I might be a little early with this article since we are still ages away from the start of a new academic year, though I reckon it might be something worth talking about since I’ve been receiving a lot of questions on my UniBuddy account asking me this exact question. So, here are three things that I would have loved if my 18-year-old self to have understood prior to attending Imperial for my undergraduate degree.
It’s really not that difficult
There may have been a chance where movies, TV series, social media, memes, or “dramatic” people have given you the impression that a typical university student is one who is constantly overworked, stressed out, and struggling to understand the course material. I wouldn’t say that this stereotype is an outright misconception of the university experience. Yet again, you can choose to not make that a reality.
At least from my personal point of view – yes, the workload at Imperial can sometimes be a real challenge because the Department certainly puts your time management skills (and ability to not procrastinate) to a test. Though to be honest, I felt that taught material, as well as the learning process, are actually not that hard so long as you put in the effort. And if you find yourself still confused about the course material – the Internet, your lecturer, as well as the recommended readings are at your disposal.
Try to appreciate subjects that you don’t always see eye to eye with
This is most probably one of the things that surprised me the most during my Biochemistry degree as I initially enrolled for this course thinking that I will no longer need to open a Physics or Mathematics textbook. Funnily enough, I somehow found myself crossing paths again with these two subjects during my second year of university.
What’s more, I have a few friends from Chemical Engineering texting me from time to time to ask a bunch of Biochemistry-related questions that their course touches upon even though some of them were never a fan of Biology.
It was a bit of an ironic encounter when I looked back in time and thought about it, but I would still say that this was an important experience because it made me realise that STEM subjects have an interdisciplinary nature. So, as much as how one could say that they absolutely hate Mathematics or refuse to see Chemistry again, I reckon we all still have to acknowledge that we need all these subjects to understand the world we live in better as each of us has a unique set of expertise.
Aim to be the person who makes the first move
Some may say that this is more like dating advice, but I digress – I think it is good friendship advice.
One of the main regrets many of my graduated peers and seniors have shared with me was that they wished they had branched out beyond their comfort zone to meet new people. And when I asked them to elaborate on what held them back from doing so initially – the common answer I got was that they were afraid of being rejected or appearing awkward in front of strangers.
On that note, this brings me to say – instead of holding yourself back or self-rejecting, be the person who steps forward to introduce yourself to your classmates. Be the person who plans the little pizza party or movie night with your hallmates just so that you can bring people together. Be the person who invites friends to participate in an online hackathon as a team because solving problems as a group is an excellent way to bond. In the majority of cases, I found most strangers to actually be pretty friendly people, and all we really need is someone who takes the first step to break the ice. Hence, be that person!