So, you’re starting university… in 2020… all I can say to you is good luck.
I was inspired to do this after reading another fellow blogger’s, Black Woman Empowered, post about her final year of undergrad; please go support and check her out.
Firstly, if you’re going to university this year, congratulate yourself - you made it this far and you should be very proud of yourself. However, you should know you are embarking on a new journey that will shape and challenge for the better if you allow it to.
As a final year student and if you know me, I will never stop singing that leaving home and going to university was the best decision I could have made for myself. But that is a story for another day.
So what words of “wisdom” do I have for those who are starting uni.
Money, Money, Money
Firstly, my baby miseducates, learn to budget. You really need to understand money - especially how much is in your bank account - and how to spend it. For us British students, we have the Student Finance loan; at times, it can be really easy to be overcome by the money coming into your account, each term, that budgeting is thrown out the window.
But, it is important to understand all of the things you are obligated to pay for. Rent (Private or halls), Uni material (i.e. books), food, travel etc.
You get the drill.
I’m not saying don't treat yourself. But it isn’t fun rationing a can of beans for over a week because you don’t have money in your account. It is important to ask yourself these questions because it will help you understand what and how you are spending. Also, do not quickly rule out getting a part-time job.
Tip: As soon as Student Finance or your loan drops try to pay rent for the term or the semester. This will enable you to budget better for weekly costs.
This is the time in which you are going to meet yourself - if you allow yourself to. Many people think they know themselves and know who they are. But they don’t. Leaving your hometown, your friends and family, you’ll find, you are no longer defined by them. Your decisions are now your own.
I thought I knew who I was. Other people thought I knew who I was. But I didn’t. And come first year, I really battled with myself. I met myself and I didn’t necessarily like her all that much. It was a journey, a journey that never stops. I recommend reading my previous post.
The point is, the things that once defined you in your hometown will not necessarily define you at university. Seek out who you are now, meet yourself. This is important. As Heather Lindsay once said, if you don’t know your identity people will identify you. In meeting yourself, you find the decisions you make are nobody else’s responsibility but your own. You’ve got to be ready to check yourself.
Learning to Say “No”
This is an extension of the previous point because it is about reclaiming your own agency. In this new found freedom within university, the choices are endless. However, just because you have the freedom to do “anything” and “everything,” does not mean you have to say yes to all that comes your way. Learn to say no.
It is your prerogative to say no to the things that make you feel uncomfortable. It is your right to say no without an explanation. It is your right to say yes but change your mind. Ultimately, it is your right to say no.
Whether this means saying no to going out to an event, a party, dinner, giving out personal information, alcohol, drugs or sex, it is your right.
“I’m Not Okay”
University is very stressful, for some, it is the first time moving away from home on your own. The workload can get to you, the loneliness can get to you, it can all get to you. Please know, it is okay to admit you are not okay. It does not make you weak.
However, when these feelings persist for a substantial amount of time, it might be wise to notify your university and your GP.
Many students have experienced issues with mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation, in 2015/16, first-year students in UK universities reported that they had a mental health problem. This was a significantly higher number than the previous academic year. According to The Guardian, students - first years to final years - reported high anxiety and depression.
Please - I beg and I pray - if, for whatever reason, you are persistently not feeling like yourself, please contact someone. Whether it be your GP, a close friend, relative or uni RA - in addition to your university. Your mental health is very important.