Moving to university has many challenges, you have a new found independence and have to navigate creating your own structure for…well, everything.
It is important to remember that the majority of people are in the same boat, and there will always be people you can talk to who can help you. As a start, I have listed some points below. As someone that has been through it, I have first-hand experience of the difficulties you can potentially face – although I didn’t quite get it right to begin with. I don’t claim to know all of the struggles you are facing, but hopefully some of what I have included below will be helpful to some of you.
The paper timetables you are sometimes given at the start of the year are more of a guideline, but you should keep these safe. NoW is a great tool, but it is always best to have a back-up. NoW also can change – so be sure to keep an eye on the timetable in case there are any seminars, lectures or labs rescheduled.
It is hard to keep on top of all of your commitments and visualise them to organise yourself, especially if you also have a part-time job to keep afloat monetarily. One thing I found really useful was to get a week-to-view organiser. You don’t necessarily always have access to the online system and it can be really useful to have all of your plans – Uni and otherwise – visible in one place. Ensure to include travel times in your planning so that you can see how much free time you really have, and make sure you also plan in study time. It is easy to think ‘I will do it another day’, but if you do that enough times you will run out of days and before you know it, you’re approaching your deadline and cramming in the work. All-nighters are not fun, trust me.
Writing down all of the plans you have can ensure you don’t overlap, and also can really put into perspective when you just need to slow down. It is important to not stretch yourself too thin so that you can apply yourself better to your studies. At the end of the day, that’s what you’re here for, but luckily there is more that you can get out of Uni life, providing it is not at the expense of your degree.
At University, you will meet lots of new people. Societies are great ways to get to meet new people and learn new skills / develop passions, but if you don’t find one that you want to get involved in, naturally through your course or living situation, you will find yourself amongst different groups. You may decide that you want to get to know some of these groups better and this can often be through the nightlife that the city has to offer, or through the well-established student tradition of house/flat parties.
Although you will be surrounded by temptation, it is also important to know when to turn it down. There will always be another party, another night out. There will not always be a second chance at an assignment, or at your degree, and if your friends are true friends, they will understand when work comes first.
There are ways around it to ensure you get the best of both worlds. I used to either be around only for pre-drinks or go out but not drink and come home early – this would make sure I got to University the next day, clear-headed and alert enough to take in the information given, but I also got to spend time with my friends when time was really hard to come by. I might have got some stick for it to begin with, but they would always understand at the end, usually as long as I promised to come along the next time. Or, after a certain point in the night, you realise you wouldn’t be missing much or be missed much if you decided to call it a night.
Even then, it is important to pick the nights where you can afford to go to bed a little later. When I had a 9am lecture the next day, I would allow the night before to be dedicated to study, or to home / life admin. You can never please everyone, but you can cut yourself a little slack for letting people down every now and then if it means you are able to get the most out of your degree. They will understand…and will likely do the same sometimes too.
Now, home life management is not something often considered when going to university…not really. Home life is something that is also important to prioritise time for in terms of how happy you are at home and also management of those around you; you need to make time for the adult chores that you maybe didn’t routinely have to worry about before.
As soon as the novelty of doing your own laundry or your own grocery shop wears off, it is easy to push home / life admin to one side, but no one wants to be the housemate responsible for the state of the kitchen and being moaned at by the other housemates, or the one running out of clothes and having to wear the same top two days in a row…or if you have the luxury, taking a trip home to see the family in the hope that it will get done for you – I definitely lived with people who did this but it isn’t something you can rely on forever.
Learning to ‘stand on my own two feet’ was the most freeing thing for me and learning to keep on top of your home life really sets you up for life after education. Even if it is only an hour when you get home each night, which isn’t that hard to allow yourself once you get into the routine, means staying on top of housework and will allow you to maintain a happy home life too, plus your family will be happy that when you do visit, it doesn’t have an ulterior motive.
University is an amazing experience and one that not everyone gets, so it is good to get as much out of it as you can. Study hard and work to achieve the successes you are striving for, join societies, make friends and enjoy it. At times Uni life can be difficult [especially around exam time!], but learn to face these challenges head on and when times are tough, know that there are people around to help and support you should you need it. It’ll all be worth it come graduation, trust me.
By Leanne Toon
Leanne Toon is an NTU Alumni Fellow. You can find out more about how to get involved with the Alumni Fellowship Programme here
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