University was a weird period of my life. It is that transitional period between adolescence and adulthood, where you get exposed to both adult responsibilities and adult freedom at the same time. Because of this overwhelming responsibility, there is plenty of room for mistakes.
Looking back at my learning journey, I cannot begin to describe how much I have matured, and how my career aspirations have changed. My Integrated Design Engineering degree was challenging and demanding, but it increased my self-confidence and understanding of the real world. Looking back at all the hardships I may have had with friend fallouts, struggling with bills and finances, or the entire COVID pandemic, I would not have been so prepared to take on the real world if it had not been for them. So, my advice is to embrace every challenge and learn from it.
It was also the time when I learned to be alone. Sometimes when there are too many opportunities to meet people, too many parties, and too many things going on, it is OK to take a break. And the difference between university and school is that it is perfectly OK to admit it and say ‘Hey, I don’t feel like hanging out today’ without being considered rude or hurting people’s feelings, because everyone is in the same boat and honesty is more valued.
You have to find the right balance between being self-sufficient and finding your ‘family away from home’. Choose your circle and flatmates wisely because they can become the family you wake up with, you gossip in the kitchen with until 5 am, cook for each other, and binge-watch shows in your pyjamas.
But not everybody is compatible, and you don’t really know people until you have lived with them. I, for one, had the perfect housemates only one out of the four years, with the rest varying between being exceptionally dirty, or just being awkward or distant in the house, and that’s OK because I learned things about them and about myself that helped me choose housemates the next time.
I have to add that I wish I had taken advantage of my university resources more. I wish I had sought out the Students' Union counselling and the Careers Service in my first year, gone to the seminars and workshops, and used all the free memberships that my university email had to offer me throughout my four years.
There were a few things I tried in my last two years, like climbing and golfing, and I realized how ignorance or fear of trying held me back from making so many fun memories. At uni, you will not be getting invitations to new things every day, you have to go take charge and find things you like.
One last piece of advice...
You know how people say the universe doesn’t revolve around you? Well in this case you are the universe. Everything you see and feel is through YOUR experience so don’t be afraid to make decisions to make your university experience better.
Don’t be a people pleaser, don’t be scared to cut people off if they don’t make you feel safe/good, and say no when you feel like it without explaining yourself. Don’t force yourself into situations you don’t feel comfortable with whether it’s with housemate arrangements, going out plans, or anything else.
And… you can never have too much uni work (I mean yes you can but you know what I mean), most of the time I have said no to plans because I had to do work, I didn’t end up doing work anyway and regretted it! The same thing goes for any hobby/side project that I wanted to start and didn’t.
So, manage your time and try to do things outside of academic work as much as possible, because at the end of the day you need to keep yourself happy and sane through all of this!