Your university years are pretty much the only point in your life when you’ll live within such a close proximity to such a massive range of people. Now you’re well and truly emancipated from the cliques and social constrictions of school, you have the chance to roam free, break down social barriers and explore how diverse and varied university life can be.
Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that there’s so much more to university than your degree. You already know about the incredible range of societies, opportunities and events that go on at uni. That’s why I’m going to be talking about the more abstract opportunity available to you; the chance to open your mind.
Now, I’m definitely not calling anyone close minded. However we all have our ignorances, assumptions and preconceptions, caused by the unfortunate affliction of only having direct access to one human brain. But luckily there are things we can do to tackle this and university is a fantastic place to fight our ignorances.
Starting university is a chance to have a fresh start. It’s a great time to let go of the past and start university excited to explore life and learn new things. If you arrive without any fixed idea of the ‘sort of person’ you get along with and no preconceived notions about what kind of activities and societies you will take part in, you are sure to be surprised by just how much you discover. So without further ado here are some ways you can ‘open your mind’.
Be Curious (not judgemental).
Many freshers choose to study their degree because of a deep curiosity for their chosen subject, which is really cool. So why not try to apply this curiosity to the rest of our lives? However passionate you are about Chemistry or however committed you are to your History degree, you will inevitable get immersed in university life outside your degree. Although you hopefully enjoy your degree and you want to do well, it’s extremely enriching to branch out and make the most of the opportunities available to you.
The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.
So if you think a university society seems really weird or ‘lame’, attend a taster session! You’re only a fresher once. Even if you decide that it’s definitely not for you, you might come out of it with a deeper appreciation of Quidditch, or a new admiration for pole dancers or gain a better understanding of feminism, LGBT+ issues or even the benefits of picnicking. Use your university experience to learn more about humanity (you can tell I’m a humanities student) and by this I mean try to learn more about people, the world and yourself. This doesn’t mean living a really extroverted life if that’s not you – it just means being open to befriending anyone and taking up a couple of new activities.
It’s OK To Be Wrong
University is absolutely full to bursting with different people with different mindsets, views and interests – and this makes for a campus full of opinions. However don’t let this deter you, it’s a really good thing. Throughout university you will hang out with, live with, work with and study alongside people from various cultures and social backgrounds, each with their own set of ideas, influences and personalities. Be willing to have your mind changed and be educated about certain issues you were previously unaware of, and make the most of opportunities to have your eyes opened to certain ways of thinking, even if they don’t fit your own ideas.
Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.
Ultimately, don’t get hung up on being wrong. Instead think about how much you can enrich your understanding of the world by being proven wrong.
Avoid Getting Cliquey
Everyone wants to make friends at university and, understandably, many people worry that they won’t. Because of this, freshers week can seem kind of like an insecurity and overcompensation parade. This can result in people getting cliquey – once someone feels comfortable and accepted within a group they may stop trying to make new friends. But this simply limits you. Don’t push away the flatmate you think is a ‘social outcast’ for fear of people rejecting you, and don’t ignore the friendly student who strikes up a conversation with you on the bus just because you’ve already got ‘your group’. Individual friendships and even random conversations with strangers who you’ll never see again can be enriching and eye-opening.
Identity Is Fluid
As cheesy as it sounds, you will also learn a lot about yourself throughout your university journey as well. You might start university adamant that you hate sport and graduate a Basketball pro. Or you might begin your degree determined to put all your energies into your uni work and then leave uni a passionate activist. Don’t be put off something just because you’re not a blank kind of person.
Of course, this is just one person’s take on how to make the most of university. My views will probably/definitely change throughout the rest of my degree – just like everyone else’s – and that is a really good thing!