Tips for Starting University and the Lessons I Learnt

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It is that time of year again (at least in England) with many going off to university for the first time or going back to university, some for the last time. I wanted to share some of my advice for starting university and even for those going back. I say ‘some’ because I realise that there is so much more I could say, and this post is already long enough! Please feel free to leave your own tips or questions in the comments below.

One of the biggest concerns is making friends; it’s probably one of the first times that you’ve been away from home and your family, so you want to find that same comfort, joy and support in a group of people nearby. Here’s are some tips for figuring this out:

  • First of all, everybody is in the same boat; everybody is looking to make friends. Just be yourself!
  • Join as many societies as you can, even just to try them out, and go to their social events. This way, you’ll not only be doing something you enjoy, trying out something new, or finding a new passion, but you’ll also meet a ton of like-minded people, who are in a similar position to you or who want to welcome you to the university.
  • Give people a chance, because everyone is in a new environment and might not quite be themselves. On the one hand, people might not turn out to be who you thought they were and that’s ok, but at the same time, don’t write people off straight away because they might just need a bit more time to adjust and to become comfortable being themselves.
  • With that said, don’t spend all your time with people who are negative or who don’t make you feel comfortable or that you feel guarded around. Take these people with a pinch of salt.
  • Don’t board yourself up in your room, but try and get out there as much as possible! If you are the one who keeps their door open or who says a friendly hello in the corridor or kitchen, people will be drawn to you and remember you as someone who has the potential to be a great friend.
  • If you are feeling homesick, don’t hide away. Give yourself time to adjust and take things slowly. But try to be around people as much as possible. My tip would be to make some plans for when you’re next going to go visit your family or something similar; by doing this, you’ll not only have something to look forward to, but you’ll also make the most of your time at university instead of focusing on your homesickness and the worry of being away from home.

Although the social life is probably one of the reasons university is called by many as the best time of your life, studying is also one of the most important parts of the experience; you are, after all, there to get a degree. Here’s some advice:

  • Study something you are passionate about and you enjoy! Some of you may be studying a subject you’ve never studied before, and not all modules, especially the compulsory ones, are always fun or interesting. Sometimes, you’ve got to stick it out because there are great parts to your degree. But if you find yourself really hating your degree, I would try and branch out as much as possible. Take a look whether you can swap into something else or whether you can pick up some modules in different subjects.
  • Take every opportunity you can and don’t dismiss anything without thinking it through properly! For example, at my university, we could take a year abroad, and I really wish I had done it looking back! Your subject area may also have lots of volunteering or extra-curricular opportunities to look out for.
  • Find a balance between your school work and your social life. I’ve seen the outcomes of both ways, but my best year by far was the one where I valued my school work, my extra-curriculars, and my friends equally. Sometimes you have to learn to sacrifice. It’s all about being responsible and learning to judge situations yourself.
  • Don’t be scared about failure and give yourself time to adjust to how the university grading system works and what they expect of you. And seek help! Get as much out of your tutors as you can.

When you go to university, you have a lot more independence and you rely on yourself much more. For me, this meant that I learnt not only to provide for myself and organise myself, but also to be self-loving, self-congratulating, and self-rewarding. I learnt to stand up for myself and to stand by what I believed in. When I left university in July, I realised that my experience was a lot more valuable and special than I’d realised at the time. If anything, please value any moment you have, even when you’re having a bad day or you’re missing home or there is something going on in the background; one day you’ll look back and either regret not having made the most of it, miss it, or smile because you did have one of the best times of your life.

Good luck to all of you who are starting university and to those of you going back! Go in there head first, make the most of it, and do your best! You can do it!

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How to Build a Friendship

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A new school year is starting with many people off on new adventures to university or college. Not only that, but we as humans are always on the move: we are moving out of our parents’ houses or we are moving to different countries. These are the times when we find ourselves investing much more into friendships because we may not have that family and friend support system close by. I do not want people to become obsessed with analysing their behaviour every time they’re around someone new, but I think it’s important to be aware of our behaviours and psychologies, so that we can become better friends with people and get the most out of friendships. And these are simple if not obvious ways; anybody can be a good friend. These tips are by no means exhaustive, but here are seven ways to build a friendship:

  1. Being yourselves – you need to make sure that you are being yourself and that you are creating an environment where others are comfortable to be themselves. Being someone you are not around others will only take up energy and the friendship will begin to feel like a chore, because you constantly have to keep up appearances. You won’t enjoy the friendship if you’re not being yourself. You should realise that people will like you for who you are; you don’t have to pretend. Similarly, make the other person feel comfortable in your presence. Don’t constantly laugh at them or criticise them, because if they do not feel relaxed with you, they will not want to hang out with you.
  2. Friendship is a two-way street – don’t assume that you have to put nothing into a relationship, because people will not always come to you. You need to put time and effort into a relationship. Nobody wants to be in a relationship where they are constantly chasing the other person, because they wouldn’t feel valued by that other person. Be interested in your friend and what they like to do, not only what you have in common or what you like to do. That will show commitment and a willingness to put that friend’s interests and needs above your own. That doesn’t mean you give up on your interests, because the other person will want to do the same for you and then you can bounce off one another rather than creating a follower/leader type situation.
  3. Knowledge is power but be careful which type of power you are thriving on. If someone has confided in you, do not spread that information to other people or bitch about that person to other people. Some of us may think that that will gain us more friends, and talking about another person may give you a sense of power in front of people who are interested to listen, but all you are really doing is alienating your friend and abusing their trust. And you are breeding that culture that could eventually turn on you. They might end up talking about you and then its just a vicious and horrible cycle. Keeping that friend’s confidence and building on their trust is just as powerful and much more rewarding in the end.
  4. Follow through on your promises – being dependable doesn’t mean that you have to drop everything for another person whenever they feel like they want to hang out with you, but if you offer to help someone or arrange to meet at a certain time at a certain place, you need to make sure that you keep your promise. Again, it’s about putting in the effort and building the trust that will make people want to arrange another time to hang out and will make you a reliable friend, because you’ve shown interest and investment in the friendship.
  5. Support them in good times and harder times – people have the same ups and downs as you do. Don’t let jealousy of your friend’s success stop you from congratulating them. Similarly, don’t let your friend suffer alone because you can’t be bothered with their worse days. Listen to the other person, comfort them, encourage them, celebrate with them, and treat them. It is really not as difficult as it might seem.
  6. Don’t give up on someone so easily – I would never advise someone to stay in a relationship that does not make them feel good about themselves etc., but allow yourself to get to know the person before you judge them too quickly or give up on the friendship. People can be in bad moods, have different priorities and circumstances, and people argue and clash. But that doesn’t mean that the friendship is over or that you cannot work things out. Be honest and open with the person and you can both adapt to one another’s needs.
  7. Positivity! – you wouldn’t want to be around negative people just like others shouldn’t have to be around negative people. Of course, you can vent to your friends and you can have bad days, but don’t let yourself become a cloud of negativity. People get tired of people who whine, who cannot appreciate what they have, or who cannot see the brighter things in life amidst the darker parts. Be passionate about life and choose happiness and people will naturally be drawn to your positive energy, because it makes them feel good too!

Ultimately, you need to be the friend that you would want other people to be for you. If you have any of your own tips, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!

How to deal with a bad grade

Whether you’re filled with self-doubt and no self-confidence, or you know that you didn’t spend enough time writing and revising, anticipation hangs in that moment before receiving a grade. And once its there in your hand, completely unexpected and foreign in the worst way, there is no better way of describing the feeling other than like the end of the world, however clichéd it sounds.

 

Sitting in the toilets of the English Department at my university, I cried whilst reading over the comments of the paper I had worked so hard on. There wasn’t any possibility of me spending more time on that paper than I did. Is this really what defines my best? Does this mark define my abilities? How can I ever do better than this in the future? At the time, my answers to these questions fell to the negative end of the scale. And that is probably because my head was clouded with self-loathing and my throat clogged the sadness. But once I got over that initial stage I had to ask myself one final question: was I going to let myself be brought down by this unlucky experience, or was I going to pick myself up, take some action, and really show that marker what I could do? I hope everyone in a similar position would pick the second option. So here is a little action plan to get you started:

 

  • I think its ok to cry at the beginning to let out all the frustration, sadness and disappointment you are feeling.
  • Talk about it with someone who you know will be supportive and comforting – they will make you feel better by listening and give you some good advice and reassurance.
  • Don’t waste your time crying about it, but resolve to take some action. You’ll kick yourself for wasting energy on it later; in a few years you’ll look back on it and think how trivial it actually is.
  • Book a meeting with your teacher or tutor about what went wrong. Although it can be hard to hear, it will help you in the long run because they’ll give you pointers on how to improve. In the end you might even see that you’re doing even better than you would have done if you hadn’t had this bad grade.
  • Don’t give up. Even if you’ve had a few bad grades, there is always time to change things around. You just have to believe in yourself and your capabilities and realise that things can be achieved if you put in the work.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others, but remember that other people are or have been in a similar position, and you are not alone. Everyone sometimes has a bad mark or day and its best to acknowledge it, deal with it and move onto better things.

 

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” – Unknown Author