Challenging, thrilling and exhausting. These are all words that I imagine almost everyone would use to describe their experience of university over the past few months. Here, I reflect a little on my first term, and suggest some things which might just make this next semester a little less stressful for everyone.
Choosing the course/ modules which best suit you
Altering my degree programme from Combined Honours to Single Honours was definitely a major headache at the beginning of term; the length of the process, the amount of people I had to visit, and the quantity of signatures needed to authorise the transition. Luckily, it was all worthwhile and the best decision I’ve ever made. So if you’re having any doubts at all about whether your modules for Semester 2 are going to cause you unnecessary stress and worry, have a really long think about asking to change them. Talk to friends, family or your tutors, and make sure you’re absolutely positive that’s what you want to do. There really is no point in enduring a module that you hate for several months, especially as you’re far more likely to do well in something you enjoy.
Dealing with money
Despite the majority of us either having a part-time job or receiving money for chores and the like at home, it’s safe to say that budgeting and planning ahead probably wasn’t on the agenda before coming to uni. Now, we need to plan the dates for Student Finance installments, pay for accommodation and do the weekly food shopping. For me, writing down everything I paid for by card has helped immensely with keeping track of finances. I strongly recommend everyone to simply jot their spending down in a notebook, and each month spend a little time going over it. If you’re concerned about the amount going out of your bank account, you can judge whether you need to either alter your lifestyle a bit, or maybe look into part-time work.
A-Level to degree level
The move from GCSE to A-Level was huge for me. The demands from various subjects seemed ridiculous, and it appeared as if we would never reach the new standards suddenly required of us. With the change from A-Levels to studying at degree level, there’s clearly much more independent study, more reading and harsher deadlines, introducing a whole new level of independent thought and action previously unknown to us. Obviously, everyone has different ways of working, but I suggest a few things that might be of use to alleviate that last-minute panic over assignments. Firstly, make a list of all your essay deadlines and exams and when they fall, then you’ll already have a rough idea of how much time you’ll be able to dedicate to each task, and also when to warn your flatmates of any potential impending grumpiness due to a cluster of assignments. Secondly, try to keep up with extra reading. It pays off when you come to essay planning or revising and don’t have to panic about finding something, anything, which you could force into your argument. Finally, have a good early look at essay questions if they’re available, giving you time to mull over what would interest you most to write about.
Living away from home
I’ve heard tons of different responses from people about moving out and living with complete strangers for the first time. Some have found it really easy and have made the transition without any issues, but others (including me) spent a lot of time at the start of freshers’ missing family members and the familiarity of home. Despite wanting to visit home more often than I did, I’m glad now that I didn’t as it would have in fact made it more difficult. Hopefully, most of us have now settled in well whether it be in halls or private rented accommodation, and are really rising to the challenge of domestic duties. If you do feel that perhaps you frequented home a little too often before Christmas, I believe that a four-week gap is advisable, giving both you and family members enough time to adjust to being without each other, but also making it more special when you return.
So, even though it’s been tough at times, we’ve all done incredibly well dealing with this new and exciting experience. Now’s the time for us to be proud for all that we achieved before Christmas and throughout the exam period, and look ahead to what we could improve this term. Good luck!