To commemorate my graduation from my postgraduate university studies, I decided to compile a list of lessons I’ve learnt along the way – some are practical and acutely relevant to the university experience, while others are mindsets I hope to apply beyond university life. Enjoy and let me know if any lessons resonate with you!
Extracurriculars are a great way to develop experiences (in lieu of paid work) and make friends. This is something I wish I had taken heed in my undergrad years… I was rather shy and rarely ventured outside of my comfort zone; the thought of putting myself out there petrified me and was a self-imposed barrier to getting involved in the student community in high school and early university. I decided to bite the bullet when I started my postgrad, and applied to join the faculty’s student committee after hearing the then-president speak about it during orientation week. I remember feeling very nervous during the interview for the role, but somehow I was chosen to join as a supporting role in the marketing team, and I have never regretted it. Being a part of the student committee made me feel more connected to the university community, and I felt a sense of pride and ownership getting involved in creating events for my peers. Being a part of the student committee became an integral part of my postgrad life – a lot of the friends I made was from the committee, and it gave me something more than lectures and assignments to look forward to. My university experience would have been very different without the extracurriculars I was involved in! Even after my time on the student committee was formally finished, I used the experiences I gained as a stepping stone to apply for other extracurriculars and eventually paid opportunities. If you’re at university now, I highly recommend you get involved with student clubs. I understand that for some, it may be totally nerve-wracking to gather the courage to apply as I found it previously, but I’m so glad I did – for the sense of purpose I felt and for the amazing people I got to know.
It is important to recognise when you’re burning out, and don’t overload. After my stint on the student committee, I was hungry to try out other student clubs. I had severe FOMO and applied for many other student clubs, to the point I was balancing two to three extracurriculars at any given time, alongside a full study load. It was crazy! My attention ended up being divided across so many competing things, and it was hard to determine which actions were priorities. My actual university studying was often neglected in favour of these activities. I would be tired and always be distracted by incoming emails on my phone. Looking back now, I definitely had overcommitted, and should have focused on one or two things to do really well, instead of half-assing several. This is a learning I’m reminding myself even now, post-university, when I finally do have an abundance of spare time… the allure of short classes and hobbies I want to do can be hard to resist and I could easily write a novel on all the things I wish I could do (learn French, sew my own clothes, learn salsa properly… among other things), but I made myself focus on a select few (this blog being one of them), and taking on more when I feel I can manage it. If you’re struggling with your workload and wondering if you’ve taken on too much, remind yourself you’re aiming for a ‘healthy challenge’ and not an ‘unhealthy overload’.
Tackle lectures in-person straightaway and don’t put it off. This may be painfully obvious and simple, but this is how I learnt best at university. From experience, if I missed a lecture, finding the time and having the motivation to catch up was a big barrier throughout semester where I always felt like I had ‘more urgent’ things to do. As a result, catching up on missed lectures ended up being reshuffled down my list of priorities until the end of semester when exams were nipping at my heels, where I would have a stress breakdown upon realising the 20 hours of lectures for each subject I had to listen to in the space of one week… NOT FUN. I’ve since learnt to be kind to my future self where possible, and tackle things as they happen, a trait which I’ve carried into my current job where I constantly have several projects on the go, and it’s too much of a mental strain to ‘not do something’ as opposed to actually do it then and there where possible.
Completely own your decisions and realise success is unique to everyone. Sometimes the jealousy bug bites me harder than I would like, and sometimes my first thought upon hearing other’s great news is a selfish ‘Oh my god, I am so envious of their new job/holiday/house they’ve recently bought’. I don’t always have perfect rein on my emotions, and sometimes the occasional Facebook post from an acquaintance has me reeling over my life decisions and questioning whether I am ‘doing enough’ at my current stage of life. However, I’ve come to realise that such thoughts are not productive at all and don’t add any value to my current mindset. If anything, I should be looking at other’s successes as proof that it is possible and something I can aspire to myself. One thing I’ve taken from my university experience is that I’m responsible for my own learning, and that if I want something to happen, I was in charge of making that happen. For example, I was keen to gain some real-life marketing experience to complement my academic studies in the field, and this led me to applying to all sorts of opportunities (mostly voluntary but eventually paid). It’s not enough for students to trust that one institution will guarantee everything you need to know for you – the most accomplished people I know have done things of their own accord and have been pro-active in their learning. Knowing that I own my decisions is empowering, and stops me from wallowing in a hole of self-pity.
Here wraps up wisdom that I will definitely carry with me beyond the sandstone walls of my university. What are learnings you’ve taken away from university/high school?
STARS OF THE SHOW
Grey-blue speckled dress, French Connection
Navy jacket, Marcs
Black heels, ECCO
Sleep debt, neverending assignment stress and two university degrees in architecture and marketing, The University of Melbourne