so much less room than tables and chairs and if you want to get out, your entire row has to stand up and move for you! It's got to the point now where I make all of my friends go in first and I make sure I'm sat on the end because if I'm not I just end up feeling trapped and claustrophobic. If you get classrooms, appreciate them!

18. Don't feel obliged to sign up for anything and everything, but on the flip side if something interests you, it can't hurt to go along! There will be so many groups, clubs, activities, sports and so much more available to you in university. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming and don't feel bad if you don't want to sign up for anything! I didn't and I still had an amazing first year. Although if you do like the sound of something, sign your name up and go along and if it turns out you don't like it then you don't have to go back again! I've heard lots of people say how much they love the extracurricular things that their universities offer so definitely take advantage if you want to!

19. Highlighters will become your best friend. When it's 2am and you're in the middle of writing your assignment, you will be so thankful that you highlighted that important piece of information hidden in a jumble of unnecessary text! Seriously, you will be given so much information from your lecturers, some of which won't be necessary and will just complicate things, so having highlighters present when you read through it can help so much at a later date when you need to skim read to find the important bits!

20. It will be over in the blink of an eye. I was so upset that I was starting university two years later than all my friends and on some level, I still kind of am. But after finishing first year and looking back at when I started thinking 'oh my goodness that's gone so quickly', all I can say is to just enjoy every second! Yes, university is about getting a decent degree, but it's also a huge part of your life so make sure you take the time to have fun and remember it with happiness because when it's over, you'll wonder where the time went!

I hope this has given anybody starting university this year a little insight into what it might be like. I know I would've liked some information about what to expect before I started so I hope this helps!



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  2. I soooo agree with all of this, especially number three. I lived at home and I don't feel like I missed out on ANYTHING. It's so not as big of a deal as everyone wants you to believe. Good post!

    Gitana |

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed! Yeah I was so nervous about staying at home but I'm so happy that I did! xxx

  3. Yeah, it's important to plan assignements. A lot of my students don't do it. They are using such services as this one instead.

    1. I have to plan otherwise I become overwhelmed and stressed! I find it so much easier when it's all broken down into sections and organised xxx