It’s almost been four years since I left home to go to university and I can’t really believe how quickly that’s gone. I enjoyed my time at university, from making great friends and meeting my boyfriend to learning new skills and achieving a first class degree. So I thought I’d do another reflective post – I’m enjoying those at the minute – on five things I wish I knew before starting uni.
Before we begin, I thought I’d let you know a few things. Throughout Year 13, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to university or not. I’d been to look around one university and was so against the idea, it just didn’t appeal to me at all. So I decided not to apply and went to the ‘non-university’ career sessions that my school held. Then my form tutor convinced me to even just apply, so that I had the option come results day the following year. The only thing I had to lose was £25 for submitting my UCAS application, so I did it, just in case.
Then I had to decide what to apply for, I was torn between journalism and criminology. You couldn’t submit half and half applications so I had to choose one – I opted for criminology. I submitted five applications but I was completely set on being in Leicester so that I wasn’t too far from home, whether that was the University of Leicester or De Montfort. I didn’t really mind. I put those as my firm and insurance choices and got into the University of Leicester on results day in 2016.
Overall I really enjoyed my time at university, but here are five things I wish I knew before starting uni:
It’s okay to not enjoy things
I didn’t really enjoy first year, which is typically known as the party year. I didn’t like drinking and going out to clubs, so that was a bit of a hindrance to enjoying myself. I was too shy to join societies and I didn’t like drinking, how was I supposed to make friends?
I went on quite a lot of nights out and they were fun, but I’d say half of the time I just didn’t enjoy it, whether that was the whole night, pre drinks or just being at the club. So I told myself that it was okay and when I really didn’t want to go out, I didn’t have to and could say no.
I felt odd not enjoying myself in the ‘typical’ way that freshers do but in time I realised that it’s okay to not enjoy everything and not always follow the crowd.
You can do things your own way
As I’ve said, you don’t have to follow the crowd with things. That’s the case for a lot of scenarios. You can get really swept up in what everyone else is doing and deeming it ‘the way to do things’, but it’s all up to you.
I used to hate working in the library. I was so much more productive when I was sat in my room working and I didn’t have the anxiety of not being able to find a seat or not being able to move a bookshelf (I couldn’t even move them in third year much to my housemate’s amusement). But I felt this weird sense that I wasn’t being the typical student by not doing all nighters in the library.
Work out what’s best for you, and do that, with no shame. Everyone has their different ideas of fun, productivity and how they want to spend their time.
Being homesick is okay
I always felt weirdly embarrassed that I missed home. I was always wanting to get in my car and drive back (it was only an hour after all) but I didn’t want to sound sad by saying I was homesick.
Missing your hometown, family, friends, pets, whatever is totally fine. Many people will have never moved out prior to university so of course you’ll be missing things.
It’s okay to be homesick but it doesn’t mean you always have to go home. I let myself go back home probably 2 in 5 times I felt homesick – the other times I just embraced the feeling and tried to make some nice plans with my friends or by myself exploring Leicester.
Make the most of opportunities
In my third year, I really tried to make the most of the opportunities presented to me by the university. I tried my best in first and second year to go to department events and take part in new things, but my mental health often got the better of me.
Saying that, in second year, I did enrol on a Professional Mentoring Scheme and was mentored by someone that worked for the Crown Prosecution Service which was really interesting. I also worked as a Peer Mentor – helping students in first year to settle in and answer their questions which then took me to the role of Lead Mentor in third year.
In third year, my boyfriend and I set up a society and I was also involved in the Criminology society, so I was pretty busy. I also used my spare time to set up my little plant pot painting business too, you can read about that little business venture here.
It felt good to use my spare time for things that I now have on my CV and talk about in interviews. I only had six contact hours at university in third year and my dissertation was actually fun to write, so I used the other time to make the most of any opportunities that came my way.
Everyone’s experience is different
Think how many courses there are, at however many different universities, as well as having so many options for accommodation and who you end up living with. There are so many factors that mean it’s impossible for any two people to have the same experience and enjoyment of their time at university.
Try to remember that it’s natural for everyone to have varying opinions and enjoy the things that you might not. It really is luck of the draw with who you end up living with too, unfortunately, but you can always make it work for you by branching out and finding new people if they don’t quite meet your expectations.
So there are a few things I wish I knew before starting uni. It is such a different experience for everyone, so don’t put pressure on yourself if you’re not enjoying it as much as someone else or vice versa.
Does anyone else have any top tips or things they wish they knew before starting uni? Drop them down below if you do! I’m also going to be sharing more tips and thoughts on university over on my Instagram so make sure to follow me 😊