05 Apr How can I make the most out of my time at University?
Taking up a degree is not just about studies, sure they’re a core part of the experience, but what you do outside of your studies is what will truly make your time in university special and really help you grow as a person.
Here’s my advice on a few things you can do during your degree to enhance the entire experience and change your life for the better.
Join a society
As an international student you might be sceptical about joining a society at the beginning of your studies. This may be because you’re not familiar with what societies really are (in the UK at least) or because you don’t feel confident enough to mix with home students. This is one of the best things you can do in your first year! I strongly encourage you to join a sports club or a society as soon as you can, many are completely free or very low cost to attend.
Being part of a sports club means you are not only going to learn a new sport or improve your confidence in a sport you already enjoy, but you’ll get the feeling that you belong to something. The people from the club will become your friends and bam! You’ve got yourself a thriving social life!
You can also try out some of the more elaborate clubs and activities such as parachuting or horse riding much cheaper than you’ll find them outside of the society.
Take up a role in a society
After getting more familiar with what societies are around and which ones you like, you can volunteer to take up a position on a society’s committee. You could be the president, social secretary, treasurer, event organiser or many other roles depending on the society.
You won’t get paid for these positions but you will gain is a sense of responsibility and confidence that you can cope with different organisational issues. Not to mention, a senior role in a society can be great to put on a CV, especially if it’s a role that requires application of a good skill set!
Volunteering is highly valued by employers in the UK. If you have this kind of experience on your CV when you start looking for jobs you’ll have an advantage over others applying for the same role!
Volunteering at university is pretty fun as you mainly work with students, meaning it’s a great opportunity to make new friends. I did volunteering in my second year which involved talking to random students. This gave me a confidence boost when starting a conversation with new people and made me much more open to communicating with people in general.
Part-time jobs / work for the university
Part-time work might not sound fun but your university experience will be somewhat incomplete without it. You cannot imagine how much you will appreciate it when you start your graduate job and think back with a smile on your face of the times when you used to do 10 hour shifts in KFC for £6-£7 per hour!
Work teaches you to actually care about what you spend your money on and also gives you great skills that employers always look for.
Try and stay in halls of residence
Halls can be a vital part of the degree experience. Firstly, when you arrive at a completely unfamiliar place, having university staff at halls to support you really makes a difference in helping you feel safe and welcome. Secondly, in halls you can make lots of friends from different courses and broaden your knowledge about what other degrees are like. Last but not least, halls are great for big gatherings when you’re all fresh faced first years!
Do a placement or internship
If you have the option to do a placement during your degree (usually after your second year), go for it!
I’m not going to lie, placements can be pretty difficult to get hold of but just keep applying and don’t give up until you get a position in a company. If you’re doing a straight three-year course, then utilise your summer holiday – do a three month internship related to your field of study.
Any of these experiences will help you gain sought-after skills by employers and will give you experience on how different the real working world is to the life at university.
Do an Erasmus/ exchange programme.
One thing I regret not doing during my Bachelor’s is an Erasmus/exchange programme. All the stories from friends who went were so amazing that it makes me jealous every time I hear about them.
Seek out information about the application process early from the University’s Exchanges team. Start from the first term of first year! Even if you are already abroad, going to another country will make your entire experience even richer. You will learn about a new culture and a new university system and the best part is that the main point of the experience is not studying but exploring.
While at university, make sure that you don’t restrict your experience to writing coursework and preparing for exams in your room. Try as many new things as you possibly can. Essentially, university is all about shaping your personality, growing up and learning “how to adult” while you have fun. Enjoy and take care!