The first year of University is probably one of the toughest years of University. It’s normally the first time that you are living on your own, away from your friends and family, having to cook and clean for yourself. But it’s also one of the best years – it’s the year you get to make mistakes and find out who you are and who you could be. It’s the year you get to discover who you are without your parents’ influence and learn some of the most important life lessons.
If your first year of University is anything like mine was, then you will learn a lot of difficult lessons, make and break a few friendships, drink a little bit too much and either gain or lose the so-called Freshman 15. Ultimately though, you will make it through the year and be a stronger person as a result.
Since I’m going into my third year of University, I thought I would list five of the most important lessons I have learnt as a result of my first two years at University. Whilst these might not apply to everyone, I hope at least one or two of them are helpful to someone.
Your lecturers will not spoon-feed you information. In secondary school and college, the teachers will often teach you everything that you need to learn for the exam and you will be assigned a textbook for the class that you can use to revise from, along with various other revision guides. In University however, whilst you will have lectures and practicals, it is ultimately up to you to do your own learning and further reading. No lecturer will babysit you. They will teach you the basics and point you in the right direction but you will need to go to the library and borrow books sometimes thicker than your thighs in order to truly succeed in your course.
Just because everyone has a significant other, doesn’t mean you need to too. My course is slightly different to most University courses in that it is mainly made up of mature students, meaning that I am one of the youngest having come straight from college. This means that most of my friends on my course are in a different stage of life to me, having already had their fair share of heartbreak and nights spent crying into ice cream pots, and have ultimately met ‘the one.’ Whilst it may seem that everyone has somebody but you, the truth is that you have a whole life ahead of you to have your fair share of heartbreak and first dates. Mr/Mrs Right will come along when the time is right.
Alcohol and Mental Health Problems* do not mix. Both my anxiety and depression were particular prevalent during my first year at University, especially after a night-out. Alcohol is an anti-depressant, meaning that it will numb your feelings for a particular period of time but ultimately it will leave you feeling low. With everyone around you drinking, it is often easy to fall into the trap of drinking for the wrong reasons, as it does make you feel happier and more confident. However, one must remember that drinking never addresses the cause of the problem; it only alleviates the pain for a while.
Friendships can be just as toxic as relationships. Letting go of a friendship, especially one you have put so much time and energy into, is never easy. But sometimes it has to be done. If the person is draining you both mentally and physically and is making you feel isolated from others, chances are that they are not good for you. Your health must always come first, no matter the cost.
University is what you make it. It’s up to you what kind of University experience you have. What you put into University, you will get back out. You can choose to focus solely on learning and spend your nights researching in the library or you can go out to nightclubs every night. There is no one telling you what you can and cannot do – it’s up to you what you want to remember most and what experiences you want to have.
I hope these have been helpful to you. Comment below what year of education you are going into or currently on and one lesson you wish you could tell your younger self.
* If you are having a hard time, whether it is at University or just general, please do ask for the help you deserve. Don’t suffer in silence. In the UK you can call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. There are also countless websites offering advice and support no matter where you are in the world. My messages on Instagram or Twitter are always open if you need to talk.