Updated: May 27
Let’s face it, going to university can be terrifying and I wouldn’t expect anyone to start university without any nerves at all. New city, new people, no longer living with your parents and maybe a new subject. Each one of those is a big deal in its own right let alone throwing them all together at once.
Personally when I first went to university, I cried my eyes out, and I’m not the tearful type. Coming from a village in the middle of the countryside and moving to the concrete jungle of a city I’d hardly visited before. I felt so out of my depth and thought I’d made the wrong decision. How wrong I was, my undergraduate degree was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I made friends for life and had experiences I will never forget … oh yes and I got a degree.
Now in my final year of my second degree, here are some of the things I learnt from my university experience:
1. Bring cake – if you’re moving into university halls or with people you haven’t met before bringing cake can be a great ice breaker, everyone will stop unpacking their rooms and socialise in the kitchen area if there’s cake. What better way to get to know your new flat mates than over a slice of cake and a cuppa.
2. Social life is incredibly important – doesn’t matter how stressful or how many deadlines you have remember there is always time for a beer/coffee with a new friend. I found this incredibly important especially whilst undertaking placements within hospital. You’ll see things that no non medical person will ever see and being able to talk it through with someone that understands is so therapeutic, it just helps getting things off your chest.
3. You don’t need to be top – a lot of people come from schools where they were at the top of their class and then can’t cope with being a middle of the road student when it comes to university. People tend to forget that everyone on the course was probably in the top 10% of their year in school, so when you put all the to 10%s together, your ranking is going to drop. Don’t worry about ranking just challenge yourself to improve your own mark, don’t compare yourself to others. Also remember if you were aiming for 90% in school then aim for around 70% at university. Getting a 77% after being used to 93% can be demoralizing, but just remind yourself that university is marked a lot differently so don’t burn yourself out, working all hours of the day and night because you aren’t getting that 90%. For most courses a first (the top degree classification) is 70%, higher second 60%, lower second 50% and a third 40%. Remember top of your year in exams doesn’t equal the best doctor, nurse, physio etc. A lot of what it takes to be a healthcare professional is unexaminable, and how you react and treat patients is what makes the real difference to how good a doctor, nurse etc you become.
4. Make the most of multiple types of resources – figure out what type of learner you are. If you’re an audio learner, invest in a dictaphone and recorder your lecturers if you’re allowed. If you’re a visual learner, get drawing and on YouTube. Kinetic learners tend to have the hardest deal at lecture based courses so make the most of practical experiences, events such as the Vivit Experience that allows you to get hands on with what you’re learning about. We specifically designed the vivit experience events to cater for all different learning styles with a mix of audio, visual and kinetic learning experiences.
5. Time for yourself – if you have any outside interests or sporting activities or even if you just want to try something new, university is a great opportunity to do this. Having a distraction from your course helps keep you sane and hopefully active too. Having friends outside of healthcare is also key, reminds you that talking about a patient who threw up all over the ward is not appropriate dinner conversation. As much as you hate to, most of your conversations do turn medical related especially with healthcare friends especially in placement years.
6. Make the most of opportunities – there’s many an experience that university will offer you that you will never get the chance to do again, so really make the most of them whether its educational or social. Don’t worry too much about the money side of these, as long as it isn’t a ridiculous amount obviously. But especially with educational events look to see if your university offers some funding towards conferences or other educational experiences. And of course there is always the parents who if you’re lucky won’t mind paying for you to go to an educational event, whereas asking for an extra £50 to spend at the student union might not get as good a reaction.
7. Get organised – apps and specifically google calendar has run my life throughout university. I would honestly be lost without it, from placement and lecture timetables to sporting and social commitments having a calendar, whether it’s electronic or paper, is an essential for those who don’t want the panic of when a deadline is running through their head. Other apps can be really handy if on hospital placements, the BNF is an essential of mine. There are also plenty of apps to help with revision for exams and for practical procedure and examinations checklists so look early to see which ones suit you best before the dreaded exam period.
Remember after a few weeks of getting lost, nervously starting conversations with strangers and feeling overwhelmed by how many deadlines and assignments you’ll have to complete in the coming year, you’ll soon find your flow. You’ll be making your way to lectures on autopilot, those strangers will be friends and tackling an assignment at a time the task won’t seem as impossible.