Things to remember when starting university
Be wary of university myths. Having an older sister and having daydreamed about university quite a lot, I entered my first year with an imaginary timeline in my head. I fully believed that by Week 1 I would have found my best friends, by November I would have found my house for second year, by the end of the year I would know exactly what I wanted to become after university, and so on… But that isn’t really how university works.
Some of my best friends now I did meet in Week 1, but we didn’t become super close immediately. I remember returning to university after Reading Week in November and still feeling a bit unsure about who I could confidently call my close friends. And that’s completely fine! Relationships take a while to build up. Yes, you might meet your best friends on your first day, but maybe you’ll meet them over Term 2 or even Term 3 instead, so don’t feel discouraged if these things don’t happen immediately.
Concerning housing, I entered university confident that I would have the perfect house before the Winter Break. Turns out that by then, I wasn’t even sure who exactly I wanted to live with or even where. I only found my house near February, but even over Term 3 many students were still house hunting, and there were still houses going up on the Warwick website, so please don’t feel stressed out if you don’t have it all figured out in November. I became so anxious trying to have it all organized early, but I’m glad I waited until I found a house that I really love.
And finally, being a supposedly wise second year now, do I have my entire career path figured out? Very much the opposite. I think now I have even less of an idea about what I want to do than when I started because I’ve discovered that some jobs just don’t appeal to me, and that many other I wasn’t even aware of are much more interesting.
All of this is to say that the reality of what university is about isn’t necessarily what you’re expecting, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing! My imaginary timeline was very far from reality, but I still loved my first year and would not change it 🙂
Being a university student means having a whole new support network. This I only realized closer to the end of the year, but there is always someone you can ask for help. My lecturers and seminar tutors were so helpful this year with all of my questions, especially as we neared exams or essay deadlines. In May I met with the Law School’s Career Consultant for the first time, so that I had some guidelines to help me find out what I would enjoy doing, something my personal tutor also helped me with. Besides academic and career-oriented help, Warwick also has so many programs running for those struggling with their mental health, or with confidence, time management, or stress. University can be hard and stressful, but this year I’ve found that I’ve always had someone to turn to when I needed help.
Seminars and lectures are really strange at first, but you’ll get used to them. I think I spoke once during my first Property seminar (and I got lost on my way there), because I felt extremely clueless about the work we had had to do, and because I had never been a fan of public speaking. A few seminars in and I had realized that most of the other students were often as confused as I was, and that asking questions was the way to go! None of your seminar tutors are expecting you to grasp all the material. Especially with Law, a lot of the times we were told that the law itself was confusing, even for current judges, so it was normal if it made little sense to us. For lectures, it might take a while for you to figure out how you work best. I started off the year handwriting everything, then moved on to printing all of the lecture slides beforehand and making my notes on that, and by Term 3, I gave up on handwriting my notes and found out that typing things up was what worked best for me. Switching up your methods isn’t a bad thing, and it allows you to find out what makes sense for you. For a lot of courses, it isn’t really possible to go on studying the way you have before university, because the material and what is expected of you is so different. So don’t worry if it takes you a while to settle into a work method you like.
Everyone gets homesick. Sometimes, I felt like being homesick meant I was doing university wrong because I should be enjoying university life, and not missing home. But you can love Warwick and miss home sometimes all the same. The important thing is not to isolate yourself. When I felt down, I called my parents, skyped my sisters and high school friends, or planned Curiositea dates with my university friends (I highly recommend their white hot chocolate if you want to cheer yourself up!).
Overall, while university may be different from what you expect, it is still an amazing experience and I hope you all enjoy your first year! 🙂