I am officially an undergraduate! That’s right, I survived three years of pointless assignments, copious amounts of alcohol and cramming for what felt like a million exams.
Because really, that’s all an undergrad degree is: alcohol and assessments.
After three years; in exchange for my sanity and a student debt that will most likely follow me for the next 20 years, the University gave me a piece of paper with my name written on it in fancy writing. Needless to say, I feel a little ripped off.
But it’s not all bad, my memories of University will last almost as long as my student debt, I now get to write the name of a prestigious University and a quasi decent degree on my resume, and most importantly I now know how to use ‘quasi’ in a sentence. So really, it was money well spent.
But along with teaching me the skills of procrastination (it’s seriously the most powerful force in the universe) and how to re-write wikipedia articles ‘in my own words’ 3 hours before an essay is due, University also taught me some important life lessons.
They’re also lessons I wish someone told me before I started so now I’m telling you:
1. When all else fails, go to the pub. Life is more fun there.
That’s pretty much my staple life lesson that gets me through most of the tough times. When it’s all getting too much and you’ve got 5 assignments due in 2 days; it’s time to go to the pub. You’ll be amazed how many other people you’ll find there that are in the same situation as you. You’ll gain perspective and ideas for your assignments and you’ll have ball while you’re at it. Besides, life is too important to be taken too seriously.
Bitching and moaning about your coursework is probably as productive as actually doing it. Especially seeing as the academic ‘theories’ University teaches you aren’t actually relevant in real life, but the friends you make in the pub are. Additionally, if you have group assignments, doing them in the pub is a great idea. Group work was invented by Satan to divide humans and prove to you how idiotic everyone else it. You’ll find the alcohol helps your tolerate your group members more and up until a certain point you’ll actually get a fair bit done. After you’ve reached that point, the work you do will provide excellent entertainment for when you read it tomorrow with a sober mind.
2. Grades matter, but the friends you make matter more.
This is probably the most important lesson I’ve learnt. Unlike high-school where everything was about being popular and you were in some ways forced to spend time with certain groups, at Uni you get to choose who you spend time with. My advice: choose the weirdest people. Spend time with people you normally wouldn’t, you’ll learn more from them. ‘Quirky’ people who think outside the box are much more fun than those who live in one. And frankly they make you a better and more interesting person. The key is to just stop worrying about ‘who you’re seen with’ and worry about how people treat you. I’d also recommend making friends with a few alcoholics, you’ll need drinking buddies when the assessments start to pile up.
My diverse and crazy friends are easily the best part of my University life. Ow and as for Uni ‘activities’ (read: parties), participate in as many as you can. Camps are always a bad idea for your liver and dignity, but the closest bonds and best times come out of them.
3. It’s important to grow in every direction. Including horizontally.
To me, your time as a student is about exploring, learning and making mistakes. Unless you’re like me and plan to be a perpetual student (sorry mum!…but seriously, you should admire my relentless drive to avoid real work) then you’re probably only going to experience it once, so make the most of it. Take as many liberal arts (read: bullshit) classes as you can, form your own opinion on everything and stick to your guns. A big lesson I’ve learnt is don’t become something or someone you don’t want to be because of other people’s pressures. Explore as many options as you can and figure out what you want to do in your own time. You’ll probably change your mind 50 times anyway. Similarly, make a few mistakes when it comes to relationships. It’s the only way you’ll figure out what you’re looking for. My theory is that boys (or girls if you’re a boy reading this) are like majors. You can keep swapping until you find one that fits or you inadvertently get stuck with one (aka you get married). Just go with the flo’ and the earlier you realize that most boys are trouble (especially the ones that play guitar) the better.
As for growing horizontally, you’re not doing it right if you’re not. You’ll quickly learn you can survive a whole day on a muffin and coffee. Sometimes just the coffee. But you’ll also realize that snacking is vital for your last-minute-midnight-exam-cram. You’ll drink your body weight in beer on a weekly basis. And you’ll spend the time you’re supposed to be in lectures having lunch with friends. Just embrace it. Ow and also, there is no set time or limit to the amount of sushi you should eat and there is no way you can eat wraps gracefully so don’t even try.
4. Pulling an all-nighter is not a skill, it’s a way of life so don’t sweat the small stuff.
You know how you have 5 assignments due in 2 days and you’re still at the pub? Well I’ve learnt not to worry about it. You’ll amaze yourself how quickly you can finish a essay or math assignment when you’re working with a deadline counted in minutes. You always end up getting it done so don’t stress about doing it. Just enjoy the process, enjoy communal procrastination and enjoy the beers.
This goes for pretty much everything else that isn’t drastically life changing. There’s no point worrying about little things. The only thing that worrying will do is ruin the big picture.
5. Be yourself.
This is a cliche that everyone always tells you, but at some stage or another you’ll have the ‘aha’ moment where you realize that everyone who ever said it actually has a point. The biggest thing I’ve learnt (and shamefully it only came to me recently) is to just be true to yourself. Or at least who you think you are. You can’t compare yourself to others and there’s no point following others as that’s the path to unhappiness. Take your time and do it your way. Not everyone is cut out for 5 year plans. Sometimes the best plan is to have no plan. Take risks, join nudist marching bands, go to weird parties, gay pride parades, various protests, stand up for what you believe, meet people different to you, read about the world, form your own opinions and learn to listen to others’ opinions. Degrees and studying are important, but the unexpected life lessons you learn whilst at Uni are more important.