student life

University: What I’ve learnt outside of the lecture theatre

Students in a lecture theater, Student Life, Laura Amy Cross, Kettle Mag
Written by Laura Amy Cross

University is known as the place to be for those looking to continue in education and have a good time. From the nightlife to the friends you’ll make, it’s no wonder that students say university is the best time of your life.

This is why picking the right university for you is one of the most important decisions you can make. When you attend open days, they’ll tell you everything they think you need to know. Employability ratings, student satisfaction, course content and the best accommodation… but how about the things they don’t tell you?

My first year has been the most eye-opening experience of my life and sometimes it feels as though nothing could have prepared me for some of it. After speaking to some of my friends at different universities, I’ve realised that these things are not specific to your university. So here are some of the things that they fail to mention in the prospectus…

1. Say goodbye to branded foods

If you lived with your parents before going to university, then your diet is in for the biggest shock of it’s life. Gone are the days of fresh fruit, fish and branded crisps. Instead, you need to get used to supermarkets own products and being able to live off noodles for at least two weeks. My friends, like myself, were lucky enough to have our parents do us a food shop when we first moved in, but once you’ve snacked your way through all the luxury, you can expect to open your near-empty cupboard and be left scratching your head at what to cook for your dinner that night. Thankfully it’s pretty acceptable to eat a crisp sandwich for your dinner for the sixth night in a row! 

2. Energy drinks will become your best friend

The first term is relatively simple; it’s all about finding your feet. The work isn’t too strenuous and you wonder why on earth people complain about university being difficult. This easy life will not last. The best advice I can give is: If your teachers give you work, get it done ASAP. Sounds simple enough, right? With your new found social life, you find that essay plan under a stack beer cans and pizza boxes the night before it’s due in, so you quickly ring your friends to see if they’ve done it and of course, they are in exactly the same situation as you. The only solution is to go to the library with more energy drinks than lecture notes. But don’t worry, between the hours of midnight and six in the morning, the library is filled with people sleeping, crying or doing exactly the same as you – so you won’t feel out of place. Of course, once you’re finished at seven in the morning, you drink that last energy drink and zombie walk to your 9 AM lecture and swear you’ll never let this happen again… Until next week.

3.  Your personality will change

For many, university is the first time they get real independence and move away from home. That’s what makes it really easy to find yourself and you will notice that you change as a person. While this may sound scary, it’s important to remember that this is just how you grow into adulthood. Being surrounded by so many different people is bound to change your opinions on things that you used to be so stubborn about. But, don’t be scared, you should embrace this change! It will help you develop into an understanding and empathetic adult and it prepares you drastically for the real world.

4. The importance of work 

For many courses, you’re frequently told that your grade for your first year will not go towards your overall degree. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your all into your work. While your first year grade might not reflect your finishing grade, it’s vital for things like work placements and actually getting through to your second year. This means learning to prioritise – it’s the key to balancing the many tasks you’ll face at university. If you try and do a little each night, you’ll find you can stay on top of it and still have time to see all of your new (and old) friends. The best way to do this is to make a plan or buy a diary, so you can see when all your work is due in and plan which needs doing first.

5. You can’t be friends with everyone – but it’s important to try

You’ll meet so many new people while at university and make some great friends. But you won’t be able to get along with everyone. At university, everyone is completely unique, coming from different places and having different backgrounds to others. You need to remember that you won’t have the same views as everyone – and that’s okay! But there’s no point arguing about this. Try to understand why they have a different opinion to you. Especially when living in student halls, you have to try and get along with the people you’re living with. Instead of arguing, try to calmly resolve any uncomfortable situations. Remember, you have months of living with these people, so it’s easier for you and everyone else you’re living with to just find a common ground; you’re bound to find something that you both enjoy so focus on that. Try discussing games, TV shows and movies if you’re struggling to find something you all like.

While all of this may sound scary, your first year of university really is the most exciting time of your life. It’s a chance to find your feet and make some of the best friends you’ll have for the rest of your life. All universities have support services too, so if you do find you’re struggling, there’s always someone around that will help you. The time will fly and before you know it, you’ll be going into your second year and wondering where the time went. So make the most of it and get involved with the many things that your university can offer you.

To those of you going to university in September: Good luck and enjoy!