Do as I say not as I do. I learn by doing, therefore learn by making mistakes. Maybe this life methodology is why I am a sceptical follower of advice and fashion. But being over 30 and a father, I am in a position to liberally douse any victim who happens to be in the way with advice, even though I would scarcely have heeded it myself. 12 years after starting uni, and I am still feeling the impact of my time there, the good times and the mistakes. While I don’t like to say I have regrets here are some tips on avoiding pitfalls that are easy to fall into, but costly to get out of.
- Church. This is the top dog. Don’t find a good church; find a church that is yours.Often this takes a lot of wriggling, but a church that you grab by the scruff of the neck is out there. It may not be the fashionable one to go to, it may be totally different from your church at home and it may have a terrible website, but finding your church is a thing of beautiful importance. Don’t underestimate your side of the deal, but the church will help you, encourage you, feed you (literally I hope) and strengthen you to make the most of your student experience. It will also not be perfect nor the first one you see, so get hold of the Fusion ‘Student Linkup’ app (IoS and Android), it is a magic tool that will help you find and link in to churches.
- £££ - I spent my first loan on CD’s and KFC. While you may be tempted towards iTunes and somewhat classier chain restaurants, do some maths before you launch in to a £30/month phone contract. Here is the magic equation to work with:
your monthly income – the essentials like rent, bills and food = your spending money
This spending money will last you for a month until the next lot comes in. Lift out ¼ of it in cash on a Sunday night. This is what you have to spend over the week. Simple. Just don’t lose the money and hope that it isn’t a five week month. It took me 6 years to clear the overdraft from uni and wish I had worked on a cash budget.
- Uni is fun, studies are boring. Maybe that outlook is why my degree is not something I brag about. Having now worked for 8 years after uni, I have come up with a cunning plan. Treat your studies like a job. Unless you are on a super intense course, you will have plenty enough non-class time in your day to fit in coursework, if you plan it well. Go in at 9 and stay until 5. You can then have the evening and weekends to relax and volunteer on an SU Scotland event. Editorial note: not all studies are boring, they are what you make of them, and as my mum says ‘only boring people get bored’.
- Student Christian groups like Fusion, UCCF, Navigators or your friendly Christian Union understand students. They will help to connect you, keep you grounded and open up opportunities unavailable elsewhere. They can also boost your CV credentials and drive you mad. I ended up wearing a kilt before 400 people in an old convent in Lima, Peru thanks to UCCF.
- Discovering yourself is what university has traditionally been about. When you finish your course you will be a different person to you who are sitting reading this just now. Don’t be afraid to have fun and explore new ideas. Don’t be stupid about it, but there is an exciting world out there. From clubbing to dragon themed board games, via learning Mandarin with the American Football team, there is lots to do and see.
- Embrace new people, especially the ‘weird’ ones. You may never again come across such a plethora of diverse humanity, all passionate about making new friends. Adding in your new church family and the people from back home, you will accrue an incredible tapestry of contacts in your phone, some of which you will never delete and many of which will enrich your life in ways you cannot begin to fathom.
- Some brief snippets of wisdom, not suitable for Proverbs; Sleep is a luxury commodity. Cheese and Ribena are really expensive. Energy drinks do more damage than good. Never pay full price for anything, especially text books. Search how MS Word can do references for you. Become the teacher’s pet. Ask people for tips on food, money, standards or whatever you need as I am not the only one who loves to dish out useful advice. Finally there is something satisfying about wearing a onesie to lectures.
- Keep in touch with SU. If you find any dead ends, we know thousands of people around the UK and abroad, so if we can’t help straight away, guaranteed we will find someone who can. Plus we don’t want to lose touch *sobs into old tissue.
There are loads of other essentials, reading your bible, praying, eating well, maintaining healthy relationships and holding firm to your faith to name but a few, but the above caught me out more than the rest. At SU Scotland we are not a student organisation, but many of us have been to uni so we know the joys, struggles and successes and I am serious about staying in touch with us by the way. We have so many opportunities to offer you and would love to work in partnership with you as you move forward out of our direct scope, you know where we are.
As far as uni is concerned, buckle up and enjoy the ride. Would I do uni again? Oh yeah!