I still remember my first day of university. It was just down the street from my high school. My mum dropped me off, along with the lunch she packed for me. I saw my high school friends, and we walked to class together. It should’ve been a very easy transition, but it was everything but that. I eventually graduated, and moved from Canada to the UK to begin my Master’s degree. It allowed me to have the traditional university experience – living far from home, learning to cook, and that overwhelming sense of independence that you sometimes don’t know what to do with.
With everything that is happening in the world, students are heading to an unfamiliar environment during the most unstable times. No one knows if international students will have to head home again and have to interact solely via Zoom. Until those decisions are made, it’s important to be prepared for this new environment. I’ve put together some tips I wish were shared with me during my first year of university, which would’ve made my experience a whole lot easier!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I know, you’ve probably heard this a thousand times. I did too, but I was scared of raising my hand in a room of 1000 students, asking what might be a ‘dumb’ question to a teacher I had to refer to as ‘Doctor’. Get rid of this way of thinking! Whether you’d prefer asking during office hours or sending an e-mail, there’s always an available solution.
- Meet new people. Most people in your year are in a similar situation, thrust into a new environment and not knowing anyone. It was the people who sat beside me in class and struck up a conversation with me that remain friends with me to this day.
- Join clubs and societies. It’s the best way to meet people with similar interests and values, and allows you to take a well-deserved break from studying. Many universities have ISOCs or cultural societies which can allow you to meet people with similar backgrounds!
- Manage your time. I was used to having a few assignments a week during high school, and finding that stressful! University courses can be very stressful, especially during exam periods. Start your work early and ask questions as they arise – you’ll thank yourself later on.
- Be kind to yourself. It’s stressful managing school, a social life, and sometimes a job. Don’t be afraid to take a break and focus on yourself. Your mental health and wellbeing should remain a priority. Use campus resources if you need help.
Whether you’re heading off to your dream school, a university you’re unsure of, or taking a year off, be proud of yourself. I ended up rejecting what I thought was my dream university to stay closer to home, and years later, I couldn’t have made a better decision. You’re still at the beginning phases of your lives – it’s ok to make mistakes, or make wrong decisions. Be kind to yourself, and realise there are many paths that may lead to the same result!
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