8 Things I Learnt During University
So for the last couple of weeks I have been reading The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck & it has got me thinking a lot about habits, routines and just self-reflecting on the things that I have learnt about myself. Being a graduate, there are some things that I started to realise about myself during my university years that I hadn't paid attention to before. I know while I was studying my intensive 3-year course in interior design, at times I did feel like I was "alone" only because I was the first one in the family to attend an undergraduate course and no one truly understood how overwhelming it could be. University is a whole new adventure in your life, So I thought I would write up a post for those who also feel "alone" during university whatever course it may be and just some pieces of advice that might bring you some comfort.
notice your habits & work with them
University was a big shock to my system. Being used to the help & guidance during my school years, having to get out there yourself is quite daunting at first but you do start to become more aware of your strengths & weaknesses. Now I'm not saying there won't be any guidance during university, but it is all about finding yourself and starting to become more independent in the choices that you make. You will start to develop strategical thinking and become more aware of what works best for you, what annoys you, what environment you work best in & what your strength and weaknesses are. Having said this, don't be put off by your fuck ups. I mean this is university and fuck ups are bound to happen. I will advise you to take advantage of them! They teach you so much not only about yourself but also how to do things differently. Whether you want to take a different approach to your work or you end up learning something completely new, fuck ups are always a good thing so work with them!
you're not alone
This might sound so obvious to some and goes without saying, but if you need help, ask for it! You will be surprised at how many times I never spoke up when I was struggling because I felt like I would sound dumb or stupid for asking about something I didn't understand. This is actually one point I had trouble with during my university years. I like to see myself as an independent person that will go through hell & back before asking for help. I guess it's a stubborn trait that I have but I had to learn to not let this get in the way of my education. More than likely someone else is also stuck on the same thing so don't keep it to yourself, speak up. Don't forget you're not the only one who is on this journey. There are other students around you going through exactly the same thing! It was great to be able to talk to my friends about the things that were bothering me with uni and its work overload. They're able to give you advise about your work or how they're also overcoming a certain obstacle. One tip that I would give if you are struggling with work is to arrange a coffee date with your classmates. Discuss work. Give out points. You might have an approach to the project that another might not have thought off or could be struggling on and vice versa. Uni shouldn't be all about stress and deadlines. Enjoy the journey and try to have fun with it. I think that’s one of the things students forget about while studying.
While writing this point I actually laughed to myself. The last 2 days of my final year were the most stressful to say the least. Actually, scratch that, stressful is an understatement. It was living hell! ahaha. I was high on caffeine, living off 3 hours of sleep, surrounded by crumbled up paper, chicken scribbles and my bedroom floor was lost within worksheets and plans. I felt like I was losing my mind. At one point I just wanted to give up on everything. As close I was to the finish line, I let the stress and anxiety get the better of me. If I could speak to my past self I would give her this exact advice. Just breath. Everything is going to be fine. I sat there for so long stressing that my work wasn't good enough but I came to realise that I was my own enemy. Self-doubt can get the better of us but like all things in life we must fight for what we want. If you do suffer from anxiety like myself, try to keep yourself calm and collected. Ring a friend, talk to a family member, go out for a walk, listen to one of your favourite albums. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable. One of my problems was dealing with feeling overwhelmed. My mind would have a whole list of things to do and I wouldn’t even know where to begin or if there was enough time. What I found helped me most is to write out my thoughts. I wrote them everywhere. Sticky notes, notepad on my laptop, in my notebook. Whenever I felt like I was getting overwhelmed with it all I would write. This helped me mark off what was done and what needed to be completed and just stay on top of my game. We all have our moments of self-doubt, it’s only natural we are human, but the key is not to let them hold us back.
don't compare yourself to others
This is probably the most important point that I really want to stress about. It's so easy to find yourself comparing your work to other people. I was in a university surrounded by students that had so much talent and it wasn't hard to find myself putting myself down or thinking that my work wasn't good enough. And I guess that's the shit thing about this trait that we all find ourselves one day falling into its trap. We always compare our worst to their best. But this will only cause you to regret what you aren’t, rather than allow you to enjoy who you are. So celebrate who you are and remember that nobody is perfect. I for one achieved so many things from my failures and now looking back at it, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Your work is exceptionally amazing; your style is beautiful. No one is you, and that is your power. Remember that.
Find your voice
It's all about finding yourself and what your work stands for. Your style, your aesthetics, what your passions are. When I first started uni, I had no idea what a portfolio should look like or what my style would be & that’s ok. As you get more comfortable in your course, your own style will develop. Sometimes you might find yourself inspired by people around you. Other times its simply just looking at inspo online, whether it be Pinterest, Tumblr or Behance. Trust your gut and work with what you know best. Your portfolio is all about showcasing your strengths, so take advantage of the things you are good at.
share, share, share
Share, share, SHARE. You've left your family (for most students that's true) and you've established a "uni fam". So I learnt that by sharing my non related uni problems with my new family would help me to overcome/tackle/deal with whatever the issue was. It's always great to be able to have someone to talk to and hear different pieces of advice from them. In return, I have finished uni knowing the most amazing people who are now very close to my heart and having them around and creating this friendship bond helped make university more bearable and added some fun to it.
je m'en fous attitude
Now this is one thing I made sure I had whilst I was at uni. Everyone has their opinions. If you spend your life clinging on to every opinion given you're only just pulling yourself back. Try to take criticism lightly as harsh as it might sound. Take this from me honestly! You will be surprised at the things that have been said to me throughout my educational years especially the last year of uni. As hurtful as they were, I used them as fuel to push me to success. So take shit lightly on the chin and keep going. You got this!
what you give is what you get
The statement speaks for itself. As tiring as uni gets with its early morning starts & late hour work sessions, I can't stress how being on top of your game is important. I put my hands up and admit there were some lectures I didn’t attend but this would only come back and bite me. Try to build a relationship with your lecturers and your academic head. The more questions you ask the more you get back. By creating a relationship with them they're able to know what your weaknesses are and help you strengthen them. Emails are always great. My university was very busy with so many students doing the same course, it has hard for our tutors to keep up with us all so pop an email, arrange a meeting, bring all your work with you and just sit there and listen to what they have to say. Don’t worry about them not liking it, don’t worry about their opinion. None of that matters right now. What you are trying to do is strengthen your work and get the grades that you deserve. I used to shy away from these sort of meetings in my early years of university because I felt so intimated but I gradually put my fear to the side and told myself that this would be to my benefit in the long run. If your uni does have crits, attend them. I know it is so daunting to stand in front of the whole year and present your work but feedback and criticism is essential to learn, develop and strengthen your portfolio. Think of it this way, it’s better to get criticised and fuck up in the beginning of the course but walk away with feedback that pushes your grade higher rather than not attending and fucking up right before your submission. Face your fears and just go with it.
If you are a graduate or are still in university, what are the things that you learnt/are learning? And if you could give your past self one word of advice what would it be?