5 things I wish I knew in my first week of uni
There's no right or wrong way to do University. In fact, everyone's experience is so, so different, and we grow by making mistakes. I wouldn't say I had regrets, but there are a few things I wish I knew. At the risk of sounding like an old lady (back in my day...), here are five things I wish someone had told me, because I'd probably follow their advice!
1. If you step outside of your comfort zone, you will integrate more easily
A mistake I can now admit to making is that I often find it hard to step outside of my comfort zone. I’m always friendly and polite when I meet people, and I’m incredibly extroverted – but only to a point. When you go to University, you’ll be meeting people with all kinds of interests, backgrounds, cultures and life experiences which differ to your own. Embrace any and all of it, and get yourself genuinely involved. You don’t have to like everything or everyone, but making the effort and appearing confident in it (practice…) goes a long way!
2. Getting insanely drunk isn’t the best way to do Fresher’s
This seems almost counter-intuitive, so I’ll explain. I’m not saying “don’t get drunk”. In all honesty, you’ll have enough pressure on that front from the University, whilst being bombarded with flyers and your peers telling you to do exactly the opposite. It’s all very conflicting, I get it. There are things to do other than drinking at Uni, but let’s assume that you’re the average student who enjoys a few, so my point here isn’t that at all. It’s all very personal, and some know their limits more than others. If you’re like me, and you struggle on that front on occasion, just make sure you’re consciously making an effort not to take things too far. You want to make a good impression, but you also want to practice self-care. Don’t get into a habit of putting your health and safety at risk. It seems fine now, but it can set you up pretty badly.
3. Pay attention to detail, and be actively involved
Position yourself as a centric part of your group simply in your actions. We’re not all born leaders, but you should challenge yourself to be really active in the group. Instead of waiting for plans to be made, and hoping you’ll be invited, why not be the one to make suggestions? You could even take charge. The trick is to make everyone feel really welcome. Simple things like remembering people’s names and where they’re from will come in really handy. If you can throw in a few compliments, or find some common ground, even better! Even the silliest comment “Oh, you’re from Glasgow? My mum grew up there” can start a dialogue. You never know where such small conversations will take you, or where your friendships will lead! University can seem like everyone else knows what they’re doing more than you do. I felt like I was swimming around on my own, but you know what? Everyone else is in the same boat, some are just better at faking it than others!
4. Actually read into your modules, you might be genuinely interested!
I spent so much time partying and basically avoiding going to class at first (oops…), that I wasn’t as involved initially in my classes as I’d have liked to be. Not only did this leave me feeling left out when I did show up, but it also left me feeling like I’d missed out when it came to the exams and I realised I genuinely would have enjoyed the debates surrounding some of the texts, for example. It IS possible to miss some classes and do well, in many instances, but you’re really missing out on an enhanced student experience.
5. Share things that you’re interested in, and don’t just assume everyone else won’t be
There is a tendency to assimilate at University, which often means that we assume that if we’re not actually interested in the things we tend to do as a group, that we’re the only ones! It’s easier to go to some big student night or party where they’re playing generic house music, to try and please everyone, rather than to try to cater for obscure tastes. Whilst I was at University, I kind of assumed I was the only one who loved the music I was into. I wasn’t. I certainly wasn’t in the majority, but I wasn’t a special snowflake! I could have made bonds a lot more quickly by either asking, or showing other people and not just assuming they wouldn’t care.