What Three Years at University Taught Me

So as I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve just finished my degree. Amongst the feelings of “oh my God, what the hell am I going to do now?” and “please just let me stay in bed for the next seven years”, is a strong urge to look back over the past three years and reflect on what this time of my life has taught me.

The classic tip – get involved

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Everybody always says this, but seriously. Whatever it is your interested in, there’s probably a society for it. Or, why not try something new? Joining a sports team is a guaranteed way to make friends, and to always have plans on a Wednesday night, and there’s usually teams for beginners. Societies/sports clubs enable you to meet people with common interests, but even doing something small like writing for the uni paper from time to time (or your uni’s branch of The Tab, wink wink) can get you mega CV points.

This being said, do NOT do it all in your third year

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In my last year at uni, I was president of a society, I was on two competitive sports teams, and I was the co-editor of my uni’s Tab site. I won’t lie to you, it was exhausting trying to balance all of this with a degree and a social life. Try out various things in first year, but by the time you’re in your final year, limit yourself to one or two extra curricular things, especially if you’re doing a heavy degree.

Do an internship in the summer of your second year

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Or if you’re one of those lucky people that has it all figured out by the end of first year, then do it in your first year, too. The more experience the better. I’m not saying you necessarily need to have it all figured out by second year, but at the end of summer term, start applying to all kinds of internships and work placements that you can, in any kind of field that might seem interesting. It doesn’t necessarily mean that this will be your chosen career path, but it will seriously save you when you find yourself applying to grad jobs. Spend the summer living with your parents and commuting to an unpaid placement. It seems crap, but it will be seriously beneficial when you’re leaving uni.

Try and stay away from ad-hoc hospitality work

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A lot of job sites will advertise these hospitality companies that give you flexible work at events over the summer, but it really isn’t the most efficient way to earn money. I mean, it’s a viable option if you’re really struggling – don’t get me wrong, it was good for bulking out the CV, too. But if you can get a job in a local pub or restaurant for over the summer, that is a much better way to save your earnings. Working a couple of week long events at a time will give you some money, but you’ll spend so much commuting there every day and you’ll probably spend it as soon as you earn it.

These companies are also notorious for treating you badly. People often got paid the wrong amount, or paid extremely late, and to be honest, it wasn’t worth it at all. I met some cool people, but it’s much better to work in an actual establishment where you can properly get to know the other people that work there, and you won’t be exploited. These kind of ad hoc hospitality jobs mean you end up working for 10 hours with barely any break, with managers who are rude to you cos you’ll be gone in a few days, and for barely minimum wage. If you can avoid it, do.

Get involved with uni politics (but approach with caution)

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Now I’m not saying get completely stuck in if you don’t want to, because I’ll be honest with you, university politics is an absolute minefield and it can be really draining. People who are involved with uni politics (myself included) are all very strongly opinionated, and lots of clashes can occur, especially if you’re in a position of responsibility. Trust me, it’s not for the faint hearted. Approach with caution.

That being said, elections on campus are really important. My friend Tash ran for SU President, and being on her campaign team was awesome, especially when she won! Even if you’re not on someone’s campaign team or actively promoting someone, it’s important to make sure your voice is heard. Half the people at my uni didn’t even bother voting, which is so stupid. It’s so easy, and this is something that will shape the way the uni is run! And if you’re a woman you definitely need to exercise your right to vote!

I also met my boyfriend on the election night, so what can I say? Elections are magic.

Don’t stress too much about money

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OK, I realise that this is easy for me to say considering I had my rent covered for me, and I know a lot of people are not as fortunate as me. But there are certain things you have to accept – such as the fact that you will, inevitably, go into your overdraft at some point. And that’s fine, if you have a student account there’s no interest, even for a year after you graduate! Obviously, budgeting is important, and I’m not saying blow a few grand on a Chanel clutch, but just try not to get too caught up in money stress. If spending a few more quid on something means you’ll have something nicer to eat, or you get to spend time with an old friend, then go for it. And holidays/travel is a perfectly acceptable reason to go into your overdraft. These are life experiences, and are therefore priceless.

That’s all well and good, but if you are seriously stressed and in a bad situation, there are financial advisors at uni who can give you money to help you out. Universities have LOTS of money – think about all the people on campus, and imagine every single one with a £36,000 price tag. Unis are never strapped for cash. I’ve had friends reach the end of their overdraft and struggle to pay rent, and the uni has stepped in to help. So don’t sweat it.

Learn to cook

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After three years of uni, I still can’t cook. It’s probably why I’m so poor and I’m always ill all the time. If you can learn to cook, you’ll be sorted. Plan your meals before you go shopping, cook things from scratch to save money, and save the leftovers for lunch. These are all things I should have done, but didn’t, because I’m a) a fussy eater and b) lazy, which means I’m more likely to shove some chicken nuggets in the oven than even attempt to bake a lasagna. Don’t be like me. LEARN.

Don’t go to Zante (or any other party island) in June

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It will be DEAD. And with no other people around to soak up the cheap alcohol, so will you. Go in July or August when there are actually other people around to fill up the clubs a bit.

Check what your landlord is like before you sign for a house

SERIOUSLY. It will save you a lot of agg. And check for mould, too. Also, be weary when they say the house will be “professionally cleaned” before you move in. Yes, it will be, but with our estate agents, they don’t arrange the cleaner – the previous tenants have to. Which means the cheapest company possible will probably have been brought in. So check what’s going on with the cleaning, because our house was still dirty when we moved in.

You don’t have to read everything

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Especially if you don’t have an exam on it. Sometimes Sparknotes does the job to get you through the seminar. Yeah, even in third year. Although, you know, do try and read it all.

You don’t have to be mates with everyone

Friends come and go, but don’t stress about trying to make friendships work if they’re fizzling out naturally, especially in first year. If you’re lucky enough to find a close knit group of friends, hang onto them, but don’t worry about trying to please everyone. Sometimes people don’t make the effort, sometimes people will actively dislike you for no apparent reason, but you just have to shrug it off and focus on the people that matter.

Don’t freak out if you get mentioned on YikYak

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When someone invents an app that basically thrives off anonymity, it’s going to get ugly. The above yak was fine, it was actually quite complimentary, but I recently was mentioned in other Yaks claiming that I’d written this one about myself for attention (why?). I also had an evening where I seemed to be bombarded with Yaks saying that there was no point in our uni having a feminism society (of which I was president, so I felt I should defend it). I’ve had friends who have been so anxious after being mentioned on here, but we have to look beyond it.

When messages are anonymous, it feels like multiple voices are talking to us, and that therefore, the whole of our uni is saying/reading something. But what’s more than likely is that it’s actually the same person saying the same thing over and over. When there were multiple Yaks being made slagging off feminists, I thought that everyone on campus hated me and my society, but in retrospect, it was probably just one bitter person writing all of them. Even if it wasn’t, it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things because in 24 hours the yaks will be gone, in a short space of time, you’ll have graduated, and in years to come, we’ll all be dead.

Have a day of the week where you get your sh*t together

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A granny bag is the most useful thing you could buy if you find yourself having to visit a launderette often

I never properly did this, although in retrospect, I really really should have. I think I did kind of do this every Sunday, but I should have made it a firm rule. My boyfriend has introduced me to the concept of ‘clean sheets day’, which basically means that every Saturday he washes his sheets. (I know, I’ve found myself a bloke who washes his sheets every week, jackpot much?)

But if we take this concept of ‘clean sheet day’ and apply it to all aspects of our lives, a clean sheet day is so essential. Probably best to have it on a Sunday, because they’re usually pretty quiet, and then you can just spend the day sorting yourself out for the week ahead, and kicking out the hangover. Clean your sheets, wash your hair, clean your clothes, wash the dishes, do that reading for your seminar the next day so you’re actually prepared for it…Just take some time each week to sort ya damn life out.

 

OK, I’m going to stop rambling now! There’s probably 1,000,000 more things I could mention from my time at uni, but right now it all just seems like one big blur. The important thing is to enjoy yourself – push through the bad stuff, savour the good stuff, and you’ll be all set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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