Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Freshers Advice

Dear Readers,

Please indulge me for a moment as I descend into a little nostalgia and consider the fact that I have been a Fresher three times in my life. I don't claim to have sage wisdom to impart, but perhaps some nuggets of personal experience will be of use to someone out there. 

Undergraduate
  • Try a few different things. I definitely regret not joining a society or club to be a little more rounded.
  • The friends that you make in your first week may end up being your best friend for life. But equally, they might not. I had a close group of three in my first year. One is still my best friend 13 years on, one left the university, and the other I fell out with. It's ok for your friendship group to change along the way, because you will change too.
  • The career you thought you wanted at the beginning may not be the one you want at the end. Or it might be harder than you thought. I wanted to be a museum curator. That didn't happen!
  • It's ok to live at home. But you do need to make more of an effort to be social.
  • One professor can make all the difference. If you find one that clicks, stick with them. They can change your life. Mine did.


Masters
  • This is an intense year - the people in your course will be your circle and those bonds can last a long time. Mine certainly have.
  • Be a Fresher! I avoided the Fresher's week because I thought I had already done it all. But a new institution means new opportunities.
  • Masters courses can be very international. Expect that the people who become your friends will likely return home which can be emotionally tough.


PhD
  • Again - Be A Fresher! You'll have 3-4 years (in the UK at least) to develop an interest in something aside from academics (which is really important).
  • Your cohort will be with you for the long run and they will be your lifeline when things get tough.
  • You may also make friends with Masters students. Be prepared for them to leave and the emotional toil that new cohorts will have as new people come and go from your life.
  • Again, the career you thought you wanted at the beginning may not be the one you want at the end. Or it might be harder than you thought. Academia is tough and saturated.


I'm not going to talk about academic advice. Too boring! This is Fresher's Week after all and things are meant to be fun. But with my professional experience hat on (as both a tutor and working in student welfare) I have one more nugget to impart:

  • If you are finding things tough, please talk to someone. Be that a peer supporter, counselor, tutor, whoever...let someone know. They will help. New transitions can be tough. Finding it overwhelming is normal but when things become too much it is so important to speak up. Please know that you are not alone.

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