A month before Freshers start their university journey — I ask current students what they wished they knew before they started. Uni hindsight.
What is one thing, that you know now, that you wish you knew before university started?
This picture embodies my ‘freshness’ as a Fresher in 2016.
Trying to act cool with a constipated-looking pose and more importantly, the blue lanyard round my neck.
Rookie move and you identify yourself as a Fresher straight away. It’s the same look that you get from Londoners if you’re a tourist trying figure out the tube for the first time which you’ll receive from returning students.
Just put your lanyards in your pocket or bag.
Unless you’re a hopeless puppy, have it round your neck.
Or better yet, take the card out of the lanyard and put it in a wallet or purse. Sounds simple now, but back then I had little support to keep me from looking like a fool (evidently).
With that in mind, I have harrassed 20-something university friends for their thoughts on this topic of hindsight.
‘What is one thing, that you know now, that you wish you knew before university started?’
Mine is simple.
I wish I knew that university is about learning about people and being yourself. You don’t need to put a front on or appease everyone in sight. That got me in some sticky situations. It took me a year to realise this — now life is so much easier.
Here are the responses from friends across disciplines and some have already graduated, some are brutally honest and others more light-hearted, all useful:
‘I wish I knew that my time at uni would go so quickly, so I could have made the most of every week.’
‘The one thing I wish I had known prior to enroling at university, is the extent by which university is merely facsimile of school life. The only significant difference between school and university life is the normalisation of daytime drinking and an occasional impromptu visit to Nando’s when you should be in a lecture.’
‘I wish I knew how little teaching you got after first year.’
‘I wish I knew about the buddy system that QM has in place. To get you sorted initially with the help of a current buddy. It’s called QMSU buddy.’
‘Didn’t know you can get a free cheeseburger at McDonald’s.’
‘I wish I knew that lectures are really the bare minimum of knowledge you need to know in order to get a good grade on assignments.’
‘You don’t need to go out every second night to get the full uni experience.’
‘How tiring moving in is because you’ve got to unpack so many clothers and you got to have space for them.’
‘Even if you don’t move out the social side of uni won’t be impeded.’
‘I wish I knew more about uni being so independent with work. I wish I knew more about careers and careers development and I will have most likely selected another course like computing because that is currently the future and computer scientists get good pay. Whereas with my politics degree, I ended up in a bank which is completely different. I’m happy with where I have ended up but most definitely I would have liked to do a course that was much more accessible to certain jobs. Lastly, I wish I knew it was going to be the best time of my life! I had a great time but I would have done even more event if I knew.’
‘To enjoy every step of the experience and not to stress.’
‘I don’t think that there was anything specific because I prepard for the worst. But I think I just overestimated how much time I would have. I expected to be able to join multiple societies and go to events, gym and still do all my work (because I knew I would not have full days of lectures like school). However, after realising how the work is (workload and effort needed), every day off is a treat to just regenerate and do something completely different. I think I wish I knew that I should not fill up my time fully from the start and take the days as they come — because I love organisation so that was hard.’
‘I wish I knew how time consuming uni would be. During those you’re living and breathing anything and everything uni related. You could be on a night out and uni would still be on your mind.’
‘One thing I wish I knew before I started is that no-one is going to force you to make friends or hang out with certain people, in school it’s common to because it’s a smaller number of people and you see them everyday, but in uni you can make friends with whoever you want and it’s important to know that you should never feel bad or forced to hang out with someone. Also, I wish I knew and I’m glad I learnt the hard way is to be weird. Be dorky. Be who you want to be. No-one is going to stop and judge you, and if they do then they’re not doing their path any good. You’ve got to embrace your inner weird because that’s what makes you, you. Stay true to who you are and don’t worry about society rules or what people say, you’re doing this for you, not for them.’
‘I would tell myself to throw myself in the deep end sooner because I already knew how to swim. To be less hesitant at making decisions that weren’t out of my depth but appeared to be. For example, joining societies and making new friends; being more confident in submitting essays. Just being more confident in decision making.’
‘I think what I wish I knew is that literally no-one knows what they’re doing. Like, chances are uni is a first time experience for most of the people in your course, and as a result they just like you won’t know what exactly is to be expected during that first year. I think if I had that in my mind when first meeting people, I would have been more outwardly confident and hence giving a better vibe to people, making it easier to deal with them initially.’
‘I think one thing is that making friends is so much easier than expected, everyone’s in exactly the same boat and there’s so many people just like you. For example, if you don’t like going out all the time, you won’t be the only one, there’ll be other people who’ll want to find other things to fill their time.’
‘Uni really is what you make of it, you get out what you put in. I know that sounds kinda obvious but if you go in with an open mind and embrace the whole experience it’ll be so much better than worrying about every little thing. Just enjoy it, you really learn a lot about yourself.’
‘You don’t need to buy a student oyster card , you can just buy a normal one and add your railcard to that!’
‘I wanted to know “how do I join societies?” Didn’t have a club until I got into the semester and realised.’
‘When I began university, I was panicking.
“I’ll never make new friends. I won’t adjust. I’ll fail. I’m not good enough.”
When I settled into university I became competent.
“I don’t need to do all the reading. I can do the coursework later. Don’t worry about planning. I can miss a lecture or a few.”
It’s going to be okay. Honestly, it will. It is a new exciting opportunity and embrace it. Be yourself. Work hard. Join societies. Basically, do not overthink. Go. Embrace. Explore.’
I was shocked by a few.
I didn’t tell the participants anything further than the fact that this will go on my blog, anonymised.
I think people have found a place to be vocal and honest.
I see this blog, and these mini-projects, to help the overall mission of student (and even youth) voice.
These are real opinions.
Real students backed up with experiences that are irreplaceable.
Many participants came back and stated multiple things.
I’m glad I get to bring this forward.