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February 21, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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What I Wish I’d Been Told as a First year

Esme Eastment

“If you’re not enjoying what you’re studying, or if you’re finding it really hard to get Ds, let alone anything higher, it’s OK (and much better for your mental health) to switch to something you find more interesting or easier. It took me two-and-a-half years of studying BioMed before I accepted that the world would not end if I changed to a BA. Seriously—try a mix of papers in your first year, try something random. Take a maths paper, a German paper, art history, ancient Greek. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it means you aren’t closing doors that, three years down the track, you might wish you’d left open.”

Geraint Scott

“Get involved with politics! This is the capital city: it’s teeming with political buzz. You don’t have to be a political science student to get involved (sometimes it helps not to be!)—look up the various parties and see which one matches your views and ethos. Chances are you’re either Labour, Green or National. They all have youth factions and reps at Vic uni, and they all distribute emails and newsletters about their policies, political news that doesn’t make the papers and various events that sometimes even have free food! WIN!”

William David Guzzo

“Don’t skip lectures. Seriously. In first year, you can get away with it. But in third-year organic chemistry… Maybe not. Set yourself high standards. Even if it’s first-year management, old habits die hard! So start off university by attending lectures and studying consistently.”

Selina Powell

“Learn how to remember names. At the beginning of first year, there are a lot of names to remember—people you meet in lectures, tutorials, random encounters, part-time jobs… These people will probably appreciate it if you call them by the name their parents gave them, not a different one beginning with the same letter. There are many techniques for learning names, like repeating the name when it’s said to you (“Nice to meet you, Simon”), or associating the name with something else in your mind. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, so long as it works for you. Remembering someone’s name is one of the simplest forms of showing respect to a person—a fundamental of low-tech social networking, and an important skill that will aid you professionally later on.

“Eat breakfast. Break the roughly eight-hour fast with something other than an energy drink. Even though it may seem like a good idea to save time in the morning by skipping breakfast, the time you spend eating in the morning will reward you later with enhanced concentration and a general non-zombified demeanor. It is also a pleasant meditative time before your day gains momentum.

“Call, Skype, email or text your parents/extended whanau. You could even send them an old-fashioned letter or postcard. They gave you shelter, nourishment and education—possibly funded by donating 40 hours of each week to a job they don’t particularly enjoy. They would like to know how you are.”

Claire O’Loughlin

“If you’re flatting in your first year and you’ve managed to find a place, you can move out if you are unhappy there. Look on TradeMe, find a new room somewhere else, talk to the Tenancy Tribunal or the Vic Accommodation Service, find someone to fill your room, tell your flatmates ‘It’s not me, it’s you,’ and move out. You don’t need to keep on living in a cold dark damp hole with slugs in the bath, demon cats scratching at the door, mice in the cupboards, maggots under the sofa, burglars that steal the hot water cylinder, and flatmates that don’t pay rent for a whole year. Even if it’s two minutes from uni you can do better. Probably.”

Lisa Taylor

“Don’t come to class if you’re just gonna sit there and gossip loudly about last night’s ‘bed-fun’ that you totally didn’t have. Same goes for doing all the Salient puzzles. We’ve all been there, but when you get past the first few courses, you soon realise just how annoying it is to hear people talking—and the frustrated grunts when they can’t finish the ‘easy’ sudoku.

“Go exploring—you’re in a new place with new friends (and old ones), so make the most of it. The Botanicical Gardens and free concerts in town are so worth it when you realise someone famous has a secret gig on. Better to be in on the action than to always be missing out on it.”

Tom Lister

“That last half of the bottle of wine you downed back at your hall of residence because it was five minutes until kick out? That will end up in the toilet at The Big K, along with your dignity. And innocence. That sweaty guy grinding on your friend at The Big K? He isn’t a first year. He probably doesn’t go to university. And the free drinks there don’t come free, if you know what I mean.”

Sebastian Boyle

“Tons of people get degrees, but far fewer serve on a club committee, or play sport, or get involved with the performing arts, or write for a student publication. Do something different. It’ll give you something to write on your CV, distinguish you from all the other job seekers, and, most importantly of all, it’ll give you something worthwhile and fun to do.”

Peter McCaffrey

“Don’t bother hunting for the silly automatic door opening button thingies—just push all doors a bit harder for a while and you’ll learn which ones are which soon enough. Seriously, it’s much easier than using the buttons.”

Hannah Warren

“Go on exchange! I guarantee it will be the best year or semester of your university career. You will make friends, study new things, explore the world and learn so much about yourself. It’s not scary and it’s not hard; go talk to Vic OE and go study abroad!”

Josh McDonald

“Learn your way around. There are maps for a reason. It would have been nice to know where the actual entrance to 77 Fairlie Terrace was, to avoid the embarrassment of being the 33rd little dweeb to disrupt the super cool class of older kids. Sigh.”

Mava Moayyed

“In your first year you may find yourself up very late trying to finish assignments. I cannot stress the importance of giving yourself ample time to edit and proofread your work before handing it in. I learnt this the hard way when my English essay was given back with a note outlining concern over my possible dyslexia.
What had actually happened was a 2am attempt at writing an essay which resulted in the most shocking typos ever committed by man; the kind that only happen when you’re writing frantically on a Red Bull-induced high. Basically it wasn’t a good experience, so learn to be the master of the ‘last minute’ and manage your time well.

“Talking loudly in the library or the Cyber Commons is not kosher. Especially when it’s 1am and I am trying to finish an essay on South Sudanese conflict and all I can hear is your discussion about StarCraft II. Similarly, using the university computers during peak hours to check Facebook and watch Jersey Shore will get you stares of death from students waiting to actually do some work. Don’t do it. Don’t justify our dislike.”

Giancarlo Riccardo Alessandro Salizzo

“If you live in a hall, eat there. You’ll save so much money on food—you’ve paid for it already.”

Amanda Plum

“The legendary ‘Fresher Five’ actually does exist, and will soon coexist with you unless prevented in a timely fashion, i.e. consuming all of your stodgy Hall dinner, following up with several pieces of toast, then rounding off with a late-night pizza snack seems like a good idea at the time, but won’t at the end of the year. Key word = REFRAIN.

“It is also handy to keep in mind that while enjoying yourself and establishing your reputation, the ultimate goal is to finish the year with enough people willing to tolerate you for several more years to organise a motley flatting crew. Oh, and passing your courses is generally a good idea, if only to keep up morale.

“Do not attempt to create a new persona (or worse still, a range of new personas) for yourself by getting creative with your wardrobe.”

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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