For most of us, university is often the first chance to live independently and experience the “freedom” we’ve yearned for throughout our schooling career. These years will represent the first and most probably the only times that you will engage freely in your passions, hobbies and if you’re lucky enough – discover yourself. With everything at such easy disposal, there’s virtually nothing you can’t try. University is the perfect opportunity to explore and figure out what you like.
Despite all that you might have been told, university is not just about academics. While academics make up a significant part of our university experience and who we eventually become, there’s more to university than just attending lectures, going to the library and exams. Being able to expand your interactions beyond academics is what will set you apart when it comes to existing in the workplace and society at large.
Yes, getting capped and holding that qualification is the ultimate goal, but don’t miss out on the university experience that could potentially become one of the most rewarding phases of your life. Acquiring a higher education qualification is extremely vital because for some us it is an opportunity to re-write the narrative of our family history and lift those socio-economic barriers. Yet it is well to remember that the most valuable lessons in life are not confined to a lecture hall. The most important lessons in your life are going to be learned when you make a conscious decision to put yourself out there and see what university walls have to offer besides endless assignments, anxiety, and perpetual stress.
The worst thing that you can do is to obtain your qualification, look at your CV, reminisce about your varsity days and regret not utilising your time adequately to get that holistic experience. Take the time to enrich your student life by getting involved outside the lecture hall. You love debating, have a disdain for social injustice and would like to run for public office one day? Join student politics. In fact, become the SRC president. Like rugby? Join the rugby team and play for the varsity cup. You’re passionate about social responsibility? Join a charity society. You want to make extra cash and be able to afford a faster laptop? Apply to be a library monitor. Are you getting good marks? Capitalise on that and become a tutor.
And If you ever come across an opportunity to go abroad, go. This isn’t just about going on some glorified international trip, it is an opportunity to go on exchange in a foreign university, learn a new language, meet new people, explore different cultures and broaden your perspectives. Do not shy away from befriending those outside your ethnicity, race, culture, and background. Some of you might come from small towns where everyone looks and speaks the same. Use your varsity days to share experiences and learn from other people. This has the potential to make you a more rounded person and better equipped to deal with different characters in the real world.
Build networks and never lose those contacts because you never know when you might need them. You have to remember that some of these students, including yourself, are future members of parliament, engineers, lawyers, actors, entrepreneurs and media moguls that will go on to accomplish phenomenal things. Chances are some of them might become colleagues and alert you to job opportunities.The best places to network include residences, clubs, societies, social media and student events.
As a student, you have free reign on how you want to make out your student experience. Do not be that fresh graduate, sitting in your first job with tons of regrets about how you didn’t make the most of how sociable university can be. Whatever it is that you discover about yourself, you are more likely to be prepared for the world beyond lecture halls where bigger life decisions are to be made.