There are some who will find it ironic that I of all people am claiming even the tiniest nugget of knowledge regarding what it takes to survive as a student. This year alone I’ve seemingly walked out on one course, switched things around a little, and came back to something similar yet with subtle improvements (with an emphasis on subtle). Is he mad? I hear you ask, like some visitor peering into the gorilla exhibit at the local zoo, but let me assure you that yes, while I may be a little crazy, I also believe and would argue that chequered past experiences have consequently made me perfectly qualified to give such advice.
So, if you want to survive life at a typical British university, coming out the other side with all of your limbs still attached and a relatively healthy psychological profile, listen up.
1. KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS (AND LIMITS)
A friend who joins 10 clubs and/or societies will always make you feel insecure about how many you should sign up to. Here’s the thing: most of the societies set up by the student’s union are only worth investing time and effort in if you’re very passionnate about the area. While photography may be a mild passing interest of yours, and sci-fi your chosen genre because of The Empire Strikes Back, you’ll find joining the respective societies to be throwing yourself into the deep end of a dense pool filled with people who know absolutely everything you don’t about the topic. It’s good to push yourself, to branch out into new areas, but it’s also more beneficial to identify the areas you’ll enjoy most and discard those you’re only joining to make yourself popular. If none catch your eye, it doesn’t make you weird. Think of your ideal society, and who’s to say you can’t set up your own? Then you’ll be a revolutionary. Rub that in the face of your constantly hungover friend who’s had one too many nights out with the Eastern European classical music for contemporaries society.
2. A GOOD, SIMPLE DIET
You’ll meet people from both sides of the spectrum: those who were taught at a young age how to cook proper meals at cheap prices with overly excessive seasoning, and those whose only previous attempts at using that big scary metal thing taking pride of place in the elusive room known as the kitchen has been boiling an egg or frying a sausage, as their mum has done everything else for them up to this point. At university, you really don’t need that many cooking skills to stay healthy. Get the basics right;
- five portions of fruit and veg a day (or thereabouts).
- vegetables are better raw.
- pasta for your carbs.
- try not to eat too much red meat.
- the best possible meal for students who don’t want to venture into the realm of true cooking; beans on toast. Seriously, that provides you with so much more than you’d think.
- Multivitamin capsules.
- get up early enough to eat breakfast (and I’m not talking leftovers from last night’s kebab). In a hurry? Grab an apple and eat as you walk. That’s known as multi-tasking, something you may have to get used to during uni life.
Basically, if you’re not a competent cook, it doesn’t mean you have the right to live on pizza and toast for three or more years. Looking after yourself doesn’t require fancy meals at set times, no matter what your parents and sophisticated friends say, although you still need to utilise discipline of some kind.
It’s as simple as it sounds. You don’t need a gym membership or a football team to go for a run and do some push-ups in your own time, and you’d be surprised how well these simple tactics work in a long term fitness plan. If you must get addicted to anything while at university, it’s best not to make it the casino or alcohol. Make it running every day. You may injure yourself, but at least it won’t be financially detrimental or life threatening.
4. REMEMBER: EXPERIENCE DOESN’T ALWAYS KNOW BEST
As someone whose parents never ventured into university, I found myself in the fortunate position of going into it cold three years ago. Whether that’s the case for you or not, though, it still won’t stop them trying to give advice/orders on how you should be living. And advice from our elders is good, priceless, and at times invaluable. Just bear in mind that whatever happens, your experience WILL be different from theirs, and the advice they give is based on THEIR experience and their own preconcieved misconceptions about the ideal path that you will travel on. Take everything with a pinch of salt rather than sugar coating it with rainbow icing. Good and bad things happen that no amount of advice can prepare you for, and there’s a word for these things: life.
Ah, the big thing that will ensure you get all your work done. Also the one thing I was missing before: a schedule. Now, before you start thinking about how you don’t need one, look at your timetable and ask yourself what that is. Yes, it’s a schedule, necessary for fitting in all your classes at reasonable times to ensure your time is split evenly between units. Many people moan about the disparity of their timetables, or how unfair it is that they have classes every day while their friends may only be in on Mondays and Tuesdays, but you know, at university, having a day off shouldn’t actually mean having a day off. You’re a student. It involves independent study as part of the position. Setting your own independent study schedule, in which you can use forward thinking to plan ahead, will help you use that spare time wisely and break the stereotype of lying in late and drinking during the day because as a student you have little else to be doing.
I know straight away, so I’m warning you of the same thing; this is the toughest point of all. Setting a schedule is the easy part. Sticking to it? Now that’s the challenge, and one I haven’t mastered yet. Just look at the recent disparity between blog posts and that much is obvious. If you’re anything like me, you’ll set your sights high without thinking logically, in context of your situation, about what you yourself can achieve, so it’s best to have someone who knows your devious ways right there with you for accountability purposes.
Failing that, you could always just wing it and see how things go.