What I Learnt in My First Year at University

Reflection time!

It was the most stressful time towards the end high school. Not only was I going through teenage years full of stress, confusion and social anxiety, there was no doubt that I was anxious about getting into University. I was quite conscientious, determined and competitive at school. This enabled me to be accepted into an early admissions program – meaning I got into University regardless of my final mark. This lessened the amount of stress I was feeling at the time. Before getting the early admissions acceptance letter, I honestly felt that if I was not going to do well, I was bound to be homeless or something like that. I thought that I was headed for failure and that I was not going to get anywhere in life. Little did I know that the hard work and persistence paid off. And I was off to University. I was so fixed in the idea that the ONLY way to success was through University and that was all. University was an emotional roller coaster ride for me. I got even MORE confused. I was unsure and let the uncertainty get to me. Little was my knowlege back then I have learnt so much therefore I thought I’d share my personal experience of my first year of University.

1. The learning environment is completely different. 

High school was very structured. A curriculum was set out for you, and at times I believe you are spoon fed by some teachers. You get lots of time with teachers and a timetable was provided for you. University is different. It is a very independent environment. You create a timetable that suits you. Instead of more one on one time with teachers, you email lecturers and tutors for academic advice. And the structure of education differs from each faculty, course and subjects. Transition from high school to University is different for everyone, regardless of how ‘smart’ you were considered in school. My first year of transitioning was STRESSFUL. But I have learnt a lot and it was worth it.

2. You encounter people from all walks of life.

In high school you are basically kept with the same year group from grade 7 to grade 12 (In Australia). Segregation into clicks are formed due to this. You stick with your group of friends and don’t really get the chance to truly get to know other individuals from different groups. Unless you happen to choose the same classes then you just might meet those other people. At university, the social aspect is completely different. Everybody seems to be on the same page, and it becomes a place of which fosters engagement and interaction with different kinds of people. Being an introvert, it definitely brought out the ‘outgoing’ in me.

3. You may discover what you TRULY like and dislike.

I don’t know about you, but the course I did in my first year is NOT the course I am doing now. I truly believed that that course I did was the one for me. But it was like hell. I thought I’d love the course but it turns out I didn’t. It took me that year to realize what I wanted. I then transferred and I am now doing the course that I love! I believe that we are all still learning. We are all still discovering. Whatever we do at University, TAFE or through other endeavours is for our learning. Although I transferred, I still learnt a lot from that year. I learnt that I did not want to do what I did as a long term profession. I learnt that I had a passion for something else, which was health, nutrition and education. What you enjoyed when you were younger may not be the case when you are older. So don’t be frightened. Find your passions! And if you feel lost and confused, don’t be disheartened. Try as many things as you can till you find the right ones. Be wise about it but also don’t be afraid to try new things. This is the way to personal progression.

4. Productivity and Time is more important than how good you look.

In high school I used to value appearance a lot. I would spend hours doing my hair and makeup to school and care about how my uniform looks etc… It was a lot of time wasted. I still do care about my appearance but I care more about simple, clean presentation that worrying if my eyeliner is good enough. Saying this, I love fashion. I love make up, but I have gotten to understand that makeup is to enhance beauty not conceal beauty. I used to put so much make up on in high school and envied the girls who looked all glammed up at school. That doesn’t matter now. In my first year, I had no time to spend hours on end making myself look the prettiest. I just focused on wearing something neat and simple. My make up natural and hair tidy. Some days I don’t wear makeup at all. It really does NOT matter. Learn to focus on the less vain things in life. Less stress.

5. You learn to be self-reliant and self-sufficient.

In my first year at University, I really learnt to take matters to my own hands. There were times I felt so lost, confused and bewildered. I thought to myself “Everyone knows what they want to do, whereas I have no career direction anymore”. I felt disheartened. I felt like I already failed! But I learnt to keep going, use University resources like Careers Advisors and Counselling of which helped me greatly! I also learnt the art of email etiquette and contacting different people at University. Ultimately, you learn independence. And such things cannot be learnt by being spoon fed and given everything you need on a silver platter.

6. Budgeting and Saving

University students are known to be short in terms of money. Why? Textbooks are unnecessarily expensive. Transport is NOT free. And you have to pay for food. And I get hungry at Uni ALL THE TIME. Fortunately I get allowances from parents all the time. I never really had to rely on anything else BUT my parents. I work now, which is a bonus, and when it comes to textbooks, I have refrained from purchasing new textbooks. You learn to be wise with money. Buy second hand textbooks, use shuttle buses of which are free, or even walk! And lastly you learn to make your own sandwiches and wraps.

7. You get what you worked for

University is a place of learning and you can only achieve good marks if you work for it. You cannot expect to go to Uni and think, I can do this by doing the minimum and just passing by a percent. You get what you deserve. The more effort you exert, the more you get out of it and the higher the marks. Of course there will be times when you studied to your potential but did not get the mark you desired. Don’t be disheartened by this. Focus on your strengths and improve your weaknesses. Don’t disregard them because one day they will become STRENGTHS. Luckily on my first year, I got a lot of distinctions and credits. I had subjects where I did not do AS well, but you know that next time you’ll do better and work harder.

8. There are other pathways to get to where you want to be

University is NOT for everyone. Some people decide to go to TAFE, take on apprenticeships, go to the army, go to a fashion school, a business school etc… There are so many different avenues to success. University is not the ONLY one. Some people don’t get to University for a certain reason. There are also many pathways to University, no joke! I learnt that anyone can study at any time. I’ve had students aged 40-50 attend the same classes as me. It’s all good. You will have your time, and you will have your place, University or somewhere else.

9. You decide how you shape and mould yourself to be the person you want to be

I learnt that you can have opportunities to study abroad, take on volunteering opportunities, networking, job opportunities, sports, wellbeing and all sorts of extra curricular activities to widen your experiences. Grab those opportunities. It will not only make you employable, but these experiences are vital to personal growth and happiness.

10. Being organized and prepared is crucial. 

Being systematic and organised is essential to retain that block of information in that head of yours. Being messy only makes you stressed and frustrated. I learnt to keep everything neat and always be one step ahead. Read your lectures early, use those extra resources, get to exams or appointments extra early. These are skills you will be thankful you learned earlier. Your education is important. And staying on top will get you ahead of most of your peers.

Whether you’re in highschool, university/college, gaining a diploma or having a gap year. I wish you the best on your endeavours. Your first time in anything can be hard. But you will definitely benefit from it. I assure you.

Good luck my friend.

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