10 things I learned at university (and I hope you will too)
So it’s mid-September already and that means more fresh-faced teenagers making the biggest step of their life and moving to university. I know this is a music blog and this post is off my theme, but I thought it was important that I pass on a few things I learned at university since I know a lot of people reading this will be starting soon.
I’ve just finished my three year degree and to be honest it still hasn’t sunk in that I won’t be going back to uni in a week’s time like I have for the past few years.
I learned and changed so much during my university years, so I decided to put together a bit of a list of important lessons it taught me and hopefully it’ll teach you too if you’re off to uni.
1. The value of friendship
I know everyone complains about school but seriously, you’ll miss it when it’s gone. Going from seeing your best friends five days a week for years to barely seeing them once every few months is one of the toughest things about uni. In the first few weeks I found myself feeling so lonely, and social media really doesn’t help when you see your friends from home post pics with their new friends. It’s easy to get jealous and think they’ve replaced you, but soon you’ll make new friends of your own. The best thing about having a group of uni friends and a group of home friends is that when you do go home and see your old friends it’s like nothing ever changed and you appreciate them so much more. Work hard to keep up your long distance friendships, it’s difficult but when you do get to see your friends it’s so much more special – distance really does make the heart grow fonder.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
This is something I’ve done all my life, and it’s really hard to stop doing it. When I first started uni I saw people already in friendship groups, laughing and joking, going for coffee dates while I was sat in Starbucks on my own wondering what I was doing wrong. ‘Why is everyone making friendsquicker than me?’ and ‘Why is everyone having so much more fun than I am?’ were thoughts that constantly popped into my mind. Everyone does things at their own rate, in their own time. I’m glad I didn’t rush into friendships for the sake of it because I ended up making some of the best friends I’ve ever had over the three years. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing, you do you and I assure you that you’ll feel the benefit of not following the crowd and worrying that you aren’t like everyone else.
3. Your voice matters
I’ve always been someone who’s very quiet and not really willing to share my opinions and thoughts. I always thought that people would make fun of me or think my opinions were weird or not normal so I kept them to myself. Uni taught me to speak up for myself, and I can say I’m a completely different person to that shy girl who I used to be. I recognise that although people might not always agree with them, my opinions are valid. I’m no longer afraid to stand up for myself and what I believe in, and I will not let people walk all over me like I used to.
4. It’s okay to struggle
When my course first started, there was a point when I thought ‘oh no, what on earth have I let myself in for?!’. The advice I’d give if you feel like this initially is just stick with it, for me when I’d got a few months into the course I started enjoying it more and especially after first year when we got more choice of modules. It’s also okay to struggle emotionally – I constantly found myself feeling so homesick when I lived away in first year and I don’t think it helped knowing I was only a half an hour train ride away from home. Push through the difficulties, everyone will be having their own private struggles and you’ll find that once you get past the initial overwhelming aspect of moving out and starting your course you’ll be fine.
5. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
I know this is such an overused cliché saying, but it’s never been truer than when you start university. For me, it was completely out of my comfort zone. I went to a very small all-girls school in a small city. My whole life I’ve lived in a small town where nothing much happened. I’d say my childhood was pretty sheltered, nothing drastic or traumatising had ever really happened to me, which obviously I’m very grateful for. But this also meant that I was in for a massive shock when I left all that behind for uni. You’re exposed to people from all walks of life, being on your own, coping by yourself and essentially the big, bad world. Obviously this is going to be daunting, but it’s the best thing I ever did. I learned to deal with things on my own, make my own decisions, have the independence that I never really allowed myself to have at home. University was the bravest step I ever took, away from all the things I knew and loved and a way of life that I’d taken for granted. I’ve learned that I can cope on my own, I am my own person and I don’t need to depend on anyone else.
6. You are capable of more than you think
This links in with my last point, but really I have outdone all my expectations of myself because of uni. Even getting into the uni of my dreams was more than I ever thought possible. At sixth form I was told by one of my teachers that I shouldn’t continue with English A Level, because I wasn’t going to get a good grade. I could’ve easily given up then and there. But I didn’t. I worked damn hard for the next year and a half and I got into my first choice university to study English with Creative Writing. I now have a 2:1 degree. You can do whatever you put your mind to. I’m telling you now, if there’s something you really want, please go for it. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do it. Proving them wrong will be the best feeling in the world.
7. It’s okay to be proud of yourself
We seem to have this attitude nowadays that when people are proud of themselves or their achievements, they’re seen as vain, or bragging. That attitude needs to stop. If you’ve done something you never thought you could, why shouldn’t you tell the world? For my dissertation, I wrote fifteen of my own poems. I had to read one of my own poems out EVERY WEEK to a group of about seven people. My anxiety was through the roof every time. But I did it – and people liked my poetry. This gave me the biggest confidence boost in the world. I ended up getting a first for my dissertation. I will not hesitate to tell almost everyone I meet about this fact, because I worked so hard, I conquered my fears and shared my most personal writing with everyone and they liked it. I also had the hugest bout of anxiety leading up to graduation. I think I cried every single day for about two weeks before the ceremony because I was that panicked about having to go up on stage in front of around 900 people. On the day, I used every single coping strategy I could to calm myself down. As I was about to step onto the stage I felt like running away – but I took a deep breath, and as they called out my name and I shook hands with the chancellor, all my anxiety disappeared. I walked down the aisle, among all those people, with the hugest smile on my face and I can honestly say that was the greatest, most proud moment of my life. Not only had I proved everyone who doubted me wrong, I’d proved to myself that I can do anything. And if I’m not allowed to be proud of that amazing achievement, then in the politest possible way you can go take a hike!
8. You will change, and people will too
I think you can already see that I’ve changed an incredible amount over the three years I went to uni. But there’s a negative side to change as well. Sometimes friends you think you had turn out to be fake. People come and go, but true friends will always be there for you. If someone isn’t treating you right it’s okay to let them go. Certain friends I made initially turned out to be complete bitches. Now, pre-uni me would have put up with their rude and ignorant ways, but not new and improved uni me. This ‘friend’ of mine started randomly turning on me, putting me down, making me feel like a piece of dirt on their shoe. Nobody, especially a friend, has the right to treat you that way. Take my advice and get rid of anyone like that. Don’t feel like you have to stay in a friendship just because it’s the only one you’ve got, because I guarantee you once you drop the toxic people, much better ones will come along and they’ll make you feel the way you deserve to – valued. I also guarantee you they’ll be there to stay, and they’ll be the friends you’ll keep into the future even once you’ve finished uni.
9. Work hard and play hard
I know a lot of people think ‘Yay uni! No parents! I can do whatever I want!’, and they go and get drunk every night and don’t go to lectures and just look at it as one massive party. But take a step back, you’re at uni to get a degree. I really don’t understand people who don’t go to lectures. This is going to make me sound like a true nerd, but I really enjoyed my lectures. I’m passionate about literature and writing so I loved studying it in more detail. By all means, there’s time for partying, having fun, making new friends, all that amazing stuff that people think uni is all about. Uni is about all those things and I’m not preaching that you shouldn’t do all of it, but you need a balance between work and play. Learn when to have fun and when to put your head down and work hard.
10. This is the best time of your life – enjoy it!
Finally, I’d just advise you to have the time of your life! Honestly, university was the best three years of my life – the things I learned, the friends I made and the independence and confidence it gave me I will always be grateful for. It almost makes me want to cry thinking about the fact I won’t be back there again, but I’ll always look back on what I learnt at that amazing place and think wow, I’m so glad and blessed that happened. All the ups and downs have given me a new perspective on life, and have genuinely changed me for the better. Embrace every moment, appreciate every day, life won’t be like this forever and no matter how cliché it sounds, these are by far the most amazing years of your life!
Are you starting university soon, at uni or maybe finished like me? What were your highlights or what are you most looking forward to? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!