In January 2016, I moved to Melbourne to pursue a degree which would hopefully reward me with friends, a career and the best three years of my life. However as my third year draws to a close and graduation looms, I have had time to reflect upon my experience and the expectations I held, and how the reality was a little bit different.
So here are eight things I wish I’d known as a first-year university student…
1. Don’t stress about missing O-Week
I completely missed O-Week in my first year and this horrified me. Did I miss the only opportunity to make friends? To know where everything and anything is on campus? To sign up for clubs which would ultimately dictate my entire university experience? The answer is no. I was fine.
O-Week is a great way to submerge yourself in campus culture but if you can’t make it, don’t stress. Students hubs, the internet, volunteers and university staff are there to help you and to be taken advantage of (just with a little less free food).
2. Nobody knows anyone, literally
Turning up to my first class I was completely terrified. My head was flooded with thoughts of having no one to sit next to and being all alone in a completely new environment. But as it turned out, every other student was in the same boat.
Don’t let the thought of not being familiar with people scare you. Try your best to say hi and introduce yourself to someone because more than likely, they are just as nervous as you. And it’s always nice to have a familiar face to look out for the next week!
3. Establish one interesting fact about yourself
Give it one semester and you will learn that the first week of classes can be the worst. Tutors will go out of the way to organise introductions normally which normally go along the lines of saying who you are, what you’re studying and telling the class one interesting fact about yourself.
Avoid the sweaty palms and intense stress by preparing your one mind-blowing fact, and make it a good one because you’re most likely going to be repeating it every semester.
4. Stress less over attendance
Sometimes work, commitments and life just get in the way of your classes and that’s something everyone can understand so don’t stress out when things get too busy.
If it’s a lecture, just catch up online to make sure you’re prepared for any work or readings. If it’s a class, email your tutor and find out what you missed. Just take note of presentations or classes that require attendance and clear your schedule for those days because they are harder to get out of.
But this is not an excuse to never go – don’t be lazy!
5. Accept that you won’t be rich and save your money
With food, fees and attempted social lives to cover, student life can be a struggle for most bank accounts. So accept the fact you will not be flourishing with economic success for a few years until that hard-earned degree pays off very early on in your student life.
Even with the limits of time and minimum wage, a part-time job will save your life. So do your best to seek employment and when that first paycheck arrives, enjoy it. But not too much, savings are important.
6. Don’t compare yourself to others
University is huge and you are going to be surrounded by students from all walks of life. Some pursuing Nobel prizes, others wishing to write for Vogue… Some may even want to intern with the Australian Government or celebrate the simple pleasures in life by knowing they can even afford a meal at Maccas.
But every one of these people is doing their own thing and so are you. Be happy with your accomplishments and how far you have come. Avoid bringing yourself down by getting caught up in other people’s lives. You’re doing you and that’s okay.
7. Prioritise your health and your happiness
Being away from home and living in a new city is one tough gig, so notice the warning signs if you are beginning to struggle and remember to take care of yourself on the hardest days. Take a day off, call your family and order a budget-friendly pizza from Dominos. Moving, studying and working is a huge undertaking so you’re doing a great job.
If you do need additional support, call the national crisis support hotline on 13 11 14 when you’re feeling overwhelmed. They’re ready to talk 24 hours, 7 days a week.
beyondblue also offers online support and chat rooms with professional mental health support. Visit their website to get immediate support.
Other mental health services you can visit are:
8. It’s all worth it
It may seem like a struggle, with overwhelming due dates and long hours but when you’re holding that degree in your hand with know that huge life of opportunities are ahead of you, the experience will be oh so worth it.
Though dropping out seems like the easy option, don’t do it. Keep your head up, eat well, save your money, attend classes and you’ll come out on top. Remember why you came here.