Going to Uni.

Friday, 16 August 2013

So, I'm actually pretty happy that I'm done with uni. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, I just felt very ready to leave after 4 years (3 in England, 1 in France), I'm feeling ready to start adult life, whatever that might mean. Because I'm now done with it, I thought I'd share my endless wisdom with you, which is a rude exaggeration. What I mean is little tips that I picked up along the way, that may not be innovative or anything, just things I wish I'd kind of thought about early on. If you haven't gotten your first choice, I'd recommend you read Alice's blogpost.

First of all, have fun! Uni is a pretty incredible experience, you're likely to be living away from home for the first time and looking after yourself, which doesn't only include going out until the lights come on, but also the duller things like washing (don't worry, it's ok to not wash until you're literally out of clothes to wear, we've all been there) and cooking for yourself (ok I don't find this aspect dull, I actually really enjoyed this bit). Enjoy living by yourself, and finding out what works and what doesn't! Enjoy all the freedom you suddenly have, and that you can plan your day exactly how you like it. Do you like to have a lie in, hang out with your friends in the day time and work late? Do it! Do you like working early in the morning, get your work done and be done with it? Do it!

♣ Find some nice people to make friends with. People always say that even though it's intimidating, you should just approach lots of people, which should be easy, you're all in the same boat. I have to say I disagree somewhat. This might just have been Loughborough (with its very lad-ish culture), but I really didn't find it easy to talk to everyone. Sure I got a shipload of numbers, all of course saved as Daenerys Uni/Freshers, Arya Uni/Freshers, Rob Uni/Freshers (just for the record, I was referring to the Uni/Freshers with the name, rather than giving them all GoT names, which would have been a bit far even for me, I just couldn't think of names, so I went with a theme), but because I'm probably slightly more introverted than the average person, I found it difficult to keep up with the very outgoing nature of everyone. I found a lot of people pretty harsh actually, but again, I'm not sure this is the same everywhere, Loughborough is quite strange. What I'm trying to say is, don't be intimidated by the douchebags, just try to find people you could see yourself making friends with, make an actual effort to be outgoing there!

♣ What also makes making friends easier is joining clubs and associations. Again, I found a lot of sports clubs quite harsh (but then again, a lot of people really really love them), but you're at uni, there's really some sort of club/association for everyone! Most of them you can just go around to have a look too, so you don't need to commit with a membership straight away. This is something I really wish I had done in first year (but didn't because I was feeling too intimidated, silly me). Also, societies/clubs are not just a great way to meet like-minded people, it's also a great way to boost your CV. Being a member is already good, but if you can secure yourself a committee position, employers will love you.

♣ Plan your food! Chances are, you're on a restricted budget, which going out restricts even further! If you don't want to live of tinned spaghetti hoops (which I know doesn't even sound that un-appealing to some), you should get planning! If you only shop every 5 days/once a week, you'll end up spending less. Plus if you plan ahead, you can plan how you'll use up the other half of packages of things you buy, so they don't end up in the back of the fridge/cupboard, i.e. wasted. I blogged about the food I made during uni here, most of it is pretty affordable, if you'd like to have a look :)

Now for some more academic tips:
♣ Keep up with notes! I mean it, it all becomes pretty overwhelming even by like week 3, and it's soooo much easier to just do your notes in the appropriate week (I'm guilty of never really doing this until my final ever semester, but trust me, I regretted it every single time when the exam period came close).

♣ Read efficiently. They literally throw reading at you, so it's important to learn how to read in the best way. For example with journals (oh how you'll learn to hate love them!), the key points of them are often in the introduction and the conclusion, so it's worth reading those for a lot of articles, and then if you find something interesting to dig deeper by reading more of the article. Textbooks on the other hand are great for getting a basic understanding for whatever it is you're currently being lectured about.

Textbooks deserve their own point really. They're expensive, they're really really expensive, and I spent way too much money on them over the three years at Lboro.

♣ First of all, uni book shops often have second hand copies, or students are selling theirs on campus, go for those, you don't need a shiny new copy.

♣ Secondly, if you maybe live with/close to someone on your course that you're friends with and who you trust somewhat, try to share books between you, also lowers the cost considerably.

♣ If this is not an option, there's usually copies available in the library. I know I know, it's annoying to have to go there and the copies you can take home with you are often out long before you even make it there. But, you could for example just spend say one day a week there, get a couple of day loan textbooks and do all your reading for the week! This way, you can also have a read in different ones, which usually impresses lecturers.

♣ My last tip concerning textbooks is to buy single chapters, if you don't mind reading on the screen. I didn't find out about this until my very last semester and really wish I'd known! Firstly, it works out cheaper, because I found I only ever needed about half a text book. Secondly again, you can switch things up with different textbooks and thirdly, contrary to hard copies, you can hit up cmd+F and search whatever you're looking for. (You can buy chapters from a lot of books here for example)

♣ Speaking of own points, journals deserve their point too. I already told you that you'll find most of the crucial information in intro and conclusion/discussion, but may I also urge you to: Start compiling a reference list/bibliography as soon as you start doing your reading for a piece of coursework. There's certain applications that help you do this, I particularly liked Mendeley. In this app, you can also highlight and make notes, which is great, and it puts together a reference for you, pretty handy! If you don't want to use a proper app in which you import articles, Neil's toolbox is pretty great too for putting references together (this is only if you're using the Harvard style though).

♣ For a great article on doing a literature review, have a look here. I'd generally (i.e. not just for literature reviews) recommend to write down the key points of an article, so it's easy to find it again later. You wouldn't believe how often I found myself remembering a point that would fit in great, but had a lot of trouble finding where I had actually read it!

♣ For some tips on budgeting, have a read on Oh that Kimberley!

♣ For tips on packing and freshers in general, Emily's post is great. I especially like the idea of a 'where the hell is it' box.

This turned out a lot longer than I had planned (my bad), turns out I'm literally full of wisdom after all.
P.S. I'm obviously not saying that this is what's good for everyone, I just thought I'd share what I found helpful.

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