Thursday, 22 September 2016

How To Make The Most Of Uni: A Survival Guide

A lot of you will just be starting uni, I found a picture from the 16th of September 2013 which was my first day at uni only the other day. Since many of you have followed my third year so eagerly I wanted to give some more wisdom for those of you thinking of going, just starting out or further down the line to ensure you get the most out of the experience.
I'm sure you've heard a lot of people saying how much uni changed their lives and the amazing experiences they took away from it all. Having just graduated I can honestly include myself in saying it was incredible and I will hold on to those memories for life. Although from an outsiders perspective university can look like one big party I can assure you there is a lot of hard work involved.

Step 1: The Course

Pick something you are passionate about. I will openly admit that at every chosen opportunity I live, breath and sleep fashion. I knew that was the area I wanted to go in to because I spent so much of my spare time and work dedicated to it. I remember in Drama GCSE instead of being a performer I got my grade by doing costume design, I would always find away to make each class work for me. In school you have the luxury of studying multiple topics and they just about manage to hold your interest. Imagine doing one thing for three years, sometimes more! Although there is different areas, subjects and projects within each course there can be a lot of crossovers making some parts repetitive. If you don't love the course you will find that your motivation will run out very quickly, before you know it your not attending lectures and feeling as if you have made the wrong decision. 

I know lots of people who have gone and within just a few days, some a whole year before they released it wasn't for them. In this scenario don't panic or worry it will all sort itself out. The best thing is to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible to avoid unnecessary debt. Take the time you need, university will always be there. If you want to take a gap year to work or may be even travel go for it, that year could make all the difference on how you plan to move forward.

Find out as much information as possible on the course. I had interviews for my Fashion Business and Promotion course which meant I was not only able to introduce myself and show my work but use this opportunity to ask any questions. This for me helped to make the final decision between my first and insurance choice. All of my courses had a very similar year by year outlay apart from one was mixed with design which would have involved creating a final collection for Graduate Fashion Week. I would pick them all apart see what bits you like or dislike - this will help you to decide if you are feeling stuck.
 Step 2: The University

The next big thing is the university. I know my school in particular pushed for Red Brick universities, which is great but for me none of them catered for career path. My advice: Ignore that, pick a uni that you like and politely stuff what they say. Only you know what is best for you! 

I would highly recommend going to opening days, they are a great way to see the campus, the area and also get to know the place (especially if you have never been before). This is so important! You need to know that you can see yourself there. I remember going to one university and instantly knowing I would never go there. It was too far from home, the location wasn't central therefore could be very isolating and the day wasn't very well organised which I could only think 'Imagine what the lectures would be like'. You'll know the gut feeling I'm talking about if you've been on open days or when you go.

I chose Birmingham City University mostly because of the course. However I liked the fact it was only an hour away from home, a brand new building for BIAD students, the lecturers seemed friendly and interested in my work at my interview, it is the second biggest city to prepare me for London post-graduating and I had my niece and nephew close by if I ever felt home sick (nothing to do with the fact it was a five minute walk from the bullring). 
 Step 3: Independence

For many, myself included, this was my first time being away from home for longer than 10 days by myself. It can be a daunting thing moving away from home but there are a lot of positives too. Independence is such an important life skill to have, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing you can actually make it on your own to feet. I personally think as well the first time I tried a lot of things, like making myself meals every night, tidying a space that wasn't restricted to just my room, washing my clothes (if I'm being honest this one wasn't until third year) was rather comical. I could tell you some really funny stories about all of these disasters but that is one for another day. 

The point is once you've done it the first time you know you can do it. For me I had trouble with my university halls and was actually placed in the wrong one for my course. This meant I was the only one from my course on the grounds meaning I was making that journey to university all on my own. Luckily I bumped in to a girl who then became my good friend of mine and we helped each other get from A to B. For my first year I had to get a train to and from uni which meant there was a lot of responsibility especially when it came to getting up and ready on time. If I switched off my alarm my parents wouldn't be there to hurry me along! If anything I became so comfortable with living away from home that now I've returned I am finding it difficult to settle, having to let my parents no when I'm going out, where I'm going, when I will be back. It's a big lifestyle change, not one to be taken lightly. Freedom can go one of two ways and I have to admit I was overly sensible the majority of the time.
 Step 4: Making Friends And Keeping Friends

Making friends was something I was so concerned about on arrival. They throw you in at the deep end meeting your flats mates on the same day you move in and everyone on your course the next for induction. You hear horror stories about nasty flats mates or worry about the preconceived stereotypes on what the girls on a fashion course may be like, however I was very lucky. Just remember everyone else is in the same boat. I managed to make friends with the people in my flat/building and on my course. I still speak to everyone from my flat in first year, we were in Flat Two and we became close friends with Flat Five making a group of around 12 with two other joining making it 14. We have stayed the together from first year all the way through to third, which I know is unusual but we just had a good bond. 

Same with the girls on my course I met them on the first day and we have done so much together since. Although only a small group we were and still are very close. These ladies were my key to survival! Having friends on your course means you can help each other. We would always discuss our briefs and suss what we had to do together, show each other our projects for a second opinion and just generally answer each others questions. 

Although working together was useful as uni can be hard going. It is just as important to go out, relax and socialise. Work hard, play hard, right? If you constantly on the go all the time you'll just end up feeling overly stressed which will take all of the fun out of the situation. Make the most of first year! Honestly we went out all the time and I don't regret one part of it, as third years we were constantly looking back on those memories and they are the ones you hold on to most. When things get a bit more serious just celebrate the hand ins. In third year the partying side had completely died down as everyone was focused on doing their best in their degree. However I did celebrate things like my dissertation, final major project and so on. Once you finish there is also big things to look forward to like Grad Ball and Graduation when you can have your "I did it" moment.

I think your friends at home deserve a mention to. I have had the same friendship group for years, one of my friends going all the way back to primary school. I love these girls and although it was hard to say bye, I knew it wasn't forever. These girls helped just as much, they gave me support and the confidence before I left, cheered me on a every milestone and always cleared their schedule to see me and greet me with open arms when I was home.
Step 5: An End Goal

I think when people look at going to university they often look at the end goal being the degree. Which is exactly what I did and then it got to the end and I was like "oh, what now?". University gets you a degree not a job. Nothing can truly prepare you for what is on the other side. At uni if you manage your time well you can set part of it aside to create a plan for the breaks you have coming up, the summer holidays or even when you graduate. Although I spent the majority of my spare time on my blog and Youtube Channel I wish I also made time to gain some more work experience. Things like summer internships in your industry will really help you when it comes to getting yourself a job.

I know at the time you are dying for a break but you will thank yourself later down the line, believe me. Think about the bigger picture! Take note of careers you like the sound of, tailor your work around these concepts or brands to pitch to them afterwards, make use of the students surrounding you (e.g - I was in a creative hub and they helped me to build a website). Obviously you want to focus on graduating but don't let it all stop there, keep pushing yourself. It's the light at the end of the tunnel and the 'Could be's' that will make you try that extra bit harder even when you feel like giving up.

These are five things I think are important and helped me to get through the tough times, I hope it can help some of you too and good luck whatever stage you may be!



  1. For me university scares me so much! I am in my second year and even though I have decided on my course, it's now the location, spending 3 years in one place!!! Eeee! x

    1. Don't be scared lovely, you'll have the best time!x


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