As so many students head off to university this September, I thought I’d kick off the posts with the Top 10 things I learnt during my time as an undergrad. It’s been a long time since I graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London and some of these may seem obvious, but as a fresher, it was certainly an experience learning all these first hand!
1. It’s weird and lonely on your first night – and it’s OK to cry
This may not be the case for others, but I hadn’t really had any time away from home and my family when I left for uni at 18. My first night in Halls all alone was truly daunting. It was unfamiliar, loud (I went to uni in London) and I never felt more isolated in my life. I called my mum and cried down the phone. Yes. That totally happened. And there is no shame in it. It’s a brand new experience, and though it is exciting, it is also scary.
2. The friends you make at uni are friends you make for life
This is something my dad told me before I left home. Naive at the tender age of 18, I was convinced the friends I had at school were the ones I would never lose touch with. I was wrong. I now only really keep in touch with 1 friend from my secondary school days. My friends from university though? It’s been a long 10 years and we’re still going strong. I am incredibly fortunate to have such wonderful people in my life. They – whoever “they” are – say that if a friendship outlasts at 9 years, it’s destined to last a lifetime. So, you know who you are, you’re stuck with me!
3. Never mix your drinks
After a pretty intense Halls party I went to on the first week of uni, I drank anything and everything that was handed to me. Everyone was having such a good time, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Up until I had to go up to a stranger I had only spoken to for about 3 minutes and say (in an incredibly polite British accent may I add), “So sorry, but do you mind if I borrow your toilet to throw up in?”. It put me right off drinking for a while.
4. Your Student Loan/Maintenance Grant is not for pretty things
I was pretty bad with my money during those 3 years at university. Being in London as well, you were just constantly enticed by pretty/tasty/fun things. Every time I stepped out my door, at least £20 just magically disappeared – not from pick pockets, but watch out for those too. I rinsed through the maintenance loan/grant pretty quickly. At the end of the 3 years, I had no savings and taken out student credit cards on top to continue the lifestyle. Don’t be foolish. Enjoy yourself but make sure you’re saving yourself some emergency cash for a rainy day too.
5. It’s OK to change your mind about your course
The first semester was over and I realised I really didn’t like my course. I did a BSc in Creative Computing, which was essentially a computer science degree with a few elements thrown in to make it more creative. I really liked the friends I had made on this course, but didn’t think it was for me at all. The thought of letting my parents down though and retaking the first year on a different course was far too frightening to think about – #asianparents – so I stuck at it and came out with a degree I didn’t enjoy or will use again. However, this course was where I found a love for editing and lead me on to the path that I am on now, so it’s not all regrets.
6. A society or sports club is the best way to mingle/make friends
I had a few friends that joined sports clubs and societies at the Student Union and tagged along to some events as an honorary member. I met some great people there that inspired me to start my own society. There wasn’t a dance club at Goldsmiths and having danced for my whole life and London being so expensive for classes, I started my own, taught beginner classes, recruited a team and put on shows. It was the most stressful time, but also the most fun. Goldsmiths Dance is still running today, all these years on and I hope the club is still bringing people together to have fun, socialise and learn new skills.
7. Don’t feel pressured to date/have sex because everyone else is
A friend I met in the first week had come to university as a virgin and was desperate to lose it. A lot of people were hooking up at the start of the first semester and there were a lot of…ahem…noises echoing through the Halls at all hours of the day and night. However, it’s important to feel you don’t have to give into peer pressure to do anything with anyone if you’re not ready. If you are, be safe and considerate – some people are studying!
8. Self study is a real thing
Lecturers are not there to ensure you do your coursework on time or hold your hand through the course. Learn to manage your time, study hard and get your stuff submitted by the deadline. If you’re used to having someone – be it your parents, sibling or teacher chase you to study, do your homework etc. you’re going to be in for a rude awakening.
9. You never truly know someone, until you live with them
The super cool girl you met on your course is your new best friend. When the time comes to move out of Halls, obviously you’re going to move into together! Be warned, you never truly know someone until you live with them. If you’re a neat freak, the mess someone else makes IS going to get to you and no matter how many passive aggressive notes you leave, you are going to have to learn to either live with it, or speak up. I had a similar situation with people using communal items and refusing to pay them for, leaving mess and never tidying up, turning off the heating to the entire house because just their room was warm, never mind the rest of us were shivering in 6 layers and a fluffy blanket.
10. Cherish your time and have fun
You’ll be surprised how 3 years goes by in just a flash. Surround yourself with good people, cut those that make you miserable out, study hard and most importantly, have fun. Make memories that will last a lifetime, because once the experience is over, you will never truly be able to recreate the feeling of leaving home, living independently, growing as a person and learning who you are and what you want to do ever again. Cherish each moment with those you love and who love you in return. It’s going to be one of the best times of your life!