6 Things I Learned at Uni

23 Jul 2020

This blog originally started back in the summer of 2016 when I was getting ready to start my very first year at university. At that time I had no idea what the future held for me, I think that summer was one of the most stressful times of my life because I was so nervous for the outcome of my A levels that would dictate my future. I ended up not getting the grades that I expected and ended up not getting onto my first choice university but fortunately I did get into my back up. That then spawned another period of stressing over whether I should accept my insurance choice or if I should try and resist some exams and try again next year. Eventually, I decided to go for it and I accepted my offer to study Biomedical Sciences at Ulster University in Coleraine and after four incredible years I've just graduated with a 2:1 honours degree (even though I didn't get a graduation ceremony due to COVID things) and a diploma in professional practice, and I've just gotten my first real job. So now that I'm officially ready to say goodbye to student life I thought I would share some things that I learned during my time at university outside of the lecture halls.

Dress is TK Maxx (more TK Maxx finds here)

1) Fear is Valid

Back in the summer before I started university and I had accepted my offer I still had every intention of remaining in Belfast and travelling to uni every day on the train because it was cheaper (which was an hour and a half away) but after attending a pre-term weekend away with the Christian Union (they'll come up a lot so I'll refer to them as CU from here on in) to get to know some people who were already at the university as well as to get to know some other freshers who were in my same position and as we were all getting to know each other I realised that it wasn't actually the financial issues that were holding me back but my actual fear of saying goodbye to the life I knew and starting up something completely fresh in a new place. Fear is so valid, it's such an important part of taking that next step and very soon that fear will be replaced with excitement as you start to learn how to be more independent and

2) Things Take Time

I'm generally a very shy and reserved person so having to move away from my already established friendship groups and trying to create new ones was scary and it is scary but you'll find your people, While one of my best friends from uni I actually met on the first day of preterm before we'd even started classes some others I didn't even end up getting close to until my final year when I decided to step out of the CU bubble and actually get to know my class and I managed to make some of the best friends so while you might find your crowd on day one it might take weeks, months or even years to truly find your people and that's okay, don't judge the way your life is going through the lens of comparison, that other people have more friends than you, your crowd will come.

3) Studying something doesn't tie you to it for life

If you're just starting out in uni and you're still not sure what path you want to take, that's okay! I've just graduated and I still don't know what I'm doing with my life. I did my degree in Biomedical Science and I know for a fact that I definitely do not want to pursue a career in that field. I actually really enjoyed my course and I loved studying the different things and I enjoyed carrying out my research project for my dissertation but I just can't bloody stand lab work! Before starting my degree I definitely could have seen myself working in a lab and working with chemicals/testing drugs all day but afterwards, I could think of nothing worse! I mentioned earlier that I've just gotten a job and guess what? It's not anything to do with my field of study (it's actually in social media management). In my class by the end of the four years, we all had different goals for the future, some are going on to study medicine, some are going on to study further and obtain PhDs, some are heading to do PGCEs so they can become teachers and others, like me, are just moving on from science completely. No matter what your discipline you'll learn so many transferable skills that you'll be able to apply to any role and learning is a lifelong thing (and masters conversions are a thing) so just because you studied something to degree level doesn't necessarily mean that you have to dedicate the rest of your life to it.

4) Your lecturers actually want to help you

I'm an Enneagram 9 (I wrote more on that here) which means I hate confrontation but if you asked my genetics course director he would tell you opposite. Until my final year of university, I don't think I emailed a lecturer for help on anything once! Then my genetics module happened and I discovered that a question on my test had been marked wrong and I was due another 5 marks. It's in my nature to just forgo it but my friends were with me at the time and they pushed me to do something about it so I brought it to my lecturer, and even at 21 years old I was still terrified of approaching lecturers for things. He was kind of scary and mean about it at the time but he actually sent me a really nice follow-up email to apologise for the mistake and make sure I was okay after I got a little worked up. fast forward another couple of weeks and another two of my tests were marked wrong (this only happened to me as well so clearly someone was out to get me in this module). Needless to say, this whole debacle helped me get over my lecturer fear and actually ask for help in future modules but it did only take me three years!

5) It's not all about studying

If there's one thing I love it's 100% attendance. I don't think I missed a lecture the whole time I was at uni (with exception of a few in first year after a family bereavement) but one time I actually forgot to go to class because I was too bust studying for a test! Who does that! Obviously, your studies are important but one of the main reasons I inevitably decided to move to Coleraine instead of travelling was so that I wouldn't end up missing out on uni life! I wanted to attend CU meetings, I wanted to go to coffee shops with friends, I wanted to explore the dang north coast of Ireland and those were all things that I couldn't do from home. Hit up your local Freshers' Fayre to see all that your university has to offer and get involved in some stuff. I am definitely not a poster girl for this because I was very involved in CU and not really anything other than CU but getting involved in clubs and societies is a great way to make friends with similar interests to you outside of class. Don't just join clubs because your friends are too, join clubs because you want to join clubs.

6) Lower your expectations

Yes, university is exciting but it's romanticised so much that if you don't find the love of your life roaming the library after hours you think you'll be deemed as a failure. While yes, you may meet your future husband/wife/partner at uni, the vast majority of people don't. Seeing university through the lens of other people has come up quite a lot but if you take one thing away from this it's this: Don't let other people's university experience dictate how yours turns out! Lower those expectations and take each day as it comes. Carpe Diem and all that!

Obviously, I learned so much more at uni but these are just a few things that really stood out from my time there. What's the biggest thing that you've learned while at uni?

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