Hang on in there, uni students!

It’s safe to say that there’s never been a more challenging time to start at university and everywhere we look there are worrying news stories about how difficult it is for freshers – 2020, we’ve really had enough of you now.

But, as always, we’re determined to think positive. So we’re very grateful to Sash, who graduated earlier this year, for writing words of encouragement and a reminder of all that’s positive about spending a few years at uni.

My path to university didn’t run smoothly, as I just missed my offer from my first choice uni. I wasn’t at all sure what to do, but decided to take a chance and it was definitely the right decision. I realised that it was a chance to improve many of my skills – time management, interpersonal skills and independence – all while being put under only the type of pressure that would never harm my job prospects or future possibilities, but only enhance and facilitate them.

I was also excited to go and meet new people and eager to meet new people from all over the country and world. I learnt that university is a fantastic opportunity to do this. This is incredibly important to being a well rounded person, especially with all the very public and blatant discrimination seen in the world today. To be able to relate and empathise with people of all backgrounds is a skill that MUST be learnt in this day and age – unfortunately a skill that most politicians clearly lack!

Having now started my grad job in finance, I have discovered that this opportunity to mix with such a vast range of people can sometimes be more limited in the workplace. As a result I am extremely grateful I did not commit to heading straight into the corporate world. I now have a much broader view of the world and people around me and I can adapt with ease to the type of people I am working with at any one time.

So how does one go about mixing with a wide range of people? I have always been a sociable person, playing many sports – in particular cricket, football and rugby. For more introvert individuals meeting people might seem to be more challenging, but I’ve found that at university this isn’t really the case. The almost endless list of clubs and societies it’s possible to join is astonishing. You would be hard pressed not to find something you could enjoy or a group of people you become fond of. It doesn’t matter who you are – because there are so many people at university with you, the amount of different opportunities are so much greater than at school, that it is almost guaranteed for you to fit in somewhere.

For me, I committed heavily to the Men’s Cricket Club, eventually becoming the 1st XI Captain, followed by President in my final year. Being part of something, even in a minor way, as I was as a fresher, is extremely rewarding. Joining a club or society at any level helps you to understand how to manage your work and social life, meet people with similar and different interests, as well as have some genuine downtime and chance to relax.

I have found that having started working life, my time is much less flexible and that my downtime is often spent relaxing on my own. I struggle to fit in with my older friends as our schedules differ so greatly. Of course there are many friends to be made in the workplace, but the freedom of being a student cannot be matched – the connections made are quite frankly unlike any other.

My rise to the top of the Cricket Club was not planned. I made a late decision to run for 1st XI Captain and President. I decided to go for the roles because I knew that even if I didn’t get voted in (as I did for the Club Captain role), there are no real consequences. Sure you might feel a little sad or embarrassed. However, at the end of the day, I personally realised I only went for the Club Captain role because I enjoyed my time in the club and the people involved so much, that I knew even if I walked away unsuccessful, it wouldn’t matter.

It shows that it is possible to experience success somewhere you didn’t expect to. These experiences have helped me improve my leadership and ability to communicate in group work and projects. I cannot emphasise enough how much running Cricket Club meetings and dealing with conflict has helped me shine through in job assessment centres and Interviews. I actually had somebody – a competitor for the role – come up to me after one job assessment saying that they couldn’t believe I had thought of something in the group work, which at university became almost second nature to me. It is incredible how your way of thinking can change in three years.

Finally, away from becoming a better rounded person and improved accessibility to the adult world, for most people, university is just fun. You are most likely studying a subject you actually enjoy and are enthusiastic about. My sister absolutely loves history and I can confidently say this love has definitely grown. You also have the chance to socialise with hundreds of new people without any major responsibilities, other than making your 9.00am lecture the next day. You get the chance to live in a house full of fellow students and learn how to manage your budget effectively whilst having fun. You have the chance to be who you are without the toxic pressure of school social circles.

Most courses are at least three years long. It is truly amazing how much a young person can change in that time – I know I have. If you look at the person you were in year 10, and compare to yourself at the end of sixth form, chances are you have changed drastically. In my opinion, there is even more scope for this at university. When you compare the rush of A-levels to three years at university, you might be amazed at how your ambitions have changed. It is horrible being forced into making such big decisions at just 18 or even 16 years old. Many people end up going into jobs that they do not enjoy just because they feel the need to work. Obviously it varies person to person and it might suit one individual to fly straight into the workplace after school. However, the opportunities that university provides are so vast that I personally struggle to overlook the importance of those three years. It has certainly helped me feel more comfortable with who I am as a person and where I want to go. Having the time to find my feet, mature and meet people to me has been invaluable.

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