Four years ago, I spent the summer stressing about whether I’d received a place to study at the University of Birmingham. If only I could go back and tell my 18 year-old self that it was going to be fine and that I would be graduating with a first class degree in four years time (yay!!).
University was always in my plan, the next step. I visited so many university open days, mainly as an interesting day out, but also to think about what life could be like there. When you find the right university for you, you’ll know.
Now it’s four years on, what have I learnt?
- University of Birmingham is a BEAUTIFUL campus – I’m bias right? But you’ve got a leafy green campus which is 7 min train journey from the city centre so where can you go wrong?
- You might still get lost on campus in your final year – Who put my lecture in the new building? A specific example from UoB is calling a new building the ‘Old Gym’, when in fact it isn’t where the old gym used to be….
- We all feel the need to impress in first year – I mean, you’ve just moved into a flat with strangers, of course you want to impress, to get on with them, to be best friends. But whilst you’re trying to impress, don’t undermine your worth. When you meet the right people, they’ll stick around.
- A bad grade isn’t a reflection on you – Most of us are completely new to academic essays and Harvard referencing in first year and it takes some time to get into it. Over the years, you’ll have some modules that you love, some modules that you hate so naturally, grades will differ. But it doesn’t define who you are, nor the work that you have put into the assignment.
- Some people you meet won’t be friends for life – That’s okay. You’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and they might not be yours. If you don’t get on with your first year flatmates, that’s okay. Take the opportunity to meet friends through friends – this is how I’ve formed some of my best friendships!
- Don’t buy all the textbooks!! – Textbooks are SO much money and when we’re all strapped to the student budget, it can be quite a large chunk our money. Look on Ebay, University Facebook sites and the books/e-books available in the library before spending £50 on each book.
- It’s okay to not feel okay – I think a common perception is that everyone takes university in their stride, you see the photos on social media, the smiling faces and assume that they’re great. But it can often be a different story behind the scenes. Here’s your reminder that you are NOT alone in this. Talk to friends you trust, get in touch with the university services – it may not be a solution, but at least one step forward.
- Staying in is just as valuable as going out – I think a common misconception with university is that you are out every night. I mean if that’s your kind of thing then go for it, enjoy it! (The days spent hungover with your friends can sometimes be the best ones). But if that’s not you, there’s nothing wrong with staying in, finding a TV show to watch with your friends, having a Fajita night, some baking etc.
- Organise your university notes – Whether that’s digitally, on paper or the lecture slides, you will need them when it comes to writing essays and revising for exams. I’m a pretty organised person but in first year, I let my standards slip. First year might not count to your final degree mark, but it is still important to get into the swing of things. And those organised notes? They’ll be more beneficial than you think, trust me.
- Everyone has a different financial situation – Be considerate towards others, whether they want to go out and spend money or they don’t. As a quick word of advice, make a monthly budget – weekly can be tricky as you’ll probably spend more one week to the next. Monzo has been a life-saver for me.
- It’s cliche, but embrace it! – University may not be a smooth journey. There’s the preconception that university will be the ‘best years of your life’ and yes, it CAN be, but there can also be some pretty tough times for everyone. It will be what you make of it and hopefully you’ll be able to look back on the last few years, have the amazing memories and realise how much you’ve grown as a person.