I’ve been in a bit of a reflective mood of recent…I’m not sure what’s spurred it on really but one thing I’ve found myself thinking about a lot recently is my time back at University. It may be because I’ve been witnessing students prepare for their upcoming exams at my former University where I work, and perhaps due to the fact that a few of my friends are just about to cross that final hurdle of finishing their final year before they enter full fledged adulthood. Anyways, this time last year I was trying to make all my deadlines and start revising for my exams. – I was panicking, nervous, overthinking everything and so uncertain about my future.
While things turned out to be OK and I’m reminded by friends as to how much of a worrier I was back then, these past nine months have been challenging to say the least as I find myself trying to navigate through this new chapter in my life. I’ve definitely found myself at times questioning the point of going to university…is it a must for the career that I want to pursue? Were the previous four years really worth it; the stress, the time, the money. I wasn’t completely sure what I was going to do with my life come graduation. And to be honest, almost a year later I’m still not 100% sure what path I will go down. All I knew last April was that I was going to have to pack up my things and move back home come my final exam and figure out things from there. Although things are looking good for me now – I’m employed, no longer a broke student and have so much free time I don’t know what to do with it, I look at my sister who is almost done with her first year at University and wish that someone had told me four years ago when I was a Fresher that it’s OK if things don’t go as expected over the next few years, both during my time at University and after, and that you will grow and change significantly in ways that you wouldn’t have thought.
So Maryam, this post is for you. I hope you, and all those who are going through this new and exciting chapter in your lives at university can benefit from the (non-academic) things university taught me.
1. It’s ok to leave university not knowing exactly what you want to do with your life.
I think many of us (or at least I did) go to university thinking we’ll spend three/four years completing your degree, acquiring work experience, having the time of your life, and by the end of it all we’ll know exactly how we want to spend the rest of our lives. I’ll admit, I went into university certain by the end of it, I’d know exactly what profession and what companies I would want to work in and that I would have secured a place on a graduate scheme before my final year exams. But if there’s one thing university taught me is that there are so many options and choices in the world and that you shouldn’t limit yourself. So if by final year you’re unsure what you’ll be doing in the months after your graduation, don’t stress. It’ll come together in the end. Plus what you start off doing career wise post graduation may not be what you’ll be doing in the next 5, 10 or even 15 years.
2. It’s ok to not always be in control.
I’m a planner – the type of person that once constructed a 5 year plan (needless to say this has now been disposed off), creates daily to-do lists, the works. So it was tough for me when I found myself kind of unprepared for adult life, unsure of what I was going to do with my future and for the first time in my life, I didn’t have the security net of education to fall back on. However, I learnt that sometimes you’ve just got to allow life to take its course and even though things might not always go to plan or how you expected them to, that’s OK. Sometimes you’ll be aiming for one thing, but life will lead you to the complete opposite and quite often that is actually what will be best for you.
3. A few great friends are better than lots of mediocre friends
I made many friends during my time at University, and while some of those relationships that I forged still remain strong today, there are a few that have since ended as I grew and realised the type of people I wanted in my life. I don’t regret any of those friendships I made because they all taught me more about people, myself and relationships and it is fine for friendships to come and go. People will definitely change, but ultimately some people will only come into your life for a season, a reason and/or a lifetime.
4. It’s OK to say no
You do not owe anybody anything and you are not obligated to do something that you do not want to do. Whether it be saying no to that extra drink or to your friends who want you to go out with them, it is OK to say no. Let people have their opinion of you – if they think you are boring because you don’t drink then that’s their problem and you cannot control how they regard you. As long as you are doing what you want and being yourself, you will be happy. Saying no might seem hard and it might take a lot of for you to build the courage to say no, but life will continue to go on regardless.
5. Not being your true self is only going to impact you
University is a time when many people come to reinvent themselves – for some it is a time to try a new image and be someone different without the fear of anybody they know observing this change, while for others it gives them the opportunity to finally be their true selves and escape from the conformity that has followed throughout Secondary School and College. Regardless, if you don’t show others your true self it will only be damaging towards you, after all if you can’t show people your real self, how do you expect them to accept you completely. It can be daunting especially if you feel like the odd one out, but University is a great big melting pot of people from all different kinds of backgrounds and places and you are bound to find someone like you.