Around this time last year, at my high school graduation, one of my teachers ended his speech with a line that went something like:
“If you felt this year went by quick, the next 40 will too”.
I’m only 1/40 of the way there (as of 2022), but it feels like only yesterday I checked into my dorm room here at Waipārūrū Hall.. and, well, in a few days, I’m moving out!
p.s. If this blog is still on the Internet in 2062, I’ll be sure to check back and reminisce on how quickly the years went by from 1/40 to 40/40. Hi, future me!
Now, when you read titles like “learnings from the first year”, or anything of that sort, you might expect some kind of meaningful life-related insight, teachings, or generally wise musings.
I have none of that to offer you today, but what I can talk about are some little things I’ve picked up over my first year in my Computer Science / Communication conjoint. Not deep philosophical advice, but advice nonetheless. Some are specific to a major, and some are more general. Let’s dive in:
- Choose your class times wisely. I won’t get into the specifics of enrolling – other bloggers at the Inside Word have done that (see here and here) – but there’s good odds you’ll have several timetable options to choose from… and no idea which to pick.
If you’re not a morning person, try not to pick morning classes. I told myself I would start waking up early for classes… and my track record did not turn out to be great. If you’ve got LOTS of willpower, give it a go, but otherwise I’d steer clear – and the same applies to evening classes if that’s not your thing too.
Similarly, some students prefer to space their classes throughout the day (so they have lots of short breaks), while others prefer to schedule classes in rows to get the courses for the day over and done with. Which approach is best is ultimately up to you, but I’d recommend avoiding more than 2-3 hours of classes in a row if you can help it. I was forced into five straight hours of lectures in my first semester, and trust me, it was not too fun.
- Attend your lectures! Preferably in person, but if not, promise to watch them after (and follow through on that!). If you’re a high school student, you’re probably thinking “Well, duh, of course I’ll go to my lectures” – and that’s easy to believe – but when attendance isn’t required, and there’s no roll-calls, it becomes a bit harder. It’s easy to fall into a trap of saying “I’ll watch my lecture later”… and then never doing so until final exams roll around and you’re 30 hours of lectures behind.
- If you’re a Computer Science student, work on your Python programming skills throughout your first year. It’ll come up a lot in your classes, and plenty of electives will draw on programming techniques too. Luckily, there’s lots of resources to learn Python online (here’s one), and it’ll help you stay ahead of the game.
Plus, COMPSCI 130, the mandatory programming paper, is notoriously hard – my first Graded Task had a 31% pass rate – and covers lots of core concepts relatively quickly. If you’re fairly good and experienced at coding, you’ll probably be alright, but otherwise if you’re not, or you have lots of free slots for classes, you might want to take COMPSCI 101 first. It’s a bit gentler than the fast-paced 130, and even first years with high school coding experience will appreciate the revision after summer break.
- If you’re in the Bachelor of Communication, make use of the special resources available to you! Only a few degrees (Global Studies being another) have their own student advisers, meetups (we had lunch get-togethers throughout the year), and events. Go to them, meet the people behind your courses, and make new friends amongst your peers. If you meet me there one day, come say hi!
- Go to events and clubs! There’s a lot of stuff to do at university, and courses are just one of them. Clubs are a great way to make friends, and you’ll probably learn some new things or discover some new interests throughout the journey.
- Accept that things might change. University takes quite a bit of time and effort, and if you’re don’t end up being a fan of what you’re studying, you’ll find out and get burnt out quite quickly. You might find that a subject you liked as an occasional class in high school just isn’t as interesting when you’re doing it for several hours a day – and you might prefer another class you’re taking more. That’s alright! I’ve seen plenty of people swap courses, majors, or even their entire degree plan in just the first year alone.
Lastly, while those were mostly academic and course related learnings, I’ve left room for a few more parting words: be sure to enjoy your first year. There’s a lot of fun to be had – you’ll sit in your classes and stay up terrible hours finishing assignments, but you’ll also have opportunities to explore the city, meet new friends, and experience things you’ve never done before. Perhaps it’ll be scary at first, but when the calendar ticks past November, you’ll wonder why you were ever worried.
Of course, it won’t always be smooth sailing. You’ll learn lessons, and some of them will be difficult. But that’s part of the experience, isn’t it?