I would love to be able to say that my university journey has been a bed of roses, without any blemishes, and everything done right. However, it is much more helpful for your own personal growth to be realistic. In short, I’ve made some mistakes. But no mistake is ever purposeless – I hope they will serve you and give you some insights on what not to do, and how to actively avoid doing it. Enjoy!
1. Not asking for help
I am a proud person – and many times, not in a good way. I did write an entire blog post on feedback (here), but I must be honest. For most of my time at university, I was way too proud to go and ask for elaboration on feedback – and sometimes to read the feedback itself. Besides being proud, I am also someone who tends to keep things in her own head – mainly because I do not want to be too much of a burden. But this, my friends, is a recipe for disaster. In my second year, I learned (the very hard way) that no matter what your thoughts tell you – we need help. We all do. I noticed how talking to my personal and seminar tutors, reading feedback well, and talking to people, made my life so much better. This definitely reflected on my results.
How to avoid making the same mistake: Just ask for help when you need it. Get up and talk to people. Or send them emails. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to help out.
2. Not fully taking advantage of first year
I definitely do not mean that in a social way. I had the best time in first year in terms of friends (hi, Cryfield 3). That aspect of life went so well that I prioritised it over work. And it is certainly reasonable to do so, since first year doesn’t count, and the rest of the years at university require a much higher commitment in terms of work. But I feel like I should have used more time to elaborate reading and note-taking techniques, to read a bit more, to get involved in departmental activities. In particular, as I mentioned in my blog post on essays (here), first year is a perfect opportunity to get as creative as you want with your essays. Oh well – I realised it a bit later, and it still worked. But doing it in first year would have relieved some stress!
How to avoid making the same mistake: Balance out social and academic life. Some people make the same mistake, but vice-versa: they don’t take advantage of the social opportunities and regret it. Balance is key, and you can master the art of balance by:
– Asking for help (you see?) – listen to advice, go to time management workshops, etc.
– Knowing your limits
– Going to academic social events (e.g. department talks and events, relevant societies)
– Listening to me: take risks!
– Knowing the resources available: how did I completely ignore academic articles and the online library in my first year? There, now you know.
– In doubt, prioritising work a tiny bit more.
3. Not doing the extracurricular activities I wanted
In short: I love acting and performing; I avoided it because I thought “There is no point auditioning, there will be plenty of people who are better than me!” Idiotic. Possibly a bit lazy.
How to avoid making the same mistake: Just go out and do them.
4. Wasting time
I blame it on my phone. You see, I’m not even that much of a phone addict compared to others, but the amount of time I wasted scrolling down Facebook is ridiculous. This year, me and my friend Naomi have developed an effective technique when we work together: we hide our phones among the books on the Chaplaincy bookshelves. Unfortunately, Naomi has been opera-ing for the past few weeks, which meant a decrease in my productivity. I hope she gets sick of opera for my own sake, but she’s so good I’m afraid it would be a battle between my own waste of time vs. her own waste of talent.
How to avoid making the same mistake: Just like I did, work alongside friends and motivate each other! Other things you can do:
– The app Moment shows you how much time you’ve wasted on particular apps.
– Mentally blackmail yourself: if you look at social media now, you’ll get 30% less that what you wish to get for this assignment you are not completing. I’m not sure it is a scientific method, but pretend it is.
– Again, ask for help and go to time management workshops if you think that could help.
5. Keeping unorganised notes
It has definitely gotten better now, but it took some time to learn. My notes were scattered all over the place. I told myself to group them, or have one, big folder for everything. I didn’t do it. They also were untidy on my laptop.
How to avoid making the same mistake: This comes with a bit of self-discipline, so force yourself to do it. Look for inspiration on the Internet. And absolutely avoid having random pieces of paper containing important notes– it made revision a nightmare, because I couldn’t find anything. Keep them organised from the start and it will save you so much time by the end!
6. Getting too overwhelmed
First year was highly overwhelming – and so it is for most people. That is completely natural. However, again, you need to have some self-discipline to avoid being controlled by it. I didn’t. This resulted in awfully poor sleeping and eating habits, which had a really bad effect on my health, both physical and mental. It also resulted in what I talked about above – wasting time because I was too overwhelmed to work.
How to avoid making the same mistake:
– I’m going to repeat myself, but do ask for help. It is so important not to feel left alone. Talk to people from the very beginning, and do not underestimate your feelings.
– Try your best to create a regular routine and stick to it. It took me two years to get this right, but boy, is it worth it. I feel energised, happy, and ready to tackle stressful times.
– If you struggle cooking, look for inspiration on the internet. Have regular and healthy meals (let me know if you would be interested in reading a blog post about that!): it is certainly effort, but you can learn to enjoy it and you will thank yourself for that.
– Keep your room clean – for me, it can make a difference!
– Take regular breaks and spend some time on your own, away from people and your phone. Breathe. Sometimes it is as simple as that.
I hope this was a helpful insight into my mistakes – remember, advice is there from people who truly mean it! If you need someone to talk to, or some advice on anything, do message me – I’d love to be able to help out!