take a minute

my university experience so far
11 Feb 2022
by Cerith

new beginnings

September 2020, universities are once again opening their doors to a new cohort of students. The green light has been given for myself, and many others, to start this exciting chapter; albeit under stranger circumstances than ever before. Naturally, with all things considered, I have doubts. Is this the correct decision? What is it I hope to achieve? Will I fit in? 

Fast forward 18 months and the transition to remote learning is complete, lockdowns have been navigated and countless opportunities seized. With support channels and a positive attitude, my initial anxieties and doubts have been replaced with pride, a fresh perspective and a growing sense of purpose.  

a digital welcome

My intention was to hit the ground running, seek and say yes! However, I found myself a little overwhelmed with information overload. Getting a feel for the lay of the land proved hard and I felt bombarded by inductions, emails, Teams messages and social media posts. Alongside a virtual Fresher Fair, this very digital welcome was challenging.  

embracing remote learning or is that embracing isolation?

Dialling into lectures remotely was a novel experience at first. The ability to learn anywhere was exciting. I was free to roam the city's cafes and libraries…maybe even at a time that suited me. Instead, I chose to participate from the confines of my small, dimly lit university bedroom! It is no wonder that I soon felt disengaged, unmotivated and isolated. Attending an online lecture with over 100 students soon became uninspiring. I could switch off my camera and pretend I wasn’t even there. These slumps come and go, but over time I’ve developed a routine and positive habits that help combat this lethargy.  

Daunting at first, I started making an effort to turn on the camera and use my microphone to engage with tuition. In doing so it helped build rapport with my lecturers and peers, whilst I also found it helped set the tone for the day; wake up, make my bed, get dressed and sit comfortably in an environment I could be proud to broadcast. Many times I've found myself chatting to a peer on campus only to find out they're on my course! It's great to put faces to names. 

extending my remote learning

What is the phrase, a change can be as good as a rest? As familiarity with my surroundings developed I began to take my remote learning beyond the confines of university halls. On campus there were bookable private spaces, well lit and spacious. Rooting out the study hot spots discovering my favourite flat whites, bumping into other students and finding concealed plug sockets across the city was fun and social, 

taking study breaks

Taking regular breaks from studies is a given right? There is no doubt, I take plenty! They’re even supposed to enhance productivity. However, a short time into my second year, it was brought to my attention the quality of the breaks I was taking. Yes, I was switching off my uni work but I was still in front of a screen; surfing the web, gorging on YouTube or mindlessly scrolling on social media. And my breaks never really refreshed me. 

What does work for me is actively planning a break and making it a break from technology. I close my laptop, put the phone away and do an activity. I might write a letter, make soup or take advantage of what's on offer outside the classroom at university.

discovering what's on offer; seek and say yes

Finding my feet in my second year came in the form of realising the opportunities available on campus. My eyes lit up upon discovering there are not only sports, societies and chances to volunteer, but dedicated departments geared toward personal development and enrichment. Introducing myself to the careers team proved a particular highlight so far, I thought my CV was the business until they tore it apart! They helped open the door to gain invaluable work experience, building my network across the university and beyond. 

things I wish I knew

Through engaging with volunteering opportunities, I became aware of the university's mentoring scheme. Elsewhere, this may be known as a Study Buddy, but here first year students have the chance to be partnered with a Peer Mentor in the months leading up to arrival. Had I paid closer attention to my emails back in 2020, I’d have benefited from the local knowledge a seasoned student can provide, how to use Teams, the services available or a simple understanding of things to do! I recommend everyone consider the benefits of the scheme.

today

There has been a remarkable variety and value to my experience so far and I’d like to extend my appreciation to the university and all those who are a part of it. Today, I enjoy the fitness facilities, playing rugby, squash and using the swimming pool. Through involvement in the conservation volunteering group, I’m learning new skills, seeing new places and forming friendships. 

My techtimeout colleague Josh published an excellent blog to help alleviate those feelings of isolation at university, the same feelings I had in those early days. Amongst other key tips, Josh shines a light on the support on offer and the benefits of participation. Read the blog here. 

For more information about how to reduce your screen time, or to take on a 10 day challenge that supports you to do activities without your devices please click here.