Going to University: What I Wish I’d Known

Oh how I wish I was back in 2005 and getting ready to go to University! Here’s 15 tips for making the best of your University experience. For those of you who get your results today – make the most of your time ahead!

1. Making friends is natural.

You’ve probably gone through Primary School into High School into College or Sixth Form with some of the same people around you the whole way. At University the chances are that you’ll be plunged into an environment where you might not know anyone, let alone the geography around you. However so has everyone else in your student Halls so you’re not alone.  As soon as you get there, you’ll be bombarded with people and events, all set up for you to meet new people. You’ll be running around introducing yourself, asking where people are from and what they’re studying. And that’s just the first couple days of moving into halls and settling in. Then comes Freshers Week (aka nonstop socialising), then lectures, then seminars/sports teams Union Events. You’ll start to bond with your flatmates in your halls, start to go out with certain people and have different experiences.  You’ll start to make great friendships. You’ll gravitate towards certain people, spend more time with others, and sooner or later you’ll end up with people you refer to as friends! Easy peasy. So don’t worry, you’ll definitely make friends. Take it slow, trust your instincts, and eventually lots of great friendships will start to blossom. Two of my best friends are people I lived with in first year.

2. You’ll probably feel out of your depth.

Point is: you’re not alone. Everyone feels overwhelmed at times, and everyone will feel the same way. So if you knock on a door every once and a while or leave your door open, you might quickly find some great friends.

3. The learning part is just another step up.

First Year University is harder than Year 12/Sixth Form/College. You’ll be expected to read around the subject and questions in order to make well informed points. You’ll be teaching yourself rather than being taught – this is real learning. Using your own initiative to delve deeply into subjects that will stretch your mind.

4. Surround yourself with people you admire or who’s company you enjoy.

Surrounding yourself with interesting people will eventually rub off on you. As they progress you’ll be socially pushed to achieve the same level. It’s not about winning, but it is about maximising your potential by looking at what other can achieve.

5. Going home is not the answer.

I know that sometimes you might be hurting. You want your mum/dad/dog. Not a big deal, we’re all there sometimes. But in your first year, it’s crucial that you don’t go home every weekend. You might be terrified to put yourself out there and socialise, but people want to be friends with you. They’ll embrace you with open arms! I promise. But if you don’t make any effort and go home at every occasion, you’ll be missing out on an important chance to find friends, and find yourself. You can’t be your own person if you never let go of home and the security it provides. University is the time to forge out forward and discover yourself and others.

6. A single bed is bigger than you think.

7. The phrase “University is the best time of your life” is true to those that hate their job now.

Don’t get me wrong – University was awesome for me and I love the work I do – but if you’re in a career you hate, you’ve missed something at University. The Enterprise Gym (props to the old gang) at the University of Dundee helped me realise that you could always make a job or start a business you like instead of just taking one you need.

8. Expanding your comfort zone is hard, but necessary.

Nobody said it would be easy! Going away to university is probably one of the hardest, and best experiences you will ever have as you learn to balance work, leisure and budgets. You’ll get the most from University if you try everything! Plus it’ll make you more adaptable and prepared for new situations

9. Calling your Mum is quite acceptable.

10. People will respect your choices.

People will accept you whether or not you drink, whether or not you smoke, whether or not you do drugs, whether or not you party. They probably won’t accept you (or not too many of them at least) if you never socialise, but any other lifestyle choice will be fine. Honestly! I had friends who didn’t drink, I had friends who were borderline alcoholics (kidding), people who had various study habits, various partying habits. In the end, the people you’ll end up being friends with will accept your lifestyle choices. Basically, your attitude is everything. If you’re having a great time and being friendly, people won’t care what you’re doing! Here’s a great article from College Fashion about not drinking at university, if you want more information.

11. There is so much exploring to do!

You’re living/studying in a brand new city, full of people, events, restaurants, sights, shopping, etc. Don’t miss out on it! Don’t be afraid to escape the University Bubble a couple times during your first year. It makes it so much more fun! Visit a friend at their university, go out for dinner off campus, visit a museum or local attraction, play outside. There is tons to do, tons to explore. Try to get away from the studying, stress, and clubs every once in a while and get to know your city!

12. Travel

At University you’ll be offered placements, study abroad years, and opportunities to go to different places. Take all of them as they’ll open your mind’s-eye to whole different ways of living, different people and cultures and perhaps give you a better perspective on other people’s lives.

13. Get to know your university.

Try and get the most out of your establishment. Learn as much as you can about the university itself. My old campus, for example, has a gym, four drinking holes, a maze, a top ‘o’ tower cafe, tons of awesome libraries, and lots of amazing theatre events throughout the year. My friends had similar perks at their universities, or different ones. Explore, ask around, find out all the goodies your university has to offer.

14. Enjoy the ride

Everything will work out just fine. You’ll survive first year, whether or not you worry, the key is to have fun doing it. It’ll be a topsy turvy, crazy ride, with lots of surprises and new experiences. Try and make the most of each of them, and don’t stress out so much. I know personally that this is easier said than done, but I’m trying to worry less and live more!

15. Start Building Networks

It might seem overly ambitious but when you come to leave university you’ll need to know people who perhaps have specialist knowledge or have help you find someone who does (or just gives you “mates-rates” deals). Relationships and communication is important during university, and it’s even more important to not overlook long-term value for after university. Plus if, for instance, you wanted to start a business – you’ll have a range of people to help you. Or if you wanted to go travelling – you might know some people you can bunk with. Networks also extent to knowledge caches, too – important in your academic work – if you know where to find information you’ll be able to progress with success.

So – That’s my 15. As I say – if you want to make the best of your time at university – don’t waste the opportunities to thrust your way into exciting situations or occasions; travel; work and play hard.

Best of luck A-Levelers!

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About James Murray

James has worked at Cardiff University Enterprise since early 2012. Before joining this awesome team he worked in Dundee, Scotland, Kota Kinabalu Malaysia, and London, England. He has won a few awards in enterprise and entrepreneurship and also run (and sold) two small businesses. He holds a MA (Hon) in International Politics (researching past actions of the CIA) and an MSc in International Business, Marketing and HR Management (researching BigPharma). At Cardiff University Enterprise he assists coordinating the of postgraduate & research enterprise activity in the form of iSolve and Enterprising Researcher. He sits on the Cardiff Start meetings, and helps manage the Intern team, and is always on the lookout for new guest speakers and workshop leaders. He also keeps an eye on the Blog, Social Media, helps modernise the operations of the team and enlists local companies for prizes and sponsorship for events. James is also known to love cars, technology, adventure and food. He specialises in team mentoring, experimental entrepreneurship events, research commercialisation, and networking.