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TOP 13 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE I STARTED AT UNIVERSITY

15 MIN READ


These days I see people graduating from University, College and high school. These people are friends, friends of friends and it also includes a few family members. Here’s what it does to me. I start to think about last year. Around this time, last year, I was looking at these “same people” with the hope and vision of standing in their shoes one day. When I look now, a year after, I see how important it is to act on your visions. I am here now, I’ve decided who I want to be, how I want to do and finally, from this point the, as Will Smith once said in a now old interview with Travis Smiley; ‘And from that point, the universe will get out of your way.’

Taking a step away from the emotional part, this blog post is one of those I have been wanting to write ever since I applied for University. You see, by moving to a new country everything becomes new, new challenges, new procedures, new rules. You know, all these ‘practical’ ‘every-day’ stuff such as; what is student finance and how do you apply for it? How is the grading system? How this and how that? All these factors have one thing in common, they touch base on the subject of ‘knowing’ aka. Knowledge. For you who just moved or maybe thinking about moving to the UK, here are 13 things I wish I knew before I started my journey at the University of Greenwich.

My intention with this is to make you feel more prepared in case you’ve already decided to move, or if you are still in process of deciding, hopefully, this will make it easier for you to decide, as these words are being written by me, someone who has no other intention than to share the truth with you.

The list goes as follows, enjoy:

1. The student loan is not “free money”

Do you remember the song by Passengers ‘Let her go’;
‘’Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home

The same thing happened to me. You see, ever since I moved from Denmark I’ve realised how BLESSED and LUCKY I am for first, having two amazing hard working and educated parents which sacrificed everything to be able to provide me and my brother with the freedom of having not to worry. Secondly, by living in Denmark I got used to “free money” in regards to my student life. To make a long description short: I got paid to study and no, I did not have to pay ANYTHING back, how? Well, the tax rate in Denmark is high, however, that is a different discussion which we can take another time. Anyway, contrary to popular belief, the student loan that we can receive in the UK is not free money for us to squander on Saint Laurent shoes. In comparison with the Danish version, no matter the amount you eventually need to pay the amount back. In order to be able to study you have to pay for something called ‘tuition fee’ which in my case is €9250 pr. Year, I’ll repeat Per year aka. €9250 x (length of your course). Keep in mind this is just to be able to study besides this, you have the option to apply for ‘maintenance loan’ which basically is there to help you with your every-day living stuff such as rent, food and transportation etc. For my first year at University I only applied for the tuition fee-loan, due to the fact that I had (still have) my job at Ralph Lauren and therefore, decide to wait with the maintenance loan for my second year, due to the fact that I now know how my personal spending can be optimised during my time at University. Some people will say that you’re really going to need every penny to get you through the year. But I will just suggest you to budget and save as much as you can while still being able to enjoy your time. In addition to this, from my experience, having a job whilst studying is absolutely possible. Also, I find it super powerful to be able to switch from an academic mindset to a practical work mindset, regardless of what your job is and finally, never hurts to save up money to do what you want to do, whether it is to buy new Saint Laurent shoes or to start a company.

2. H E A L T H

Now, as you read the word ‘Health’ I am not saying you should drop everything you know about fast-food and become a vegetarian or vegan and go to gym 7x days a week. No no no… However, I will tell you this, if you decide to do your absolute best in terms of studying, you will end up being exhausted from either one or two of the following options: Stress, lack of sleep, overthinking, pressure… In other words, your mental health is super important in order to perform and to stay on top of your game whether it is in terms of networking or studying! Therefore, I write this as a kind reminder: Make sure that you take care of yourself. I know you don’t get grades for this part, but by making your health a priority you will win!

3. First-year DO count!

One of the first things I was told as I started at Uni was ‘The first year doesn’t count anyways’. I wish I could say that this was a myth amongst students. But, on paper, the grades from your first year do not go to your final grades. Here is why I see it as a bad thing: For those who work they’re a** off and get good grades, they might not get the credit they deserve. However, here is why I think it is a good thing: It allows you to ‘fail forward’ meaning, you will be able to go all in on your strength and not worry about working to check the marks but, actually focusing on learning, creating connections, explore study methods that work best for you etc. etc. But keep in mind, it does not mean that you can avoid coming to class or not hand in any assignments, in order to continue to year 2, you have to pass year 1 regardless.

4. Make referencing comfortable

Here is an advice which only relies on you to find out what works for you.
As you start university you will meet the term ‘Referencing’. This’s usually the absolute least favourite thing amongst students in Uni. I have always left it to last when I’ve written an assignment/report. While I am doing my research and writing, I create footnotes in my document (for myself) in order to remember. However, the majority of my friends when they work on their referencing list, they do it while they are writing. You see, I don’t want to say ‘do this, because this is the best’, no, what I will recommend is, to learn what you are most comfortable with. Take my advice and learn how to reference properly within the first month. There are loads of apps, books and tips out there to help you with that dreaded bibliography so use them! But most importantly ask the tutors at your University, because every University does it in different ways.

5. The library is your second home

I am in the lucky stage of being living close, more specifically walking-distance to my university. Now, before I started, my number one thought was ‘this means I will be able to go home during the breaks in between and also do my assignments or preparations at home’. But, let me tell you something, my second home is the library. It is the number one place I, alongside my fellow friends, spends the most time, hours, literally days with no sleep. The amount of memories I have already from staying at the library with the people around me is absolutely priceless. For people following me on social media, you know how blood, sweat and tears of laughter have been on the agenda whilst working at the Library. Besides the fun, the library at the University of Greenwich has the majority of the books on my reading list. However, some of the key books need to be bought. In addition to this, you will usually receive x amount of money on a card called ‘Aspire card’ which can be used in all John Smith shops whether it is in the physical shop next to the campus or online. Finally, I recommend you to learn how to use the library systems, such as finding online journals, how to print and how to find specific books, place your ego aside and ask for help, because these will come in handy!

6. Do not worry about the student stereotype

This is one of those “tip” where you have to rely on the trust in me speaking my truth. You see, some students, including myself, love nothing more than making a to-do list, getting stuff done and rewarding themselves, it can be with a nice dinner at the local Stick’s N Sushi or just a movie night. However, I noticed some students think they HAVE TO go out and drink every night, now I am not saying people shouldn’t do that. However, the punchline is to not let the student stereotype pressure you into acting a certain way at Uni. There are so many different types of students and we all get along which is the beauty of this city, believe me, trust me, I say it because I have and is currently experiencing it!

7. Make connections

I bet you’ve heard the concept of networking, right? You might think it is only meant within work and professional terms. However, let me tell you this, networking as a student it can be your turning point today, next month, or in 4 years when you apply for a job or want to start a company. When opportunities to meet important professional people arise try not to miss them because you never know when that connection might come in handy. This means you need to invest time in attending seminars, workshops or going to guest speakers. Always remember to introduce yourself and make a positive, lasting impression. As Harvey Specter says in one of my favourite series of all time, SUITS ‘First impression last’, period. We are going to end up working for or with people, so let’s learn how to connect with them, professionally aka. Using LinkedIn and Instagram correctly. This also includes your tutor(s), they are there to help you and many of them have expertise in fields you aspire to follow, connect with them, show them how hungry you are for your dream, not with words but with practical examples and actions. A message like this can do a lot:

Dear (Name of the tutor),
I’ve been working on this mood board for an ad-idea I have, would love to have a second opinion on it.

Looking forward to hearing back from you,
//Kind Regards

8. You don’t need every society

Universities often have a Freshers event where you get bombarded with societies and clubs that you often end up joining. Sports teams, film societies, a games society and everything in between. The key is, don’t feel under pressure to join societies you have no interest in. All you’ll end up doing is stressing yourself out by having no free time. Really think about your interests and what you’d like to try and don’t be afraid to give it a go! I personally joined the following societies on an opening day: Football, Drama, PR, Marketing… Only to start to cancel society membership after the first two months, why? Because I saw how much of my time It took (I don’t like to go into something without being 100%) so I decided to drop out of Football and drama society as it didn’t relate to my course. However, I am considering rejoining the football society for my 2. year, maybe… I do miss it, a lot!

9. Live, Love and Laugh

You often hear people saying ‘Time flew by’… Now, you may not believe that 4 years will go fast. But let me tell you this, life at University will be hard, period! Once you’ve accepted that, you will find yourself spending time on things that matter, as mentioned above; Networking and doing the actual work! What I’ve experienced after my first year is that time speeds up when you’re at Uni so make sure to enjoy every second of it. In terms of getting things done on time, yes, it’s cool to be ahead, but don’t be afraid if you suddenly have to pull an ‘all-nighter’ to finish assignments. Once you are around the right people you’ll be okay! University is such a roller-coaster but it’s filled with so many opportunities, new friends and new experiences for you to grow with.

10. DO MORE

This is so simple. Do things! Go to as much stuff as possible. Find as much stuff as you like. Choose what you want to do and stick at it. Make friends in as many places as possible. Don’t limit yourself to one clique, it’s not high school anymore. Do more! P.S. This is a phrase I have to remind myself as well, I’m not perfect.

11. Focus on things you CAN control

As the fun of freshers’ week begins to fade, the essays and exams will start piling up. A lot of students struggle to deal with the pressures that come with deadlines and exam halls, regardless of the fact that “first-year do not count”, a test is a test. The reality is that what works for me may not work for you, we all tackle situations differently. One thing we can share is the feeling of fear, but as Will Smith says in a recent interview, talking about his experience with Skydiving and fear; ‘At the point of maximum danger, there is zero fear’, so go for it! In addition to this, I’ve found it to be helpful to focus on the things that I can control and forget the things I can’t. Something I always do on my phone is creating lists. This is something I found super useful during the more stressful times at Uni. Don’t make it complicated with fancy apps which creates list, schedules and plans etc. Instead, I would recommend you to do the following:

Go to Notes:

Make a folder:

Create a note:

Create the structure incl. Headline and date:

Start putting in things to do:

Lastly, start doing:

 

In this way you avoid going crazy, thinking about what you could’ve done, or if you are ready for a test. I focus on what I can control and so should you, or at least try it!

12. SOCIAL MEDIA

When I’ve been talking with students and/or friends from 2.year or 3.year they often ask how our course are so close? I may not have a specific answer and maybe ‘luck’ was a part of it. However, one thing we did in the early stages which I believe made things more relaxed and easier to communicate was the following: I created a Facebook group with the name of my course (BA, Marketing Management year 2018), since I didn’t have any class list of names to look at, I posted on the Facebook page of the University:

In this way, we were able to gather people together, stalk each other a little bit and most importantly, what we did was to arrange a meet and greet with each other. So, my advice is, once your chosen university is confirmed, search to see if a Facebook group has been set up, this can be a fantastic way to get to know those you’ll be spending the next few years with. It’s always comforting knowing that you’ll be starting Uni having already made some friends, and it can make lectures and tutorials much less awkward.

13. IT IS NOT HIGH SCHOOL

You’ve probably heard this one before, but I really need to emphasise just how true it is. No one’s going to be calling home if you don’t show up – you have to get your butt in those lecture seats yourself! ‘Nobody cares’ sounds rough but, there is some truth to it. Everyone has their own issues and problems. It’s about filling you every-day life with positivity and then I am confident in your ability to flip your struggles to your benefit. You see, all of your studies are going to be more self-driven than ever before. No one is going to give you reminders about homework (unless you have a particularly kind tutor or friends). It’s very simple, at Uni you’re in charge of your own learning, and you’re only going to get out as much as you put in!

CONCLUSION

With that being said, the following is the key for you to keep in mind, regardless of what your situation is, if you are thinking about applying for a University or if you’re already accepted I hope this could be a help for you and make you more confident in what may or may not become your every-day life for the next few years. DO MORE, best of luck!


Any questions, feedback or anything in between, could be to catch-up, feel free to DM or Snap me, I am quite friendly, not perfect, but human 🙂

//Thank you and stay tuned, more to come…
Daniel Najafi

Instagram: Danielnajafi 

Snapchat: Danielnajafi_11

 

2 Comments

  1. R E R E

    The content of this article is great, and I agree with all your points. You’ve truly hit the nail on the head, and this is great advice for any student coming to the University of Greenwich!

    However, I would just like to point out the title of this article ‘I which I knew’ surely this should be ‘I wish I knew’?. I don’t mean to point it out in a negative way at all, it’s just that I once got called out on a spelling mistake in one of my blogs at a job interview.
    I would hate for the same to happen to you, because this content is really great and you could definitely use it as a tool to help you find a job within the marketing sector. Might I suggest doing a quick grammar check of your posts online, or even on word for the future?

    Keep up the great writing.

    • Daniel Najafi Daniel Najafi

      Hey R E,
      Your comment is much appreciated, though I see and reply super late I am beyond grateful for your constructive feedback, I have fixed the spelling error as mentioned and written down your suggestion of doing a quick grammar check before post. I’ve just been so focused on putting out content that it must have slipped. Anyhow, I’mm taking notes and I am not afraid to fail on the way, hence why my gratitude level is on max.

      Again, thank you! Hope to talk soon.

      //Best regards
      Daniel

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