Things I wish someone had told me before going to university
by Sara Visan
Becoming a student is a very exciting decision, but sometimes it can also be quite intimidating. Something that I would have really liked, back in the days when I was starting my academic journey, was maybe a bit of guidance, a pinch of optimism. Here’s my advice.
Everyone's in the same boat as you
The most important reminder is that everyone’s in the same boat as you. It can be scary to move across the country, across the continent or maybe even across the world to pursue something you’re interested in, but everyone else is just as scared as you. In this move towards the future, people leave things behind, including familiarity. No one really knows what’s going on, in those first weeks when everything is filled with possibility and freshness. A select few maybe have friends – the rest are just waiting for those new bonds to form. I know for sure that if one is brave enough at the beginning, to strike conversation, to ask a question, to compliment someone, friendship is sure to grow. Everyone wants companionship, everyone wants people to do things with, to explore this new area of their life with. People will be open. What more, people will go out of their way to link you up with others in the same situation. That was my case anyway: one of my Twitter friends, once she found out what university I was studying at, immediately created a group chat with another Lancaster student, so we could meet up (we immediately became bookish buddies).
Make use of the resources available to you
When things are really confusing, the university staff are there to support you. My advice is to make use of the resources that are available to you. That includes the vast library space, the mental health support team you can reach out to, the professors that will warmly answer any questions, but also the events organised by the Students’ Union or the societies that you can join (which are a great way to meet people who share your interest and make new friends!). Compared to one’s lifespan, you are a student for such a short period of time, so it’s so important to make the most of it by grabbing every opportunity and resource offered by the university.
Of course, studying is also a huge part of being a student – and everyone has their own tried and successful study method. What saved me, especially closer to the end of the semester, when the deadlines start piling up, was to be really careful about my planning. I have a calendar taped to my wall above my desk, so I can always have a visual reminder of what my month is supposed to look like, the deadlines circled in an eye-catching red. I have a separate planner where every night before bed, I lay out my next day’s tasks, in order of importance, so then I can attempt to give my best to fulfil them.
Our best looks different every single day
This is not advice, but more of a reminder: our self-care looks different every day too. There’s no right way of doing things, there’s only the way that works for you; and when that feels insufficient, it’s helpful to take a step back. Lancaster offers some gorgeous sights, so some days self-care might be going for a walk. On other days, self-care could be a two-hour long video call with family. At other times, self-care might be baking for the first time, going out with friends, or watching your comfort movie for the 11th time.
Most importantly: this period of your life is one of exploration
So explore: courageously, curiously, lovingly. Explore: this new city, this new country, according to your circumstances. So explore: yourself. Make time to check out the places that you are interested in. If a particular class sounds intriguing, then even if it’s not something that you would normally go for, give it a try – you might surprise yourself. Go to the event even if you have to go on your own. Do things in such a way that when you will look back years down the line, you will feel as little regret as possible about your university years.
Sara is studying MA Gender and Women's Studies at Lancaster University.
Lancaster University employs students to create authentic content from a student perspective. All views expressed in this article are those of the students, and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Lancaster University.