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Things No One Will Tell You about What to Expect at University: Part II

Written By Rashi S.

Socialize 

Depending on which university you go to, your class size will either be small or big. In either case, it is vital especially in your first year of university for you to put yourself out there to meet new people. Sign-up for your freshmen university introduction week. Go to social gatherings and parties. Spend some time on campus to interact with people. The first year of university is normally the most laid-back one compared to the upcoming ones and thus make the most out of it. Experiment socially – go out to see who you vibe with and with whom you do not. For those who moved to a foreign country for their university, it especially helps to socialize so you do not feel isolated or lonely as you are away from your family and friends in your home country. Be open-minded – there will be plenty of opportunities for you to try and learn new things.  You will meet a multitude of new people at university. For example, people younger/older than you, someone who has taken a gap year, someone who is doing a dual bachelor’s degree, and so on. This is different from high school as you will have greater diversity. It will help you broaden your horizons and exchange stories with one another. Significantly, making new friends is a unique process for each individual. While some may instantly find their best friend or clique, others may take more time. Thus, do not be in a rush to settle in socially and allow things to naturally fall into place too. I would strongly advise you to not shy away from taking initiative and showing up to social events, but do not force anything.   

 Standing Out in Front of Professors  

University courses often have large class sizes and therefore you need to find a way to make yourself known to the professor. The course size may be somewhat overwhelming initially both socially and academically, especially for those who come from small high schools. Similar to how DP students were often required to submit recommendation letters to the university they applied to for their Bachelor’s degree, the same is more often than not applicable for when you apply for your Master’s degree. Therefore, it is vital that you develop a rapport with your professor. Most professors take questions during lecture breaks so you can clarify your quick doubts then. However, universities often require professors to have office hours; hence, you can take that opportunity to ask more detailed questions. Nevertheless, it is crucial to use that time to attempt to build a bond with your professors as well. For example, (briefly) read about their education, qualifications, publications, and so on to ask them questions about their life and their area of research if that is something that you are/could be interested in. Moreover, if you are doing an extracurricular activity relevant to the discussion you are having with them do mention it (networking). Tip: Follow up on the discussion you had with them or send them a thank-you email after. Most students do not do this and hence it is a good way to stand out. If you and your professor share something in common (e.g. national language, country of origin), you can use that to start a conversation with them too. Personally, I found the idea of having a conversation with my professors quite intimidating and thus it took me some time before I decided to go to their office hours. Overall, I did not mostly have lecture-content-related questions and when I did I was able to figure them out by myself, by asking my friends or asking the professor for help during the lecture breaks. Nonetheless, I do think office hours are significant for building a rapport with the professor as you have more discussion time then. Furthermore, normally, professors allow students to come to their office hours in pairs and small groups so you can also consider going with your friends. Keep in mind that they will not be able to write solid recommendation letters for you if they do not know you as a person. Thus, it would be smart to show up to their office hours and commence the rapport-building process with them (the earlier it starts, the better!). 

 Thinking ahead: Applying for your Master’s  

Most Bachelor’s degrees are three to four years. If you plan on continuing your further education to do your Master’s degree (highly recommended!)* which may seem distant (which, in fact, it is not – time flies!) it is a good idea to start thinking and doing application-building for it at the soonest. Volunteering, interning, leadership positions, and so on over your Bachelor’s degree years relevant to what you would like to pursue in your Master’s can make your application stand out. Thus, as much as it is vital to enjoy your university life, stay focussed on your end goal and act accordingly to reach it. Although this is for DP students, I would like to refer you to it as it is significantly applicable to the Bachelor’s degree years as well.  

 *most jobs say “master’s required” for you to be able to apply  

 Overall, commencing university will start a new chapter in your life. Embrace it and live those years to the fullest. I wish you all the best!  

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