Some people that like to travel, like myself, take a gap year before they rush into student life. Some ambitious people, unlike myself, go straight from high school to uni. Now both are fine, because what I found out is that it doesn’t make a difference. You won’t be ready for what’s coming either way. Living on your own, the absolute anonymity wherein you attend lectures, handling your finances: student life cannot be taught, it needs to be experienced.
I received some advice before I started this year:
‘Take good care of yourself’, is what my mom said. The only right response is a nod and a smile.
‘Have a little fun, kid.’ This was my dad. As if I wasn’t having fun before, but I love my dad so he also got a nod and a smile.
If I could go back in time, this is what I would have told myself before I started this year.
Sleeping is not optional, it’s a necessity in life
I always thought of sleeping as something that you could choose to do. Like, hm, today it’s not very convenient to go to sleep so I’ll just skip it. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that it doesn’t work like that.
Also, five hours of sleep a night is not okay. Sure, at first it seems like you can rule the world. But then you feel agitated, anxious and you hear yourself saying: ‘gosh, it seems like my short term memory is fading. Also, I wonder why my skin looks like it belongs to a thirteen year old boy that just ate ten Tony Chocolonely's, and could I get more emotional? I just cried during a commercial for parrot food!
Maybe all of this is due to the fact that your body hasn’t rested properly for days? Seriously though, turn off your FOMO and get some sleep.
You’re not gonna do that later, so do it now
Oh, my amazement when I found out how much freedom I gained when I started uni. Did you just read those 100 pages you had to? Did you really attend that lecture? No one will know! Except for you, and you’re too busy doing other very important stuff to bother. Although you always tell yourself you’ll catch up on those excerpts you still need to read, you never do. Before you know it, it’s the week before finals and you’re reading your uni group app. People are asking questions about concepts you never even heard of and you start to wonder why you always have to bring procrastinating to a new level.
Life is freaking expensive
Naive and ignorant as I was, I thought I would spend about 250 euros per month in my free time. I thought wrong. It’s quite easy to cut on food expenses: go to the Aldi or Lidl instead of the fancy Appie and skip the Starbucks. But I hadn’t foreseen the fact that I also want to eat out every once in a while, and I want to buy my friends birthday gifts. Your hair needs a new cut, your bike needs a fix, you need an Uber because you don’t know where you are, your friend deserves a drink, etcetera etcetera. I would say to my younger self: look for a fun job that pays well and do it fast.
Experiment! (In moderation)
Yes, you live longer if you maintain a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and some regular exercise. But if there is a right time to eat ice cream for breakfast, go to four parties in three days or book a last minute holiday in the middle of the week, this is it. The days where you needed to ask your parents for permission are behind you and you don't have a family or kids yet, so you don't have to lead by example! Use these precious years to experiment with whatever the hell you want to experiment with. (And please make sure you stay alive to tell the stories).
University is all about what you make of it
The good thing about university is that you can design your life entirely. The bad thing about university is also that you can design your life entirely. You could easily get your degree without making any friends, attending any parties or participating in any activities. No one is gonna force you because you’re a grown up now, so if you want to stay in bed for five days straight, you will.
But, when you were a kid, your parents would force you to do a lot of things you didn’t want to do and sometimes that was for the better. University has a lot to offer for those who want to do a bit extra, the only thing you need to do is participate. Try to get out of your comfort zone and sign up for that bikram yoga class, take a look at that screenwriting workshop and try that exchange program with a foreign student. Who knows where it might bring you.