The 3 ‘fresher’ mistakes I made (and what I learnt from them)
WORDS BY LAMYA RAHMAN
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that no matter your level of preparation, the transition from high school to university life is guaranteed to be riddled with mistakes. Some of these mistakes will be bearable, instantly fixable even, like walking into Footbridge Lecture Theatre instead of Wallace.
Others, however, will have you awkwardly explaining to your new friends why you’ve been banned from stepping into New Law library (note: never, ever accidentally play loud music in The Reading Room).
Re-opening my Pandora’s Box of repressed university memories helped me realise that many of the mistakes I made weren’t so bad in the long run. In fact, I learned a lot from these three in particular:
1. OVER-COMMITTING MYSELF
During my first OWeek I remember standing in the pouring rain, wallet in hand, motivated by the Dean of Arts’ speech on getting involved. My high school had a culture of over-achieving where juggling multiple co-curriculars whilst still maintaining an academic record was perceived as a true accomplishment. With this in mind, I found myself paying a small fortune to join 6 different clubs and societies -- a number I remember thinking was too little at the time.
As it turns out, university is a lot harder than high school. Sleeping and eating well, exercising somewhat regularly, actually attending lectures as well as making sure to study, socialise and work is already hard enough without piling a heap of co-curricular commitments onto the list. Not to say that you shouldn’t join any clubs and societies, but don’t over-commit. In university, you realise quite quickly that a true accomplishment is all about balance, not how many badges you can fit onto your blazer.
Try to gauge what activities you see yourself able and wanting to dedicate time to. Some of my friends are into student activism, while others dedicate their free time to university sport. Find an interest area (or more, but only if you can balance them all in!) that suits you and dedicate yourself to it.
2. LOSING PERSPECTIVE
After OWeek came the frenzy of early semester events. First year camp, welcome drinks, pub crawls...I went to them all. University is a big pool, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the people you meet.
A couple of weeks into university I met a girl studying journalism. She not only already had a lucrative internship in her interest area but also (as I later discovered) had a very impressive LinkedIn profile. As a first year, working a part time job in hospitality, still living at home, and studying a history major, I felt unimpressive next to her.
I later found out that she was working for 14 dollars per hour on a contract designed to last only a month. I’m not saying any of this to diminish her achievements, but to diminish the greater image I’d built of her in my mind. My own insecurities, as well as being admittedly a bit ‘fish-out-of-water’ in university for the first few weeks, had caused me to view everyone I met as funnier, smarter, and more accomplished than myself.
The truth is, there’s no such thing as being behind. There is no schedule for moving out, getting a job, or just generally becoming the person you wanted to be after high school. All good things take time, and greater things take even longer, but if you’re self assured and you’ve accepted who you are--your flaws, strong points, successes, failures--then the wait is a lot more fun.
3. NOT ATTENDING LECTURES
I remember ‘don’t skip class’ being reiterated in all my lectures in the first few weeks of semester until I stopped hearing it altogether because I’d stopped attending. Oops.
Last year, I had a 4day timetable. While I know now that is completely manageable, tolerable and normal, at the time I thought committing to 4days a week was overdoing it.
So I found myself taking shortcuts where I could, promising to watch the content online later.
Then came STUVAC. I remember sitting in the middle of my room, earphones in, listening to alecture online while loading another onto my iPod for the grocery run later. The all-nighters, the stress, and the regret I felt during STUVAC...it just wasn’t worth it.
What did surprise me though was how much I genuinely enjoyed the content I was listening to.
Unlike high school, I reminded myself that I’d actively chosen to attend university and engage in higher study in the areas that interested me. It didn’t make sense to not actively engage with the learning experience-- and pay such high fees to do so.
Ultimately, university is about meeting people, having fun, and gaining independence. But it’s also about being intellectually engaged and challenging yourself. I hope my mistakes are your gain as you go forth on your USYD adventures.