I’m in a bit of a cathartic mood, so let me let you in on a few things I’ve been thinking about with regards to university life. WARNING: long post ahead.
- Applying isn’t the scariest thing ever
Everyone I met when I turned up in Alcuin (woooo!) took the whole process so seriously. I basically chose my options based on the course I wanted to do (NatSci, because of the extra maths, but before York did it!) and how nice the city was.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I chose Chemistry@York even though I wanted NatSci, since it had really high student satisfaction, high employment rates and the course looked interesting. I didn’t visit until I was offered an informal interview, a get-to-know-me thing. I walked up Heslington Road to the top of the hill and was looking out over campus and I was hit with an extraordinary ‘holy moly this is where I’m meant to be’ feeling. I then met the admissions team, which basically confirmed what I already knew: York was the place for me. Applying doesn’t need to be the huge scary thing that everyone makes it out to be. Pick your choices based on your own criteria, see a few, but don’t stress you haven’t been to open days everywhere!
- First year: the hardest part is the very start
I cried when Dad first drove me to York and I didn’t stop until we actually got there. After Dad helped me move my bits and bobs in he was very reluctant to leave his obviously upset daughter, but he knew he had to. I think this part is just as hard for the parents as it is for you. I spent a bit of time in my room sorting out wifi on my laptop and phone (obviously the first thing to do) and crying some more. I then got a few knocks on my door and met my new flatmates, most of who had been there quite early in the morning whereas I turned up at about 2pm. From then on, I didn’t really feel homesick, except for one instance, coming back after Christmas because I was just obscenely ill. I just wanted my mum and cried myself to sleep every night for weeks. Still, homesickness is really prevalent and really rubbish, I was just lucky to not suffer. If you do feel rubbish, spend time with your friends or get out the flat and distract yourself and remember that your family are at the end of a phone and you can go and visit them on the weekends!
- What you THINK you need vs what you ACTUALLY need:
This was something I also took a fairly casual approach to. Some people turned up with an entire kitchen’s worth of crockery whereas I basically turned up with some cutlery, a wooden spoon, a wok and a saucepan (the wok lasted me exactly two weeks, serves me right for buying a cheapie!). Obviously, bring stuff for learning, like paper and pens. Bring stuff you absolutely need (like kitchen stuff, clothes, toiletries) and some things that make you happy (for me, that was books, my drawing stuff and my teddy bear), but don’t bring absolutely everything that’s yours!
- Revision and learning
I have experienced lots of different types of teaching but this didn’t prepare me for the type of work that Uni is. It’s different and it’s really hard to explain that difference. At A Level or IB, you can do past papers and be almost 99% sure your paper will be similar. For a degree, it’s more about making sure you understand the principles of what’s been taught and be able to apply them. This makes revision very hard! I make sure that I’ve understood what’s been taught, through textbooks and talking to lecturers, then try and make notes on what the course has taught, being selective with key points. I like to use colour to highlight sections and key points, like equations I’ll need to learn, which has served well so far! I also like mind maps and flash cards for memory purposes.
- Uni facilities – always something to do or someone to help!
I think a lot of students panic when they first get into the lab, but the course is designed to slowly ease you in to laboratory techniques from whatever experience you’ve had. Don’t worry! I had no lab experience except for titrations. I’d also NEVER been in a proper lab before and I was amazed to see what sort of machines there were and all the different glassware and this was before we got brand new labs and the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machine ! The main library houses so many books on every subject imaginable and lots of space for studying, be it desks or computer space. Chemistry also has their own dedicated library with a large selection of Chemistry textbooks and loads of computers. The lecture hall is now air-conditioned.
There’s also a large support network throughout the uni, from medical to computer issues. There are two very well equipped gyms and they do membership deals at the start of the year. There are loads of places to eat on both campuses that are well priced and delicious. My favourite is The Courtyard – they do yummy burgers! A lot of these also do cheap drinks too, very useful if you don’t want to venture to town. There’s also the student cinema which has a new film every week, normally just after they’re out of commercial cinemas!
- Lots of things you thought you knew about yourself change…
I went to uni thinking I knew everything about myself, what I wanted to do with my life and who I’d spend it with. I knew that I loved drawing and making art (I still do) and that I preferred physical chemistry because of its maths. Three years on, after learning that I prefer organic chemistry and learning that I LOVE powerlifting and through it, met some very good friends and the man I’m more than likely going to spend the rest of my days with, I’d say that things have turned out wayyyy differently than I expected them to.
Lifting weights is something I started to do as a way to ‘get fit’ before uni and kept it up. I started reading around and found out about powerlifting and started in Oct 2014, joined Barbell Club and met some very strong people before seriously hurting my back later that month. I trained casually to not further injure myself but did not start training properly again until the middle of Jun, 2015. I competed in early Jul 2015 and broke 4 regional records and unofficially, a national record. That was the point I decided I wasn’t actually bad at sport, just hadn’t found the one for me at that point. Start new stuff. Don’t be afraid to get out there!
Too long; didn’t read version:
I guess the overall gist of this thing is you can’t guess EXACTLY what will happen when you go to uni, whether you choose to come to the amazing place that is York or prefer it somewhere else. I personally would get myself involved with everything you can that interest you straight off the blocks, go to everything you can. Let things play out as they go along and try not to sweat your first year too much. It was the best year of my life (and I was really ill for 60% of it!) and I hope it will be for you too and finally, don’t worry!! Everything that’s meant to happen will. 🙂