I have to walk through first year halls to get to my flat, and I had a bit of a weird nostalgic moment last night. As I was walking down the path, littered with playing cards presumably from drinking games, and hearing a truly awful group performance of Bleeding Love coming from one of the student flats above, I remembered the day I moved into my first year halls. I remember crying a bit as my family drove all the way back to York, I remember getting to know my flatmates, I remember flicking through my course textbooks, and I remember feeling so excited for the 4 years ahead of me.
As cheesy as this will inevitably sound, it really did feel like last week. But now, I have my final exam in 45 days, and then it is all over.
I am really happy with how I spent my four years at Cardiff University, but I do have a few regrets, so I thought I would make a little list of my tips for making the most of your time at university.
1. Don’t be afraid to make friends. Before I got to University I was seriously afraid that I wouldn’t be able to make new friends. But it is so ridiculously easy, you can pretty much approach anybody in freshers week and strike up a conversation, everybody is in the same boat. Introduce yourself to the people you sit next to in lectures, you’ll all be together for a few years, so there is no harm in getting to know each other.
2. Find your group. Although it is definitely good to get to know as many people as possible, don’t force yourself to hang out with the ‘wrong people’. I definitely went out to a lot of clubs in first year, because I thought that was what everybody wanted to do. Turns out there are plenty of people who would also rather have chill nights in, have pub-crawls, and go on days out. As much fun as I did have trying things out of my comfort zone, I’m also so glad that I found friends who have similar interests.
2. Go on Holiday. If you can, try to save up to go on some group holidays, even if it’s just a weekend getaway to Edinburgh or something. It is a lot easier to go away whilst at University, we have long summers that you’re not likely to get again once you graduate.
3. Work hard and take days off. Make sure you work hard, I know a lot of people who wasted their first two years of University and managed to scrape by with a 2:2. No matter what you’re aiming for, it can be horrible to get to the end of your time at University and realise you actually could have done a lot better, had you worked a little harder. Equally, it isn’t great to get to Final Year and realise that you spent all your time in the Library, instead of having fun.
4. Plan your future. Although I’ve always had a few ideas about what I wanted to do, I was very guilty of putting off any decisions until I got into Final Year. It can be hard to figure out what you want to do, but definitely start making plans early on, that way you can choose the right modules, get relevant experience, and it isn’t as terrifying when you realise you only have a month left before you have to actually be an adult and get a job.
5. Volunteer. Getting relevant experience whilst at University is so important, and so is giving back to the community and helping others. The University offers some great volunteering opportunities, so I would definitely recommend that you get involved. It’s great experience, you will make friends doing it, and it feels great to help others.
6. Get to know your cohort and lecturers. Make sure you get involved with your course society; go to events, run for a committee role, organise socials. Don’t be afraid to talk to your lecturers too, at first I was afraid that it was going to be similar to the teacher-student relationships I had in School, but that isn’t at all the case. Ask them for advice, discuss their research, ask if you can work for them over summer….they’re always happy to speak to their students.
7. Love your course. When you have to revise for exams, and write endless pieces of coursework, it can be easy to forget why you chose your course. Make sure you put time aside to read about the areas that interest you most. As I do Psychology I make sure to keep up to date with current research by following a number of Twitter and Facebook pages, this means that I still get to read about the stuff I’m passionate about, as well as studying so many other topics as part of my course.