A guest blog from our resident Jnnat.
As the excitement of high school graduation fades and the daunting reality of college life sets in, there’s a lot you won’t find in those glossy university brochures. I embarked on my own university adventure with a mix of anticipation, anxiety, and excitement. Looking back, there are plenty of things I wish I had known, and that’s what I’m here to share with you.
Visas and Documentation
For international students like me, navigating the labyrinth of visa requirements and documentation can be quite the adventure in itself. The process isn’t always straightforward, and it’s essential to start early. Getting all your documents in order and understanding the visa application process is crucial to a smooth transition to university life.
Expect culture shock, even if you’re studying in your own country. University often brings together a diverse mix of people from various backgrounds, and adjusting to different customs and behaviours can be a significant challenge. I found that being open-minded and willing to learn about other cultures can help ease this transition.
University is often synonymous with newfound independence, but it’s also when many students come face to face with financial realities. From tuition fees and living expenses to unexpected costs, budgeting becomes a necessary skill. My advice is to create a budget and stick to it, exploring scholarships and part-time jobs to ease the financial strain.
Homesickness can hit you like a ton of bricks. Whether you’re a few hours’ drive or a transcontinental flight away from home, missing family and friends is a universal experience. Embrace this feeling as a part of the journey and use it as a motivation to cherish your relationships back home and make new friends at university.
Social Expectations and Loneliness
While university offers a unique opportunity to meet people and form lasting friendships, it’s also a time when you might feel socially isolated. Finding the right group of friends can take time, and it’s okay to feel lonely initially. My advice is to explore clubs, societies, and campus events to meet like-minded individuals. I personally loved the Bollywood club that I joined at my university, and it made me feel like home away from home!
University puts the responsibility squarely on your shoulders. Self-motivation becomes your closest ally. Professors won’t chase you down for missing assignments, and there’s no one forcing you to attend every class. I learned to manage my time efficiently and stay motivated by setting achievable goals and seeking help when needed.
The Importance of Office Hours
Most professors and instructors are more approachable than you might think. Office hours can be a goldmine of information and guidance. Don’t hesitate to reach out, discuss your concerns, and build connections with your educators. I’ve found that they can provide valuable insights and even open doors to research opportunities.
It’s OKAY to change your major. University is the time for exploration and self-discovery, and it’s not uncommon to realise that your initial choice of major isn’t the right fit for you. A close friend of mine changed his major after a year of struggling in his chosen course but he now feels so fulfilled and happy after making the right choice the second time.
THe Dreaded Freshman 15
The “Freshman 15” isn’t a myth. The newfound freedom and endless dining hall options can lead to some serious weight gain. I discovered the importance of maintaining a balanced diet and incorporating regular exercise into my routine to stay healthy. I do indulge in a treat for myself occasionally, but I make sure to stay active in the gym! At the end of the day, do what makes you happy.
Essential Items You’ll Need
When you’re packing for university, it’s easy to forget some essentials. Here are a few items that often get overlooked:
– Power strips and extension cords: Dorm rooms may not have enough outlets for all your gadgets.
– Basic toolkit: A set of scissors, safety pins, toothpicks etc may come handy at an unexpected time.
– Comfortable bedding: A good mattress topper and high-quality sheets can transform your dorm bed.
– First-aid kit: Band-Aids, pain relievers, and basic medical supplies are key to avoiding the doctor.
– Rain gear: Be prepared for unexpected weather changes. Always have a pocket umbrella on you, especially if you’re living in the UK!
Balancing Studies and Social Life
Balancing academics and social life is an ongoing struggle. You’ll likely find yourself pulled in multiple directions with assignments, exams, and the temptation to attend social events. The key is time management and setting priorities. I’ve learned to create a study schedule and allocate specific time for social activities, ensuring I don’t neglect either aspect of my university experience.
Read my top tips for balancing studies and social life here.
Networking and Building Relationships
Your university years are an excellent time to start building your professional network. Attend career fairs, seminars, and workshops to connect with industry professionals and your fellow students. Networking not only provides you with valuable contacts but can also lead to internships and job opportunities down the road.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. University can be a high-stress environment, and it’s vital to recognize when you need support. Seek out counselling services or talk to a trusted friend or family member if you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges. I absolutely love spending time in nature and meditating. I have also begun to wake up early and do some yoga classes in my Vita Student building. I make it a point to spend time with myself because it is equally important to get to know yourself as it is to know others and university days are probably the only days in life where you get to be alone and do everything for yourself.
The Value of Internships and Research Opportunities
Internships and research experiences are invaluable for your future career. Many universities offer these opportunities, so take advantage of them. I’ve gained practical experience and made connections that have shaped my career trajectory. I believe in making contacts and always engaging in conversation with people who have enough experience to guide you. Surprisingly I have landed jobs in the UK by just letting some people know about my interests and hobbies. It is essential to network, and you never know which friend might have an opportunity waiting for you!
Graduation Is Just the Beginning
As you approach graduation, remember that it’s just the beginning of your journey. The job market can be competitive, and your first job might not be your dream job. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks; they’re all part of the learning process.
University is a transformative experience that comes with a range of challenges and rewards. While there may be many things, they don’t tell you about university, remember that each hurdle is an opportunity to grow, learn, and discover more about yourself. With the right mindset and a willingness to adapt, you can navigate the complexities of university life and emerge a stronger, more confident individual. Embrace the journey, and you’ll find that the lessons you learn along the way are just as valuable as the degree you earn.
Thanks for reading!