University Guest Post: 8 Lessons in 8 Years

This guest post is one I’ve been really excited for! Louise from Thrifty Lil Pixie is almost finished with a whopping eight years of university (four years undergraduate, she’s now in her final year of four years of postgraduate!) and is going to share everything she’s learnt. I’ve just started my fourth year and can’t imagine carrying on for so long – respect to her! Here’s the eight lessons she’s learnt during her eight years at university…

 photo thriftylilpixie graduation_zpsxevb3l4q.jpgIf there’s one thing I know a lot about, it’s going to college. I went to college at 18 to study Biology, I completed 4 years of undergraduate studies with a first class honours degree and after a week off began postgraduate studies in Biology. I’m currently in my final year of a 4 year PhD.

There is no shame in working hard.

Yes college is amazing fun, there’s so much going out to do, friends to make, parties to attend…but partying aside you go to college for one primary goal: to learn. You may not learn exactly what you thought, you may learn more than you ever dreamed, you may learn that college isn’t for you. Whatever you learn college is hella expensive so make sure that learning is high on your list of priorities. I was never embarrassed to admit I studied hard in college; I studied for every exam and worked hard on every assignment. I worked hard to get there after all so I wasn’t going to waste it. Don’t be the person who brags to everyone they did no work whatsoever and then gets 90%, nobody appreciates that, trust me. If you’re lucky that hard work might turn into a funded PhD, where they pay you to go to college instead of the other way around!

You learn much more than your chosen subject

Yes, you’ll learn loads about your chosen area, but you’ll also learn loads of valuable skills like researching, public speaking, budgeting, house hunting and networking, plus how great Primark is…

Follow your heart

When I was in school my exam result suggested I should study Art or English in college, so it seemed strange when I choose Science but that’s what I really wanted and it worked out great. Again when I was in college we were able to specialise in either biological or biomedical science. Biomedical was way, way more popular but I’ve always loved the environment so I opted to do biological instead and I ended up getting a PhD position in the area. Follow your heart, you’re the only one that has to live your life, so live it your way.
 photo thriftylilpixie research_zpsa3m6hps3.jpgClearly happy to be doing research that lets me work outdoors!

College isn’t for everyone and there’s nothing wrong with that

College is amazing for some and not for others and that’s not something to apologise for or be embarrassed by. There are countless jobs and careers out there, many of which college is not necessary or doesn’t prepare you for. Don’t feel pressured into college if it’s not what you want, it’s not essential for living your life. More and more people are creating their own jobs like professional bloggers and youtubers, app developers. There are no rules for how you have to live your life or what career you choose.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

You’re paying plenty of money for an education so if you are struggling or don’t understand something, always ask for help. Also if your worries stretch beyond your next assignment you can still look for support. Many colleges provide study support centres, counselling services, financial advice and medical centres, so if something is stressing you out reach out for help.

Living away from home is a learning curve

Learning to live on your own is probably as big a learning experience as college itself. There’s finding accommodation, paying for it, managing bills and shopping, not to mention living and getting along with all kinds of people. You’ll learn the arts of budgeting, management and diplomacy. Or if diplomacy fails and you end up with all-out war, you’ll definitely learn something too.

There are bargains to be found everywhere

You will learn to stretch your money as far as possible. Use your student discount everywhere. Go to Tesco in the evening to buy all the discounted food. Stores own brand is as good as fancy brands. Takeaway and alcohol are amazing and expensive so try and make some veggie pasta bake instead when you can motivate yourself too. Join college clubs and societies for subsidised holidays; I went on a super cheap scuba diving holiday to Lanzarote this way!
 photo thriftylilpixie scuba_zpsfeq4nbnx.jpgScuba diving on a student’s budget

Scientists don’t have to look or dress a certain way

To be honest this was never something that played heavily on my mind as I dress how I please but with many people there is a certain expectation about how people in certain professions should look or dress. A while back I was invited to contribute to the tumbler which shares profiles of people who work in science with an interest in fashion, with the aim of challenging stereotypes of what scientist wear and should look like. It’s a great site, with a great aim, so no matter what you choose to study in college don’t think you have to look a certain way or have particular interests just because of the classes you attend.

Thanks so much to Louise for sharing her experience and lessons over here – I particularly liked the last point! As a maths student I’ve often been told I “don’t look like a maths student” which I think is a good thing…?!

What did you learn at university? Ignoring all the academic bits and pieces!