My First Year University Experience - Advice, Lessons and Memories


A change of season brings a change of thoughts and emotions. The new academic year is slowly approaching which has now fixated my mind on reflecting on what have I actually been up to over the past 12  months and how much development and growth has occurred. It is timely to dust this post out of my drafts and finally publish it to the big wide web. So crazy to think that roughly this time last year, I was constantly searching The Student Room and racking up the numbers to see if my UMS marks would get me into University but God-willing, he came through.


University has been a  huge learning curve so far and knowing that I still have two more years to go brings about a flush of excitement but also uncertainty. So here's my First Year Reflection - sharing the lessons I've learnt, memories made and advice if you are about to start Uni this year.


1. H I D D E N T A L E N T S
You start to realize that beyond the double page textbook spreads, you have talents you never knew about or the talents that you've always known you had begin to surface. I think this happens because you start to think beyond the realms of academia, and focus on what are you truly passionate about. For some, their degree pathway is most definitely their passion in terms of pursuing it as a career but many students decide that pursuing a career in the field they are studying is not exactly what they want to do and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

People start to see that their hobbies and gifts can actually be a tangible pursuit especially in this surging dimension of arising Entrepreneurs. I remember discussing with a friend of mine that left food for thought: "What do you love doing that you would happily do without anyone paying you?"  I'll give an example of my good friend who is also an incoming second-year student studying English Literature. Breaking the stereotypical popular career path that people associate English degrees with - teaching, her focus is pursuing a career in the media industry. With no experience but just a vision, she was able to create a video project - The Clay Jars, giving a platform for young black students to open up on relatable topics. Project management, video editing and networking were skills she was able to develop through going ahead with the project - once hidden talents, but will now be useful at some point in the future. 

University opens the door to multiple opportunities for you to step out of your comfort zone and do things you have never done before. Memorising lines and standing on stage in front of hundreds was something I had never thought I could do but through getting involved with societies (shoutout to KCL ACS!),  I learnt that I wasn't so bad at memorising lines and performing. If you are yet to discover what you are good at, get ready for a journey that will unleash it!

2. S O L I D I F Y I N G B E L I E F S
At University, you will be put into situations where your morals and beliefs will be tested which will result in you making the conscious effort to decide what you do and do not stand for. When your parents aren't a ten-minute journey away and your best friend of 5 years is on the other side of the country, you've got to fend for yourself and approach situations with the belief system you have developed.

Personally, I saw my faith in God grow stronger. Realising that this life is not about what 'I want' and 'I desire' but is all for a bigger plan and picture that God has in store for me influenced a lot of my thoughts and decisions. That is my greatest assurance - even if I slip up, God's still got me. 

Find yourself a place where you can re-centre your focus and align yourself in position that puts you back on the right path. For me, this was Church. Surrounding myself with people walking in God's purpose, attending Bible studies, getting involved in a department has really helped me in my walk with Christ and solidifying what I believe in and how I should approach situations when they arise.

3. F U T U R E D E V E L O P M E N T
I don't think I have ever thought about career development as much as I have than in the last 12 months. Venturing into the world of LinkedIn, watching the connections grow and networking are all frequent features that have cropped up in my first-year journey. To be honest, it is inevitable. Investing £9,000 into 492 contact hours a year, you want to see your investment bring forth it's fruits.

When you are surrounded by the greatest, you automatically start reflecting on yourself and thinking 'so what am I doing?'. It is so important to keep in your lane. Focus on yourself, your journey and your destiny.

Take advantage of your University's career services and events. Most of them are free and you will be doing yourself a disservice by not making use of the resources available to you.


4. O P P O R T U N I T I E S
Going on from that, make the most out of every opportunity presented to you. At this stage, wave goodbye to 'fall in your lap opportunities' presented to you by teachers or people around you - you have to make the effort to go out there and chase your opportunity. Be present at networking events. I went to a few this year ranging from Forward Women hosted by The Guardian and Female Leadership Event by Bright Network. Join all these schemes and get chatting to people. You never know the gravity of what one conversation can do for you or the other person. Also attend lectures hosted by your department, university societies or other organisations relating to your interests. Build up a wealth of knowledge in the area you are interested in. Being keen is key! These steps may seem daunting but just feel fear and do it anyway.

5. P E O P L E
You will encounter all kinds of people from different walks of life. Make friends, get to know them and learn from them. Getting to know people enriches your experience at University not only academically but personally. I think the biggest highlight of my first-year experience is the people I have met: those that have made me laugh, smile, cry, think, evaluate and all the other verbs you can think of, they have played a part in who I am today. 

6. A C A D E M I C S H I F T
It will get harder. Don't get comfortable just because you raked in those A*'s and A's at A-Level. University is demanding. It focuses on this whole 'independent thinking' wavelength: researching, reading (a lot), building your argument, referencing, analysing, evaluating, critiquing. This step up means that you spend more time adjusting your studying technique and building a routine that works for you. Eventually, you get to a point where you've devised a system that works for you and allows you to reach for those high marks. As for me, I am still in the process of adapting my studying technique and understanding what my lecturers/tutors want from me exactly, so don't fear - it's all a process. 


7. D E F I N I N G S U C C E S S
Finally, your view of success may change! The transition from A-Level to University made me question my view of success. Being praised on my ability to reach or surpass my target grades was my definition of success one year ago but University has made me realise that this train of thought is not fulfilling and is somewhat reductionist to who I am as a person. I am not a product of my textbook and exam. Yes, I am a student with the goal of coming out with a BSc certificate in my hand, but my successes can be seen through other dimensions such as the impact I am making in my community, how I relate with the people around me, my walk in Christ, self-love/care, how I conduct myself during difficult times, the steps I am taking to build a network that will contribute to my career development and much more.

When you step into this new realm, you realise that success can be achieved through different streams which makes things a little more complex but gives you the satisfaction that you are developing and stretching your abilities beyond one tiny part of your life.

6 comments

  1. I really love this reflection on your time at university so far. The sections on faith and defining success especially struck a chord with me. I look forward to your reflections on second and third year when they eventually come around. ��

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Zoe! Would be glad to make this a yearly post :D

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  2. Brilliant post. Very insightful and also reassuring for someone about to start university for the first time. :)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Tobi! All the best at Uni x

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  3. Loved this :) Going uni this September and hoping to go back to the roots of what I loved when I was younger alongside my degree. Enjoyed reading about your journey so far,hope I can be just as reflective after my first year

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    1. Awesome! Wishing you all the best as you embark on this new journey!

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