Priorities at University Abroad

Swathy Sanjay Sidhu, TYV Ambassador studying in UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON, UK sharing her initial month experience at university….

What I learnt about priorities in my first few months at university abroad.

Being away from home for the first time was, as they all say, a very freeing yet stressful situation. Let me tell you that I by no means managed to successfully fit all aspects of a college life into my first semester at university without a breakdown.

The aspects are, but are not necessarily confined to, feeding myself (which involves preparing meals from scratch, doing weekly grocery shopping, washing up after I’m done, having to resort to takeaways most of the time which meant monetary loses), keeping up with the demands of a dual degree and course rep commitments, managing a social life, getting my laundry done, cleaning my room, making sure I participated in everything from the debating club to the baking society to musical theatre to dance events, trying to get used to the cultural wormhole I seemed to have fallen through, and on top of all this ensuring that I wasn’t splashing cash around in the course of these activities (because the British pound has just been rising two months from its Brexit drop).

So I’m a semester down at university abroad and the aspect I’ve found most difficult to get used to is setting my priorities right. You could call it the aspect of time management, but that’s a phrase thrown around every so often and I’m pretty sure you’d stop reading if I told you this was about how you need to make timetables and schedule study hours and extra-curricular activities into your day, because that’s something you’ve been working on all throughout your high school life and that’s most definitely worked out.

Below however, I outline how to prioritise larger aspects of your life so that these fall into the narrower view of prioritising individual tasks.

Set out your main Agenda

The first thing to know is that you’ll be facing a lot of issues outside of just coursework and co-curricular commitment, unlike in school. So go in with a plan – use the time after your final high school exams to chart out exactly what you wish to achieve with your time whilst at university in terms of grades, a social life and co-scholastic activities.

Try working like you’re in School

In college there are lecture slots, unlike a full 7-hour day like school. The best way to work around this inconsistency is to try and stay on campus (which could mean hanging around in the library or specially designed study rooms). That way, there would be a definite amount of work done in a day and the rest of the day can be spent guilt-free doing the things you love.

Finding the right balance according to your area of study or interest

Having invested money towards your degree, it definitely should be a top priority to make sure good grades are maintained. Try to find out about how much each year counts towards your final degree and try to understand the periods of time when you’ll have the least amount of academic commitments so you can embark on co scholastic pursuits. Make sure you don’t commit to too many societies unless you’re sure that you can keep up with these or that they add to the value of your final degree. Two activities completely unrelated to your course of study would be the ideal number to ensure you can keep up with them, unless of course you’re doing music, fine arts, theatre, etc., in which case you would be expected to work with multiple societies and commit to events. Likewise, for courses like law for which you will be expected to hone public speaking skills. Another way to decide your time commitments is to think about what you’d like to do after your time at university. A friend of mine who does chemistry is passionate about theatre and film and hopes to pursue a career in the field and hence devotes a large part of time to doing theatre shows and musicals while managing a stable GPA. It’s all about where your priorities lie.

Don’t Burn Out

The first few months are when you’re most vulnerable to pressure – mentally, physically and emotionally. The change of culture and climate could also add to the stresses. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the one thing that really needs to be taken care of is your health. If any aspect of uni life begins to cause concern, ensure that you re-evaluate situations at the earliest to prevent them from blowing up. By the 3 month mark, you would have found a schedule that works best for you, around your own course timetables and other commitments.

To ensure that you make most of your time, consistency is key. Sticking to the daily, weekly and monthly schedules that work best for you is guaranteed to ensure that you enjoy your time at uni to the fullest whilst ensuring that most of it is work done towards the future. But do stay flexible and open to a changing set of demands, and throw in some recreation and a little partying to balance everything out!