Attending university is so much more than earning a degree. Every now and then I look on nostalgically at the campus grounds that are thriving with undergraduate barbeques, jumping castles, societies, and events. Making the most of your time at university can lead to memories and experiences you will remember for the rest of your life, not to mention life-long friendships and relationships. It’s not just about getting the piece of paper at the end of it all – Your time at university can form a crucial part of personal growth.
Here are a few things I think you should definitely consider doing during your degree to enrich your tertiary experience:
When you start university, you’ll be plunged into a completely new environment with people from all walks of life – You’ll probably even meet people from all around the world. One of the best things about university is that it puts you in contact with so many new people in a veritable melting pot of backgrounds and experiences. Take the chance to meet people and share experiences as it’ll make you a more rounded person and equip you with the skills needed to work with all kinds of people in the outside world.
When else will you get to harass university staff to sign petitions and advocate for socialism?! Joining a society can also help you explore new interests, find a new hobby, and of course help you meet new friends. Getting involved with societies can also bolster your resume as it demonstrates your commitment to a cause, and a different set of skills depending on what role in your society you play. If you’ve got a passion and you see a niche, better yet, why not start your own society!
With your newfound friends and connections, you should at least try once to enact tangible change. This can be as simple as starting a community garden at your university, mentoring first-year students or volunteering for a cause. A more extreme form of this on campuses comes in the form of protest movements. University students have made some great stands to fight for things like gender equality, and university commitments to environmental goals. You may even get to camp out on campus! If you do engage in ‘active’ participation however, consider how it may affect your future image and aspirations.
With so many different societies and opportunities at university, take the time to try something new and do something outside your comfort zone. This could mean something as simple as picking up a new hobby or skill, throwing yourself into a theatrical production, competing at the University Games or even so far as studying abroad and going on exchange.
Universities have many free and great seminars by visiting academics, leaders of industry, artists, and occasionally politicians. You can also either join or view art exhibitions, theatre productions and sporting events run by students.
There are hardly any services that cannot be found at your university. This includes medical, career, and dentistry services, but you can also wind down every now and then by visiting student clinics that practice acupuncture and remedial massage or find cheap/free yoga and meditation classes. Don’t forget as well that your university most likely provides services like legal help and counselling.
Even the best of us can get stressed and overwhelmed during semester with assignments, tests, and all the other commitments we have in our lives. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help. Your university will have some sort of Student Success Centre who can help you manage your study in extenuating circumstances and put you in touch with an academic guidance counsellor to search for help. Feel homesick and burned out? Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you trust or your university’s student health services for guidance. Mental health issues are becoming increasingly prominent among students, and nobody should feel afraid to speak up about them. There is no shame in admitting that you are having a tough time and asking for help – all of us do at times and you’re not alone. Your health, physical and emotional, is so crucial for keeping you on your feet and moving forward so that you can enjoy your university years to the fullest.
You are going to be there for at least 3 years so you may as well get comfortable, get to know the barista or barman/woman, and potentially get free drinks or a part time job.
Overall, university will be a great educational experience, but it will just as importantly be a great social experience.
Elliot DE is a current PhD Candidate, Medical Doctor & Law Graduate. He is also a Humanities Tutor at GradReady Preparation Courses.