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February 22, 2010 | by  | in Features |
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The Alternate Newbies’ Guide to the University Experience

Starting university can be an intimidating experience. The first thing I noticed when I picked up the outlines for my first papers was the massive amount of ‘recommended’ work each entailed. Course A, I read with growing dread, was comprised of forty hours of classes, tutorials and independent study each week; course B, even worse, had a list of weekly readings longer than my arm. My favourite moment from those first few weeks, however, was the ominous warning given by the lecturer for course C. “This paper,” he began in a steely baritone, “has a fail rate of over thirty per cent. So look to your left, and now to your right. One of you will not survive the trimester.”

I think I passed out at that point.

Now, many years and copious amounts of alcohol later, I feel like a seasoned hand at this whole university thing. When I look around at the many starry-eyed, first-year faces each February, I know that the majority of them are thinking the exact same thing I was—what the fuck am I doing here!? I knew I should have taken that job at New World! I wouldn’t have to put up with this shit if I’d joined the army! Well, don’t worry—you’re not alone. I am here to tell you one thing and one thing only: coming to university is the best decision you’ll ever make. I can guarantee—hands down—you will not regret it. How do I know? Read on, young first years, as I reveal to you the four secrets that will guide you through the waters of the university experience.

One: Study is NOT the most important thing about university life.

Sounds counter-intuitive, right? Well, let me ask you this—when you think back on your university days, will it be the lectures and the exams that you remember? Hell no! Uni is about making new friends, trying new things, drinking, partying, getting laid, and just plain growing up. You’ll finally be old enough to legally do all the things you’ve already done. That’s not to say that you can pawn your textbooks for booze money or sleep through your exams—just remember, in the work/life balance, life should always win out.

Two: University is what you make of it.

If you’re looking at an academic career or you want to be top of the class, you’ll probably have to work damn hard. However, if like the majority of us, you are here to get a piece of paper and get a good job, remember this: Cs get degrees. The main reason for coming to university is to build up a base level of specialised knowledge to get ahead in the job market. In most industries, that’s all you need—you’ll learn the rest on the job. Employers use tertiary qualifications as a means of separating the wheat from the chaff—if you have a degree, chances are you’re not an idiot.

Three: Make use of the university facilities.

It probably sounds like a cliché, but it’s true—the university is here to serve you. Faculty and Department staff are always helpful, and I’ve never encountered a closed door in my time here. Speak up if you have any issues—apart from your lecturers, there are student representatives, liaison officers, library subject specialists, counsellors, and countless others willing to help. Remember, you are technically paying their wages. You’re entitled to be a pest.

Four: Think of it as a process.

When I first thought about applying for university, I had little to no idea of what I wanted to do with my life. A geeky interest in computers eventually led me to enrol in an Information Technology degree. Three years and several thousand lines of code later, I became the proud recipient of a Bachelor’s degree. I entered the industry as a graduate and spent a few years punching computer monitors when my workstation failed to do what it should. Eventually, I came to the realisation that computers weren’t for me—and so, reigniting my high school passion for history and teaching, I re-enrolled at university. The point of my seemingly inane ramble is this—university isn’t a phone plan. You’re not locked in for three years under the same terms and conditions. If you start a degree and decide it isn’t for you, switch to something else. If you don’t know what to switch to, try a bit of everything until you find something you like. There is nothing wrong with taking your time to figure out what you want to do with your life. People change, as do their passions. Let your university experience reflect that.

So go forth, young first years, and make the most of your three years of study. And make no mistake, you will have to study at some point—just don’t let it obscure your view of the more important things in life. But I can promise you this—these will be the best years of your lives.

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  1. Brunswick says:

    “Remember, you are technically paying their wages. You’re entitled to be a pest.”

    What’s that sucking noise? Could it be the sound of hundreds of VUW staff wincing?

  2. President Ronald Reagan says:

    you’re at least 40 years old brunswick whattya still doing here

  3. Brunswick says:

    You can talk! You’ve been dead since 2004.

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