Going Away to University and Reinventing Yourself

Vashi Deva

Vashi is a student in the first year of her BA English degree at NTU. In this blog post, she discusses some of the challenges and opportunities she’s faced, and how she’s turned them to her advantage! She has some advice for anyone who makes a comparable decision: to study at NTU, having come from another city as a young adult.

Entering this new, thrilling phase of life, it’s likely you’ll lose yourself in the chaos of the university experience in no time. You’ve possibly already associated this time in your life parties, a crowd of fresh new faces, and a list of deadlines. It’s easy to forget what I think is the best and most important part: the chance to reinvent yourself. You’re given a blank page and the freedom to draw whatever you want on it. To make the most out of this experience, you should use this newfound freedom to shape your identity on your own terms. Here are a few pointers.

Making A Comfortable Space                                               

Create your space as an embodiment of the new you. Wherever you’re going to be living is likely where you’ll spend most of your time, so being attentive and putting in the effort to create an aesthetically pleasing living space for yourself has countless benefits. It mentally and physically elevates your day-to-day life, giving you the opportunity to explore your individuality through your interior design skills. You may think you haven’t got any, but trust me, you do.

You probably won’t have an immense amount of space. I suggest keeping it simple so that your room isn’t easily cluttered. In fact, decluttering has direct links to good mental health, making you feel less stress and anxiety. You don’t want to look around at your space and feel overwhelmed, and you’ll want to have room to do your university work. Put up subtle reminders of things that make you happy, like books, posters, photos and at least one picture of a figure who inspires you to strive towards academic excellence above your study desk. Now, every time you look up from your laptop while cramming for that assignment, you’ll find some encouragement from that figure – perhaps a little voice inside will say, ‘if they can do it, so can I’. It’s also wise to change things around every now and then: you don’t want to grow tired of looking at the same things every day. Creatively changing your space around from time to time can motivate changes in your mind which may contribute to you feeling less burnt out and stuck in a rut. It’s easy to fall into that cycle. Prevent it! 

Your City

 Whether you’ve travelled far from home or not travelled at all, make your city your best friend. It’s the place that will inspire most of your creative impulses during this period. Be open minded, explore, and see your city for its elusive charm. Familiarising yourself with your new (or old) home will help you spark up fresh interests and ambitions, and it’s one of the things that makes the university experience so worthwhile. You may find a local spot to eat which isn’t Nando’s or Dominos, new thrift shops tucked into alleyways, a go-to nature reserve for some down time, museums, hidden art galleries, historical sites. Visit the places you wouldn’t normally think twice about visiting because you’ve already labelled them boring, and you may find that there’s more to your city than just the nightclubs. It’s a great way to refresh your perspective on the world and retreat from old thoughts and ideals that may have been holding you back. In other words, it’s a great way to reinvent yourself. you don’t want to leave here one day and think you never really got to know the place, its people, and its idiosyncracies.

The Social Realm of University

It’s evident that the years you spend at university can reward more than just a degree. You can develop many new skills contributing to your transition into adulthood, including your social skills. It’s guaranteed you’ll see a lot of new faces on your course, and you’ll probably meet new people on nights out. But the stigma that university social life revolves around partying isn’t completely true, and socialising is more than just partying. This is the perfect time to build strong network connections that you’ll thank yourself for later. These will contribute hugely to your social well-being, and you’ll benefit from the professional and personal relations you build. You may feel shy at first, and almost everyone does even if they don’t show it, but the key to building important connections is putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to different types of people, even people who you may not normally approach. Make an effort to start conversations with people in your building, and people at your university (even if they’re not on your course), attend university events, and even get to know your lecturers. You’ll likely find some common ground with most of these people, and you’ll find yourself surprised once you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone.  Remember, your lecturers are experienced in the field you’re interested in, so gaining knowledge from them will be worth your while. And you never know, you can spark up a lifelong friendship just by starting a conversation.

Learn A Useless Skill

When Steve Jobs was 17, he dropped out of university and let his curiosity lead him to a calligraphy class. He said, ‘none of this had even a hope of any practical application to my life.’ Ten years later, he designed the first Macintosh computer with the multiple type faces and proportionally spaced fonts that he had learnt about all those years ago taking that ‘useless’ calligraphy class. So, learn that useless skill that you think is so stupid and pointless. Now that you’ve got a new sense of independence, you can prioritize spending your time on things that interest you. Whether it be fashion, cooking, yoga, kickboxing, music, graphic design, art. They say, ‘a jack of all trades is a master of none, but always better than a master of one’ Anything that you’ve felt like you’ve always wanted to try but never found productive or worth your time, now is the time to try it. You may find yourself looking back ten years later, glad that you had the courage to at least try. But don’t drop out of your course!

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