Written by: Katie Waits
Design by: Ellen Stanton
It’s that time of year again. A time of transition and change, especially for those just starting their university lives. Many people may have been looking forward to escaping school, leaving behind strict rules and uniforms. Others may find the thought of a change in routine absolutely terrifying. For everyone beginning university, especially nowadays, life will be very different compared to school, whether you move away or stay local. With change comes responsibilities you may never have had before.
Entering the stage of life beyond school brings a great deal of independence. In school, you may not have been allowed to leave the grounds for very long. You would’ve had a fairly strict, structured timetable that you would stick to, and you may have had a uniform. University, however, provides a lot more freedom. Although you will still have a timetable, you get to study the exact subject you want to, with modules that you’ve chosen to do. Between classes, you can go anywhere. Whether you want to go back to your accommodation and nap, or go to a café to read for a while, you’re allowed to do whatever fits your schedule. You certainly won’t get told off for not turning up to a 9am lecture, but it is your responsibility to ensure you catch up. Having the ability to manage your time, and motivate yourself is key.
There will be no teachers to remind you about your readings and deadlines. Lecturers are there to provide you with information that you can use in order to study independently. They will not be emailing you if you’ve forgotten to submit an assignment. If you don’t submit your work on time, it is your fault. In university, you have to take responsibility for that. If you make your own timetable, and stick to it, balancing fun time with study time, you’ll be completely fine!
Additional readings, planning essays, and developing individual ideas are part of the package of university life. You’re responsible for library study sessions, group projects, and taking your own notes. I remember, especially in my first week of university, I took note of EVERYTHING. The names of staff that I’ve never needed to get in touch with, information about facilities I don’t use, enrollment information that I’ve long forgotten; even though those notes weren’t always necessary, it all helped me figure out the best way to take notes.
Along with lectures, you may have seminars and tutorials, field-trips and laboratory work. It can be quite scary, but it’s the perfect opportunity to expand your knowledge. It can all be quite intimidating, but if you do your preparation work then you needn’t worry. You will also notice that there are a lot more people in your classes. Before university, you may have had a small A-Level class of 10 to 15 people. Now, your lectures may have hundreds of students in them. Whereas in school, you’re likely only to be surrounded by people with whom you’re familiar, people from your area, mostly in your age range, university is full of people from various different places, of all ages. You may even make friends with people you may never have thought you would before. This can be nerve-wracking but is mostly very exciting. As a Welsh student, making friends with people who live beyond Wales was great fun.
Outside of the academia, many students live away from home for the first time, and have to navigate life in a completely new place. At home, you may have had food cooked for you, and a comfortable, clean place to work in. If you’re living away, you’ll have to keep your own place tidy, and cook your own food, all whilst making your space one in which you can sleep and study.
Budgeting is incredibly important in the move to university life. Some schools may have given away notebooks, books, and stationary for free, and you may only have had to buy some food at lunchtime. However, in university, you have to make sure you buy your own food, your own stationary, and make sure you don’t spend too much unnecessarily. You can spend some money on entertainment and nights out, but you have to make sure you save enough too. Some students set up a budgeting chart on Microsoft Excel in order to help them budget. It’s a challenging responsibility but it’s so important.
There are times when I miss school. Seeing my closest friends every single day, having a structured timetable, and knowing the teachers well – it’s something you don’t always get at university. There’s a lot of changes and it can be very difficult to adapt. I hate change, and found myself very overwhelmed by how different it all was when I first started at uni. Despite this, I’m quite happy now as I head into my third year. You settle in and get used to the changes in your own time, whether that’s one month or two years. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to seek help. It’s a huge transition. But take it from me – it’ll all be okay.