Monday, 21 August 2017

What I Learned After 3 Years at University

After completing a three-year undergraduate course in psychology and soon to step into another chapter,  I thought I would reflect back on what I learned from going to university. Reflect on the most important values and lessons learned and share them with you !

Do your research beforehand. 
This is so important and something I spent almost a year doing. Right after beginning my final year of college I was still unsure what I wanted to do after I finished, but I was quite certain that I wanted to go to university, just not sure what to pursue. A few months of reminiscing and doing a bit of research I realised that psychology was something that actually suited me well and something I knew I would enjoy doing a course in. Leading me to my next obstacle - whether or not I would study in Oslo or abroad. This is when a few people in my class decided to arrange a trip to London and visit a couple of universities they had in mind.  After visiting three different universities, I was more reassured and certain of which one I was most likely to choose based on my criteria. So, when I was back in Norway  I started the process of applying through UCAS as soon as I could.  Gathering all the information I had such as a personal letter, a reference, personal details, and any additional information they needed for my application to be approved. After that, I needed to do was wait and when I finally got an unconditional offer I was over the moon and ready to start planning my three years abroad!    I was lucky enough that London is only two hours away from Oslo and flights are cheap, making it possible for me to travel and visit the universities I had on my wishlist. So if you are in the same position, whether or not you are an international student - please do so as it will give you a whole different perspective on what to expect when you actually start your first year. But most important of course is what undergraduate or postgraduate is most suitable for you - forget what other people think you should do, just make sure you will enjoy getting up every other day and be motivated to show up for every lecture - which brings me to my next point.

Time management.  
I think this is something that I know most students in my course struggled with their first year - resulting in many of them to either change courses of completely discontinue, which to me isn't surprising. Think about it - in college, you are expected to meet up every single day and follow each class for 6-8 hours. Once you get into university you might only have lectures two or three days a week, meaning that the rest of those days are entirely down to you and how you would like to manage it. Learning how to manage your time early on and keeping an organised schedule is key, especially when concerning exams and assessments to be handed in. For before you know it you have two or three assessments all due in the same week and you need to know which ones to prioritise and which ones to start with earlier. TIPS:  I personally found it quite helpful to keep a diary and a timetable by my desk just to keep track of what was due when. I know this is something you can keep track of on your phone's calendar, but for me, it did not work as I was too focused with everything else when checking my phone. You can either buy one from WHSmith or if you want to be a bit more creative, make your own!

How much is this really going to cost me? How much I am going to get from my student loan, and how much will I earn if I get a part-time job? This is all the questions you need to ask yourself before you even think of moving abroad to study because you can only get too far without making the necessary calculations beforehand. I remember I put together a spreadsheet in Exel and put all my incomes and my approximate outgoings for each year that I would be studying abroad. Why? Well, although things sometimes things end up costing more than you expected them to cost, a spreadsheet helped me keep track of what I had of spendable cash after paying off both accommodation and university fees, as the one thing you don't want happening to you is a big surprise by the of the month wondering where all the money went. But at the end of the day, there are some things you can do to control your spendings - do you only shops at Waitrose and go shopping every weekend for new clothes, do you really need to spend £50 everytime you go on a night out? No, not necessarily in my opinion, and that is because you are a student! You are not supposed to be living the luxury life and buy and spend on whatever you want, even if you do have a part-time job. Budgeting and being smart about how you handle your money is key to how pleasurable your years at university are going to be and it is something that impacts you more than you think! TIPS: As I mentioned, I tended to keep track of my costs and expenses on an excel sheet, but there are also apps and books where you can easily put in your current information.

Mental health in focus 
Before I started university I had an idea of how stressful things could get with both assignments, friends, money, and flat hunting just to mention a few. But for someone that deals quite well with a hundred things happening at the same time, I didn't believe I needed to take any extra precautions or extra care of my mental health - until my second year came around.  The amount of work that was pilling up made me weep and I could not wrap my head around how it would all be accomplished in a small space of time. Even though I was organised, scheduled up weeks beforehand, knew exactly what to do and how much time would be necessary to complete each assignment - everything was just too much to handle and I collapsed. The worst part was that I did not even realise what was happening to me, my mind wasn't reacting to all of the shook, but my body was and suddenly it just hit me. This is happening and I need to take some time to treat myself. I started going to the gym almost every day to relieve all the stress, I took time to do my hair and nails, made myself a cup of energising tea in the evenings then read a good book - all of these things, both small and the big things help me relax and bring me back to a healthy and more balanced level. Nonetheless, what also helped me was talking to someone else, let it all out and being honest with myself. If it was hard I would admit it to myself 'yes, this is actually hard' - acknowledging it, but never giving up when it got hard.

Be you and only you 
In the end of the day, this is one of the most important things to remember. You are not alone and you are definitely not the only one starting or continuing university. There are thousands of students in the same position as you, and they are all trying to do their best. That is why you should never compare yourself to other, or wish that you were like him or her. You are you and that is all that you need to be! Yourself, not matter the circumstances or situation you might find yourself in.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your time as a student - and to those of you who are starting this fall, good luck! 


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