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What surprised me the most about university

By: Summer - 5th Year Medical student

What surprised me the most about university

There are situations you expect to face as a student (like having to get to grips with a washing machine!), but there are also plenty of aspects of student life that can catch you off guard. Here are some things that I found to be a pleasant surprise when I started as a Medicine undergraduate in 2016.

Lots of support

The amount of support available to me when starting my course really surprised me. Teachers at school had emphasised how independent you had to be as a student, how we’d be fending for ourselves academically with no one to remind us about deadlines or exams, and no easy way to ask questions if we were to get stuck. This couldn’t have been further from my experience!

Friendly and approachable staff

I was taken aback by how friendly and approachable our lecturers and course leaders were. We were welcome to approach them at the end of lectures to ask any questions we had, and they were always available via email too. I had expected to be just another face in a lecture theatre to the university academics, but they really took an interest in us as individuals. Our small group sessions, in particular, were a far cry from the serious discussions I had envisaged. We really got to know our facilitators, as well as each other, and we incorporated team games, whiteboard drawing, and snacks into every meeting. Leaving school doesn’t mean leaving the fun in learning behind!

Clubs and societies

I also couldn’t believe how many new sports clubs and activities there were at university. The breadth of societies on offer was just incredible! I remember walking around the freshers’ fair trying to reason with myself – I knew I couldn’t possibly make time for all of the societies I’d signed up for, but I just couldn’t stop! Around each corner was another new, exciting society to try! As you settle into a routine balancing your studies, social life, and other general tasks, it soon becomes clear which societies you’re truly interested in and will continue with throughout the year. It wasn’t quite so much of a surprise that some had to fall by the wayside!

Easier than I thought

In retrospect, I’m surprised by how easy it was to settle into university life. I had expected to enjoy the independence and the social aspect of moving to a new city, but was worried at the time that I would feel homesick. I tried to plan ahead for this before moving, making sure to pack plenty of photographs of friends and family and sentimental items that would remind me of home. I kept in contact with loved ones and planned weekend trips back as something to look forward to.

Feeling at home

The day I arrived I certainly felt overwhelmed. It was scary watching my family get back in the car and drive home without me. But I think the thing that helped me to settle in the most, was saying ‘yes’ to opportunities and getting out of my comfort zone. It can feel like the easiest thing to do is hide away in your room, but once you’re out exploring campus and getting to know new people, you find your bearings and your support network. This helps to make these new, unfamiliar surroundings quickly feel like home.

I’m just over 4 years in now and my university experience continues to surprise me with each academic year. There is always another challenge to rise to, a new friend to make, or a new hobby to find!

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