The 8 Most Valuable Lessons University Taught Me Outside of My Degree
As the final chapter of my degree has come to an end, I have experienced a whirlwind of emotions: sadness, relief, and a general sense of panic about having to now (attempt) to be a somewhat responsible adult.
Such feelings have, however, begun to subside and have been replaced by self-reflection. What have I learnt? Was it worth it? Should I have done things differently?
Although I have acquired a vast amount of academic knowledge over the past three years (that’s what I’ve just spent £27,000 on, right?), my university experience has simultaneously taught me a number of valuable lessons about people, myself and life in general.
You won’t get on with everyone and that’s totally OK.
In Fresher’s Week I remember having to painfully force ‘friendships’ with absolutely anyone and everyone I met; many of whom I had almost nothing in common with and who I quite frankly, couldn’t stand to be around for more than 10 minutes. But I soon came to learn that each person is on a different wavelength and it is impossible to get on with a bunch of random people from across the globe that you have been lumped with. Although it takes some time, once you find those special few who you click with, you come to realise that friendship is definitely more about quality over quantity.
Lesson learned: I am not for everyone and not everyone is for me, and that is perfectly OK. Politely wave them off and crack on with those potential future bridesmaids.
How to say no.
We’ve all been there; being forced into going on a night out when all that you really wanted to do was lay in bed, watch a season of Gossip Girl and eat your body weight in chocolate. There have been so many occasions at university when I’ve said yes to a number of things, simply to please other people and to not miss out on any opportunities. It took me a while to learn that if I didn’t want to do something, just say no. It’s as simple as that. The consequences are nowhere near as catastrophic as expected; you won’t lose any friends (and if you do, they were never real friends), you may just have to put up with being sent drunk Snaps all night.
Lesson learned: To prioritise myself, as well as my time, money and the things that are most important to me.
And how to function on no sleep.
Now, going on a night out before a full day of lectures may seem like an incredibly disastrous decision, but it has taught me how to survive a 9-5 day on no sleep and a pounding headache. That’s got to show dedication to any potential future employers, right?
Lesson learned: It is actually possible to do something other than lay in bed all day and eat copious amounts of food when feeling a little bit worse for wear.
Never trust a landlord.
Not even the nice ones. It doesn’t matter what you put on the inventory, they will charge you for anything and everything, from not cutting the grass to a minuscule chip on a badly painted Magnolia coloured wall.
Lesson learned: Live in bubble wrap. Or start saving for a mortgage now.
The art of winging it.
Every week I failed to do the essential reading, and every week my lecturers would ask me questions about it. At the time, I loathed them and even more so, myself. But thanks to my little old imaginative brain, I somehow managed to blag my way through it and to an extent make it seem that I actually know what I’m going on about. The same with things in life, you can’t prepare for every thing and sometimes you just have to improvise, but that in itself is a skill.
Lesson learned: I may not be prepared for adult life, but that’s all part of the process.
It’s essential to take care of yourself.
At the beginning of each academic year, I have always started off with ounces of motivation, working flat out for hours on end and in a non-stop blur of accomplishment. Initially, ticking off my never-ending to-do list at lightening speed is well and truly wonderful. However, I’ve learnt that this is not a sustainable way to work or live in the long run. By the end of each university year, I have found myself being left as a victim of my self-induced stressed-out and sleep-deprived lifestyle. Completely physically, emotionally and mentally burnt out to the point where I could just about satisfactorily write my final pieces of work.
Lesson learned: Don’t feel guilty for taking a break and devoting time to look after yourself; it is crucial for staying motivated and committed. In order to do your best work in any aspect of life, it is important to work hard, but not too hard. Riding the continuously stressed out train is optional – not essential.
And to believe in yourself.
Before going to university, I didn’t think that I was even capable of going. I’m now on my way to graduating with a First Class degree from one of the UK’s top universities.
Lesson learned: You can do absolutely anything that you want to do if you believe in yourself.
Finally, you really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
University is a bit like a bubble; happily floating along for three years totally oblivious to the existence of life outside of VKs and writing essays at 3am. However, that bubble for me has now popped; I have finished my degree, I’m a month away from graduating and the world is now my oyster.
Lesson learned: The past three years were the best and I will continue to make the most of whatever comes next.