July 11, 2016, by Emily Howard

6 top tips from a graduating student

In two days I graduate, and as I look back over the past 3 years it feels rather paradoxical. On the one hand, Freshers’ me seems like a lifetime ago – a whole different world, even. I am definitely a different person now than when I rolled up in halls, a fresh-faced kid. On the other hand, I cannot grasp the fact that in just two days I’ll technically no longer be a student!

My three years at UoN were one hell of a rollercoaster, all cliches aside. Here are a few things I did do and should have done in that first term…

1. Never say no

Want to join a new society? Yes. Want to go out tonight? Yes. Want to hang out at the flat of your vague new acquaintance? Yes. Want to go boating on the lake? Yes. Just do it – you may never get the chance again! Even after three years, you’ll find there are so many things you’ve not yet done… like that trip to Sherwood Forest you always planned.

2. Live in the moment

As above. I’m a bit of a future-planner which sometimes meant that I declined amazing opportunities because I was thinking “Ah, but I have to do so-and-so tomorrow”. Have your cake and eat it – do it all! And on that note, don’t think about grad jobs until at least midway through second year!

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Study time starts now

3. Actually do some work

Let’s face it, in the first term I was far too busy making new friends and enjoying my novel student status to do the weekly seminar readings. It was all fun and games until exam time hit, when I realised I had over 2,000 words to read to catch up! In my second term I was much more prepared, and by dedicating even two more hours a week to seminar prep and note-taking, I was far more prepared for the next exams.

4. Talk to people

Don’t be shy! My best friends were made by sitting down next to strangers in lectures, walking up to people at a society event, or bumping into them and just saying “Hi”. Don’t worry about not knowing anyone – freshers are all in the same boat, so there’s no reason to feel self-conscious.

See how much fun these chatting statues are having?

See how much fun these chatting statues are having?

5. Don’t go home

I was rather a butterfly in Freshers, and was so busy starting my new life that it wasn’t until about week 6 that I gave a thought to my hometown. Other people I knew were homesick in the first week or two, and went home almost every weekend in the first term – but I think this is a bad idea. Going back to the parents only fuels the homesickness; it’s better to wait it out until at least November to go back for a visit. Otherwise, it’s hard to make friends and adapt to student life if you’re missing every club night and social!

6. It’s ok if you don’t feel good

University is “amazing”, student life is “amazing”, new friends are “amazing”, societies and socials are “amazing”… it’s easy to hear this from your friends from home who are scattered across universities around the country, constantly posting Facebook photos of their brand new friends and fun times. Sometimes, university life won’t feel “amazing”. Maybe you miss home, feel pressured academically, or don’t get on with people in your hall – whatever it is, don’t worry too much. It’s natural to have off moments, but there are so many support networks such as Nightline, student services, counselling, personal tutors and societies who have got your back. The people showing off on social media undoubtedly have off days too!

Little first-year me with the Notts legend

Little first-year me with the Notts legend

University has been a transformative experience. I’ve gone from child to adult, from naive to worldly, and from a bright  kid to an academic graduate. The University of Nottingham was the perfect place for me, it honestly feels as if it was some kind of fate – or #MeantToBe. Reading my own advice back, would I change anything about my experience? No. Mistakes are important, they help us grow; struggles are important, they make us stronger – and an absolutely amazing student life is important, it makes us who we are later on!

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