The first semester is over (whoo!!), and now we are wading into the second semester. University life certainly is different from anything I’ve ever experienced before; it’s hectic, stressful, and so exciting. I have personally found University to be a platform of intense (sometimes scary) personal growth and development; I buy my own toothpaste now (who is she: an adult!?). But I don’t want to sugar-coat it for any of you so here is the truth:

The first semester of University is hard. 

‘Hard’ is an understatement here. Firstly there’s more information; you’re learning 10x as much as college within a tenth of the time. Secondly, the campus is much bigger with more people; trying to race between the Library and the Owen G. Glenn building is a mission. I learned so many things during my first semester that I want to share with you to help you make the most of your time at University. 

Bovine Blood in Labs

1. Go to lectures

This is a big one. I know it might be tempting! You have a 8:00am class, it’s cold outside, they’ll put up a recording anyway! I thought the same, but being in lectures is super different from watching a recording. You miss so much being out of the learning environment. Some of your lecturers will be hilarious and engaging; they could inspire you to go in a direction you didn’t expect. If you go in person, you could approach them and ask them questions about the content or just about their research. 

PopHlth 111 Lecture Theatre

The more relatable or essential aspect of going to lectures is that you’ll be on track. Often one lecture missed turns into two, then three, and then you haven‘t gone for two weeks, and there is an exam in 2 days (stressful!!!).

Try getting a group of friends together to hold you (and each other) accountable for going to lectures. Or if you enjoy sitting in lectures alone (sometimes it can be less distracting), have breakfast before your lecture with friends (it makes sure you get out of bed – the hardest part!) or grab a coffee with someone. 

But in essence, there is sometimes free food on campus, so you might as well risk it :).

Early morning walk 😊

Find a Routine

The weirdest thing I found about uni is the amount of ‘free time’ that you have in a day. Currently, all my lectures are done by 12, and I have the rest of the day free on my non-lab days. But don’t be fooled! There is so much to do: 


📚post-lecture quizzes

📚pre-lab quizzes        


During the first semester, I tended to leave all my quizzes to the end of the week, but that just resulted in 11:30pm speed quiz marathons on a Sunday, so I didn’t miss the deadline. It is much better to establish a routine and keep on top of the work rather than lazing around. This also means that you can pick out the things you love doing the most and make time for them. Schedule a run with a friend, try out a club or a new gym class. Wake up 10mins earlier so you can have 10mins of reading time, or play pool after every meal with your friends. Whatever works for you and is something you enjoy. Often in the hectic-ness of lectures, tutorials, labs and assignments, you can forget to look after yourself, which leads me to my next piece of advice.

3. Build Healthy Habits

Flamingoes At Auckland Zoo 

When in college, my parents would always make sure I slept at a reasonable time, went outside and made it to volleyball practice. In University, it is 100% up to you. This is great in some ways (you don’t have anyone telling you what to do, muahahaha), but you need to respect that maybe, just maybe, they were right? You do (surprisingly) actually need sleep and maintaining hobbies (while really hard) is very important. 

Firstly, try to block out time every week or every day for something you love; this will be a good outlet for stress. Whatever it is; reading, playing guitar, sports, spending time with friends or tik tok dances. It is important enough to

Lightshow at MOTAT

your mental health (and general sanity) to have time set aside for it. Secondly, set yourself a bedtime or try to avoid late nights by finishing work earlier in the day. Sometimes it is unavoidable, the assignment is due at 11:59pm, and you will hand it in at 11:58pm. Don’t worry; we have all been there (multiple times, if I’m totally honest). The important part is not making a habit of it.

If you find yourself pressed for time on week days, set aside a day at the weekend every week or so to explore Auckland. As a Wellingtonian (whoop whoop!!), I’d never seen much (if any) of Auckland. It is exciting to check out the museum or the zoo with friends on a weekend and it gives you the opportunity to hang out properly. Often “hanging out” becomes study groups in University unfortunately!


These are just a few of the things that I felt made a significant difference in my life. But it is different for everybody; some students like to stay up late, and others work better online, off-campus. What is most important is to find what works for you. What makes you excited to start your day. 

I hope that this was helpful! 🙂

  • Imogen