Hello, lovely people!
I hope those of you who went had a great time at the Courses and Careers Day. I hope this has gotten you excited for life after school – yes, there is such a thing – and that it’s given you a stronger idea of what you want to do. Continuing on the theme of preparing for uni, I thought I’d devote this post to things I think I’d have benefitted from hearing this time last year.
- Consider the alternatives to university. I say this, not because I regret my decision to go to uni, but the way in which I arrived at it. At my school it was sort of taken as given that the majority of us would go; most people were too busy asking themselves which university they’d go to that they didn’t really stop to think about whether they’d like to go at all. This meant that, to a great extent, I made the decision blindly, without really considering my options. Devoting three or four years to study is frankly a huge commitment, especially straight after thirteen years of school; it’s not a decision that should be made blindly. Especially when there are lots of really great alternatives. I really admire the few of my peers who had the courage and self-knowledge to do something else (and I often get outright jealous when, immersed in my books, I see pictures of my peers gallivanting around Europe on gap years, having the times of their lives). So if I could go back, I would tell myself to take a step back and ask if this was really what I wanted. I don’t think the outcome would’ve been any different if I’d given it more thought: I probably still would’ve ended up at uni. But if I’d really weighed up my options and actively decided to go, I think I would’ve been more energised and better prepared for uni life.
- In choosing to study the things I enjoy, I made the right call. I had a lot of doubts about this last year, but now I couldn’t be happier with the course decisions I made. I’m interested, if not by absolutely everything, then by most of what I’m learning. Though I often grumble about the workload I honestly can’t envisage myself doing something else; I think I only would have ended up regretting it if I did. Yes, I still have nagging doubts, but I’m more confident than ever that this will take me somewhere. So do what you enjoy, that’s my advice.
- Uncertainty is OK, even welcome. The fact is that no matter how much you try to prepare yourself, no matter how many Inside Word blogs you read, you’re never completely going to know what university is like until you get there. As such, I found it pretty daunting trying to make big decisions like where and what to study, when it felt as if I didn’t really know enough to make them. My advice would be to tackle these tough decisions anyway, doing as much research as possible, with the expectation that you may well have to tweak a few of your plans when you get to university. A little leap of faith is required; take a deep breath and jump. Although I personally haven’t had to change my majors or degree around too much, I know quite a few people who have and that’s an entirely healthy thing. There’s no such thing as wasted time when you’re still figuring out what you want to do.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, just don’t worry so much. I was a little bundle of anxiety last year when it came to university matters. Besides losing hair over whether I had chosen the right uni and degree, I had worries about a gigantic list of things: whether the hall would be OK, what the people would be like, whether I was really ‘ready’. I’d really like to give 17-year-old me a hug and tell him not to stress, everything will turn out alright. I enjoy life in the hall, I really do. The floor is a great place to be, and the food is actually much better than expected. Living in a hall is a fine stepping-stone to independence: you’re now in control of your own space away from home, but you don’t have to worry about doing any cooking and the RA’s always there should you have any problems. On the social side of things, there are heaps of interesting people here and I’ve made many good new friends. There’s such a diverse range of people that you’re really likely to find ‘your people’, with shared interests and beliefs, as well as discover you can get on well with all kinds of people you didn’t know you could.
My angst about not being ready really boiled down to not feeling ‘adult’ enough. I believed myself to be young for my age, and thought this would mean it’d be hard to fit in with the mature people I’d find at uni (because everyone there would, of course, be effortlessly, breezily sophisticated). Like everything else, this fear would prove unfounded. One thing this year has really taught me is that people grow up at different paces, and in different ways. There are some people here who, you can tell, have grown up fast and are completely, utterly mature, while others are not all too different from high school kids. There are people here who appear sophisticated but every now and then do something childish; others seem to be both grown-up and immature at the same time. In the hall setting, however, these differences fall away and don’t matter a whole lot. This is because, on the whole, people here are more concerned with co-existing peacefully than they are with judging one another. So to reiterate: don’t worry so much. Listen to some calming music, or something. Everything will be just fine.
[Image of installation by Martin Creed on the Christchurch Art Gallery, obtained from the website of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage]