70 things I learned at University that have nothing to do with my degree

Some day in first year, after having spent a number of months living away from home for the first time in eighteen years, I decided to start compiling a list of all the things I had learned so far from my university experience. I kept this up for the four years I spent at the University of Birmingham, and by the end of it, I had a solid list of 70 things I wish I could have told my silly fresher self, all the way back in 2015.

2020 is an uncertain time for all of us, but most of all for those about to start university, a daunting prospect at the best of times. Therefore, freshers of 2020, I have decided to impart my wisdom (the term being used loosely) unto you, in the hope that it will make starting this new step a little less scary.

Freshers of 2020, you have already survived a pandemic, you can deal with your flatmate pinching your milk. You’ve got this.

  • You are stronger than you think, much stronger.
  • Knowing how to cook a few good recipes will make you a very happy student, because you’ll get sick of penne pasta very quickly.
  • Learn to use the washing machine, dryer, oven, grill and microwave without anything exploding, and also how to clean them. You’d be surprised at how many landlords charge you for not cleaning your oven.
  • That leaving the rubbish bag in the bin is far worse than taking the rubbish out, there is no greater hell than having a bin bag split open onto you.
  • There is no greater joy than a brand new sponge for the kitchen sink.
  • Learn to book, time and plan a journey that stretches across the country, it’ll come in handy for visiting friends.
  • Your good friends will stick by you, no matter how hard life gets.
  • It’s OK to have a little cry sometimes, just as long as it doesn’t consume you.
  • It’s OK to miss your family.
  • It’s OK to not miss your family, especially when you come back home for the holidays.
  • Nothing will ever be as good as a home cooked meal.
  • When money is tight, opt for pesto pasta.
  • The two best words in the dictionary are “free” and “cancelled.”
  • Student discounts are love, student discounts are life.
  • Hangover cures are a lie. They only get better with time.
  • “Pub?” “Pub.”
Pubs: Then & Now: #003 Goose at the OVT, Selly Oak : 1996 to 2011

  • You will be surprised by your strong will power, except when it comes to being asked on nights out.
  • Don’t act like you’re too cool to listen to pop music. Everyone will mock you mercilessly when you do eventually scream Tay Tay lyrics at the top of your lungs at pres.
  • Alcohol is brilliant.
  • Alcohol is awful.
  • Alcohol leads to some of the best nights of your life.
  • Alcohol leads to some of the worst nights of your life.
  • Every Uber cab driver must be addressed as “big boy” unless sober, in which case remain silent and end the trip with “anywhere here is alright mate.”
  • Aldi is a lifesaver.
  • Aldi is also where all human life goes to war.
God bless Aldi
  • The best thing about second year housing is having a double bed.
  • The second best thing is not having to use Circuit laundry anymore.
  • Landlords are the closest thing to evil you will ever experience. If you have a good one, you’re one in a million.
  • Mental health is a big deal and it affects nearly everyone in some shape or form.
  • Nobody ever really grows up. This will become apparent when one of your housemates insists on a High School Musical night (it will happen, and you will love it. Stop pretending you’re too cool for it. Bop to the top b*tch).
  • Home will always be home.
  • Your housemates will see you in every state imaginable: the good, the bad and the very, very ugly. No other relationship you will ever have will compare to it.
  • People change, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care.
  • All the therapy you will ever need can be provided in the girls’ bathroom on a night out.
  • Uni is a big place, you’re bound to meet people you don’t like, and who don’t like you, but that’s OK.
  • It is increasingly hard to stay at home once you’ve had a taste of independence
  • You always know what you want, sometimes you just try to fool yourself into thinking you don’t want it
  • Communication face to face is always better than through a screen, but screen time is better than nothing.
  • Surround yourself with people who make you happy.
  • Its OK to be blunt sometimes, people over complicate things.
  • Shit happens, but you can always get through it
  • Never depend on someone else for your own happiness.
  • If you really do love someone, you will be OK with letting them go.
  • You can be friends with an ex, it just takes a lot of work and a LOT of maturity
  • Situational judgement tests are NOT easy. Don’t beat yourself up about them
  • Everyone goes through a phase of not knowing what they’re going to do after they leave uni. It’s terrifying and horrible but it will pass.
  • Saying yes to something may seem daunting, but most of the time you’ll regret it if you say no.
  • Staying in can be as fun as going out. Don’t worry about FOMO too much.
  • Being motivated gets you further than any type of natural cleverness.
  • Don’t overwork yourself, time off is essential for your own sanity.
  • Take pictures of every nook and cranny in your new house, landlords will try and charge you for anything.
  • People come and go, but that’s OK.
  • Most things don’t last, so enjoy them while you can. That includes people.
  • Take LOTS of pictures. You’re going to want to remember this time and the people you spent it with.
  • Don’t blame other people for your problems, look at them and see how you can fix them.
  • ALWAYS replace your light bulbs, a dark house in winter can really affect your mood.
  • If you put in even a small bit of effort in first year, second and third year are going to be a lot easier.
  • It may only be 25%, but second year grades DO count.
  • Make sure you enjoy what you do for your dissertation, you’re going to spend a lot of time working on it.
  • If something big has happened, apply for extenuating circumstances, even if you don’t think you’ve been affected. It could make all the difference.
  • Panic Masters aren’t always a good idea, Masters are hard and a lot more time consuming than undergrad. Only do it if you love your subject.
  • Exercise. You don’t have to be the next Usain Bolt, but it’s a good habit to get into.
  • Grad schemes aren’t the end of the world, it just feels like they are because everyone wants them.
  • No one really knows what the f*** they are doing but we’re all just kind of going along with it.
  • Three years go by quickly. Really quickly.
  • The amount that can change in three years is extraordinary.
  • The grade on your paper isn’t even worth half of the experience of uni itself.

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