Wednesday 6 June 2018

What I wish I’d known starting University

Emily shares what she wish she had known starting university. 
- Emily Maybanks

Starting University is a big step in life. It can be easy to forget that even getting into University in the first place is a real achievement in itself. I am at the end of my Undergraduate degree at University and looking back to when I was preparing to head off to University as an anxious Fresher way back in 2013, there is so much that I wish I’d known then that I’ve learnt over the past 5 years.

To briefly introduce myself, I’m Emily. I’ve been studying Modern Languages, Translation and Interpreting at Swansea University (we have a beach opposite campus – it’s lovely in this part of the world) and it’s taken me 5 years to finish my course. My 4-year degree programme included a year abroad, and then an extra year out. From this, one of the most valuable things I’ve learnt is that everyone’s experiences of University is unique to them and that it’s definitely not a good idea to compare your journey to someone else’s. There’s that quote that goes “don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 14. Follow your own path; write your own life story and never give up on yourself.” As cheesy as it sounds, it is true. There’s a lot of pressure to make University “the best years of your life” – it doesn’t have to be the best time of your life, and honestly, it won’t be the best time all of time. There will be moments of amazing highs and there will be moments when you wonder why you even started University. I can genuinely say that while I was disappointed and upset to have taken an additional year to finish my course, it’s also turned out to be a real positive in the sense that I’ve spent my final year getting involved with as much as I can alongside my studies because it is important to make the most of your time at University, both in lectures and outside of lectures!

What I definitely wish that I had known when I started University is just how vital a skill time management is. What threw me a lot was going from a very rigid routine throughout my A Levels in Sixth Form where I’d get up early each day, get the bus, spend hours in school, come home, do my homework, have dinner, relax, and go to bed, to being on my own at University and having lectures at random times throughout the day. I suddenly had to learn to manage my time in a different way to what I’d been used to. I think that once you manage the art of time management, it definitely becomes a lot easier – get into a routine as quickly and as smoothly as you can.

Another thing that I wish I’d known is that it is perfectly okay to not enjoy nights out in town and clubbing as well as the drinking culture that it is often viewed as “typical” at University. I was worried ahead of starting University because I was 19 and I had never stepped foot in a club (they are my idea of a nightmare) and I had also never been drunk. I was worried that I’d be judged right from the beginning. However, I’ve been lucky that I’ve met people along my University journey who have never held this against me. There’s always something to do at University that doesn’t involve drinking or going out. One of my most memorable moments in my first year was a game of “hide and seek” at my friends’ flat. In my later years at University, it’s been nice to meet people who are more than happy to spend an evening watching films, walking on the beach or playing games.

There’s a lot to get involved in at University right from the very beginning of your first year. Go to the Fresher’s Fair and join at least one society that interests you. Joining a society or a sports club is a fantastic way to get involved with student life. My closest friends at University have come from joining the Hogwarts society in my first year. They put on lots of fun events such as a Yule Ball at the end of the first semester, a trip to the Studio Tours and several quiz and film nights. In my final year, I’ve been a part of my students’ newspaper and the wider Student Media community. If your University has any media opportunities, be it a students’ newspaper, or a radio station, I would recommend getting involved as it’s another way to meet new people but also to learn new skills and gain a unique, worthwhile experience. One of my regrets from University is not getting involved with the students’ newspaper at Swansea earlier on during my degree.

Finally, you learn a lot about yourself at University. Looking back to the beginning of my first year, I had no idea that I’m more resilient than I think I am, for example. University has certainly helped to shape me into who I am now. Everything that I’ve been through over the past 5 years (positive and negative) has developed me. I am proud to say that I am leaving University a more confident, more open and much more willing individual.

Some final words of advice about starting University and the adventure that lies ahead:

  • Look after yourself; take time to focus on you and only you, doing what you enjoy,
  • Say “yes” to as many exciting opportunities as you can, but also know when to say “no” too,
  • People will come and go during your Uni years, just as they come and go in life itself. The right people will stick around; 
  • Cook yourself a really nice meal every once in a while;
  • Remember that it is YOUR journey and YOUR life – do what makes YOU happy. 

Check out Student Mind's resources on transitioning from school to university.

My name is Emily (Em). I am currently in my final year at Swansea University. I wanted to blog because I have experienced depression and anxiety as well as other health issues, and I support friends who have also experienced mental health difficulties. I am a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences - both in helping me to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help others.

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