The years you spend at university are often regarded as the best years of your life. It’s where you expand your interests, your social circle and your professional skills. It’s where you begin to explore the kind of life you want to lead. While so much opportunity is a privilege, it can also feel like there’s a pressure to succeed both in and outside the lecture hall. Here is some advice on everything from prioritizing your goals to making friends.
How will I be able to juggle all my commitments?
This struggle never goes away once you leave home. To think you will have time when you start working, for instance, is a bad strategy. Sometimes you need to take a step back and start all over again. Taking time out to plan everything is a far better strategy than just doing things on the fly. You will have to prioritize what is most important. Sometimes this will feel unfair, but life is unfair!
What matters most to you is what you should always choose to do first (common sense is not always so common). In my case my number one priority is my podcast – we have consistently posted an episode every Tuesday and Saturday since we started and we believe consistency is essential. If the choice is between a lecture or the podcast, I will choose the podcast. The likelihood of this happening is low, as you know when lectures, exams and labs are scheduled. Nine times out of ten you plan around these commitments but sometimes life throws you a curveball.
In that case, my advice would be to have an idea on paper (or at least in your head) of what your pyramid of prioritization looks like. This avoids time wasted in limbo: “Should I be doing X, or should I be doing Y?”. Time is single most valuable currency. Along with saving you time you can now put 100% effort and focus into your decision because you know this is highest priority in terms of what you want to achieve. When you commit 100% to something there is no reason you can’t achieve it.
I don’t know anyone!
This is definitely not a bad thing. This is honestly one of the best things about college. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Use this to your advantage. You now have an opportunity to grow. Get more comfortable with making small talk with others. When I started college, I was incredibly reserved and quiet. If, like me, you are more introverted than extroverted my advice is to remember this: “You are not shy; you are just out of practice”.
Last week, I gave a speech in front of 30 people where everyone laughed at the jokes I told. I even received an applause when I finished! The week before, I got up to speak in front of my fellow classmates and I didn’t blush once. When I started college, I would never in a million years think this was possible for me.
You can learn anything, and confidence is one thing I didn’t fully believe you could learn until I did. I went to countless society meetups on my own. I was always so scared before I went to all of them. While walking to the events I would be telling myself “This is stupid, just go home and relax. There is no point in being here”. I did it anyway because I believed that pain is the only way to grow. Each time you go to one of these events someone (usually the head of the society) notices you are alone, and they make an effort to include you. As a result, you make new friends!
I Can’t Do Basic Tasks
LIES! “I can’t” is not a valid excuse for anything. It is more likely that you don’t feel like a certain task is valuable enough for your time. For me, before I started cooking, cleaning and doing laundry, I had never even considered them as part of my daily life. I always took these things for granted because my mother did these chores religiously when I was living at home.
When I dreamed of living on my own, I never thought of these things as a part of living independently. I soon learned, however, that they are essential to living a stress-free (or at least stress-reduced) life. My main advice on chores is to learn how to cook. It is easy to just buy lunch out when you have such a hectic schedule and just eat on the go without ever looking at what nutrition you are getting from these meals. You are likely to gain weight if you are always just eating convenience food without getting a properly balanced meal. Not only that, but it also becomes very expensive after a while.
Aside from negatively affecting your physical and financial wellbeing, a bad diet is also likely to affect your mood. High sugar foods will cause mood swings. While you feel full of energy immediately after eating, the sugar high is followed by a crash 15 to 20 minutes after. This lack of energy can cause you to feel tired all the time. You will also be cranky as you are tired, and this can lead to poor sleep with a highly fluctuating blood sugar. I should know, I am diabetic!
I’ll be Homesick
The only thing you worry about in your life is what you focus your attention on. If you think about how you are going to miss your family when you move out, you will do this. If you think about how you are going to enjoy having the extra space to yourself and not be feeling crowded from your parents, you will do this. My advice is to be mindful of what thoughts you allow to take over your brain.
Your brain is FUCKING AMAZING, but it can be exploited both for the good and for the bad. While it is true that brain is the single most amazing creation ever, it has a limit to the amount of information it can process. It uses shortcuts to be able to deal with this information overload. For example, have you ever used a slang term ironically, only for it to become a part of your vocabulary? This is one of the things your brain does. It uses the most recent information if it has a difficult computation to do.
This how habits form. If you choose to think only of the negative, your brain won’t be able to think of anything else. Likewise, if you will yourself to think more positively about a situation, you will be able turn your homesickness around by crowding out those bad thoughts!
Of course, keep in touch with your family and let them know you miss them. But don’t let your homesickness get in the way of enjoying your time! A bit of “fake it ‘til you make it” goes a long way, and while you may feel uncomfortable in your new surroundings at first, this will fade once you take the plunge and step outside your comfort zone.
You Are Just as Smart as Everyone Else
It’s easy to think that people in your course deserve to be there and you don’t. That they are all smarter than you. You have to remember you got the entry requirements too. You also have to realize that some people pretend to be smarter than they are: they use big words or reference books not in the syllabus in class, for instance. I fell for this trick. I was so afraid to ask people what all these words meant because I thought they would think I was stupid.
At some point, I said to myself, “Enough of this!”. I started to ask questions and the answers I got were along the lines of: “How do you not know?”. I realized then that these people don’t know either! Don’t worry about coming across as less knowledgeable. There are no stupid questions but there are people who struggle with who they are, and they love to use their superior knowledge to make you feel this way. Some people will know the answers but in my experience the majority of students have no idea.
Just make sure you know you are no better or worse than everyone else. We are all equal. We all deserve to feel valued but no one else can do this for you. My advice? Be your own number one supporter and everything else will come.