Given that week 0 is the last week of September, you have over seven weeks until the academic year begins! If you will be starting university, below are the things that I either did before starting university or I learnt during my time at university. I hope this blog will be useful in your preparations to join university in September. I have included some links to other blogs, articles and resources because to prepare for university is such a big thing (I was super excited!) and I am sure I was not the only person who went online and read loads of articles related to it.
Learn about campus/ student life
Read student blogs. They are an indicator of student life on campus. Especially read blogs by people from your course. Read people’s bios and hopefully you’ll find someone who’s disposition is like yours because you may particularly enjoy their blogs.
To pack my stuff, I basically wrote this entire blog out before starting my first year and I didn’t regret it. Also with stationary, I would recommend you wait until you start. You may find that different modules of your course will require different things. The course content will also enable you to gather what size of the folders would be appropriate. Also, I was so excited I bought loads of paper clips and what not that I haven’t used. You can later use the saved money to buy some books from the Warwick bookshop! Their collection of fiction and many other genres is the most seductive thing on campus in my very obviously impartial opinion.
Laptop and software
Have your gadgets sorted. I didn’t have my laptop sorted so I was having to go to the library initially which was annoying. Think about size and mass because you may just want to carry it to the library every day to use it. If you’re going to be doing a tech-heavy subject then you may have to consider specific things about computers that I really need to learn more about. Chemists will be using software like;
Origin (a bit like excel but makes more professional graphs),
Endnote (referencing software), and
ChemDraw (or ChemSketch) to draw chemical structures.
Origin is currently only available on windows but I have a Mac so I struggle. If you are confident about installing virtualisation software, that is an option. I used it for a few months but you can always access Origin on the library computers. Same is the case with Endnote but I prefer Mendeley instead which is another referencing software. I like it and so do many other academics. No one cares about the software you use provided you do your referencing right (RSC for chemists). And I use ChemDraw and not ChemSketch. I have never tried ChemSketch but I know some people who prefer it instead. There is IT support available if you ever get stuck. You can access more information about software (specific to your department as well) here.
Learn to cook basic things like pasta, spaghetti, work on your sandwich-making creativity, if you want to continue eating your cultural food (I make chapattis and chick peas etc), making rice is rather complicated if you don’t know how to prevent them from getting sticky so practice, and baked beans are buddies. I also had a lot of food from home because I go home a lot and then I don’t seek too much variety in my food so this was enough. Of course, you get food on campus as well but you may find buying food everyday expensive (although I bought my sandwiches for lunch from the library in my second year).
Read the information the university sends you as well as the department. This could be through post, emails and perhaps even keep up with their social media updates. They’ll undoubtedly be posting many things to help you prepare for university.
Record and reflect
Get a journal. It’s so easy to lose yourself in first year because it is so overwhelming and sometimes I felt like the waves of time were carrying me rather than me moving forward. In addition I have got myself a bullet journal for next year because I didn’t quite like having a planner. I had to sit down and write my lectures in it but really the MyWarwick app does the job. What I need to instead have is a place where I can write down more about what I want to do with my time and have it all in one place and very visual as well rather than a page per day.
Fitting in and findings friends
Don’t worry about fitting in or making friends. My two primary concerns were that I would feel not smart enough among the Warwick people and I will struggle to make friends. Literally no one talks about whether they went to a state school or a private one and even if they do, it doesn’t matter. Now you’re going to be at Warwick with everyone else. If you’re a quiet person then well, don’t worry about finding friends because they will find you.
Set some goals for the year. I am rather scared of them after seeing how things can unfold to turn out in a way that you didn’t want. Nevertheless, my experience at university, with Sprint and the WSPA only showed me that setting goals and working towards them is very important. As long as you try your best, the outcome doesn’t really matter because you know you worked hard. However things turn out in the end is always good and you always learn something from the experience. You can keep a journal for this, MyPortfolio is another way, or just have a to-do list.
Learn to drive
Finally, the hardest thing that I still haven’t accomplished which is learning to drive. I passed my theory in the summer before starting university and this summer it marked two years since that fateful day so if you know the rules then yes, that certificate has expired. I am sitting yet another test on the 03rd August and I doubt I’m going to pass since I haven’t revised properly (not at all) but I really don’t want to be sitting in a car with an instructor in this hot weather and they talk so much as well. Nevertheless, driving is a skill you’ll love having if you have the mental drive (and the cash) to go through the pain of working hard for yet another exam. You could even put it on your CV for some random summer job or something or just improve your chances of being able to visit places without having to feel sad about there not being a TfL extension called Transport for Britain (it exists in my imaginary world) – sometimes I truly wish my Bus Times app could just take me everywhere.
Current sentiments may be a bit of a mix until exam results are out. I totally understand the stress, the sudden moments of panic in the middle of the day and dreams (or nightmares in my case) about opening your envelope and what it will be like. My friend from school always says that whatever is going to happen will happen and especially now that you’ve sat your exams and done everything you possibly could, just sit back and watch events in your life unfold. There is nothing else you can do.
This is not meant to sound as hopeless as it probably does. I just think that we as students see failure as the end of the world. Easy for me to say who somehow made it to university and somehow (still can’t believe it!) will be starting her third year in September but that’s not to say that I have never failed. I know exactly how it feels to desperately want something and not get it. In my case, it was a placement. In the end, I don’t think I am sad about it because I know I gave it my best and I did what at the time I thought was right. In hindsight yes I made mistakes but I didn’t know I was making them at the time. In the same way, at this time you may be thinking about the formula you remembered wrong or the essay you structured differently in the exam to how you should have but you only did what you thought was right at the time. You have to be kind to yourself and let go of the mistakes made and remember the lessons moving forward.
But I’m sure in the end, things always turn out right. No one’s life stops with the problems.