Back when I first arrived at University, I had many concerns – the idea that I would be leaving my family to live alone abroad, the fear of not having established social groups to fall back on, and generally just an unfamiliar new environment from what I’ve been used to. Yet, throughout this term I’ve come to realize that these fears were unfounded. University might be different from secondary school in many ways, but the unique experience is a rewarding one.
In contrast with secondary school, University life offers and requires a higher level of independence. Living away from your family means you will likely not see as much supervision into making some of your life’s decisions, and not having overarching schedules you’d receive in your secondary school life means you’ll have to construct your own schedule. Time wise, it means you have more free time to devote to your own activities. But that also means you’ll gain an increase in the level of responsibilities, such as your own nutrition, commitments to different societies, and managing your own administrative work. Personally, I found this liberating, as I have become free to make my own choices rather than have someone else make them for me. A tip for adapting to this is to plan your time better in order to get a balance of everything, such as preparing a few meals in advance, scheduling lectures together so that you can free up larger blocks of time for your own engagements, etc.
Whilst workload differs across courses, one certain characteristic of University workload is that it is very much self-driven. In secondary school, guidance is actively provided by mentors, and education is very much focused on a specific curriculum based on a spectrum of subjects. This is quite different from the workload at University. While subjects are taught to more depth (for example, the inclusion of mathematical concepts in Economics), the study of them also requires more initiation. Lectures from the University only provide a summary of the subject matter – to gain a holistic understanding of the content, one would need to do supplementary readings and actively consider how different ideas relate to each other. While having less guidance might sound terrifying, the University does on the other hand provide a plethora of resources, such as advice and feedback hours with professors, or an extensive library that offers a wide range of academic literature. In PPE, deadlines have become longer for essays, but that is mainly due to higher expectations of the quality of work. More attention is given to constructing concise, cohesive arguments, rather than giving general overviews like what was done in secondary school.
With regards to social life, there are certain differences. While going to University might mean you are separated from your close friends back home, there are many more people to meet once you arrive. The population at University will be more diverse than previous years, and it is worth engaging with different people from various cultures and experiences to expand your horizons. The wide range of societies/ activities you can engage in mean that you’re likely to meet people with similar interests, with whom you’ll be able to develop friendships, some of which might even be close ones. You’ll also have more control over who you engage with as you’re not placed in a classroom where you’ll be faced with the same people 5 days a week.
Transitioning to University shouldn’t be scary if you know what to expect – it is a taste of what adult life will be when we leave education altogether. Yet, there are a few personal things to keep in mind. Firstly, keep in touch with the people you treasure back home, as they’re likely to be ones you’ll be able to contact within the first few weeks of University when you need someone. Secondly and most importantly, is that with all this freedom and network expansion, it is imperative to remember to spend some time alone to figure out your own priorities and maintaining your own mental health. Hopefully y’all have had a good transition/ will have a nice transition, and that’s all for this time!