5 Things My Freshman Year At Uni Taught Me

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1. NOT HAVING YOUR FUTURE FULLY SETTLED IN YOUR MIND IS OKAY

When I was in senior high, I had a clear view of what I wanted to do after high school would end. Or so I thought. I was going to follow a double degree combining English (which I obviously could not stop studying) and French Literature/Media/Publishing. University would be the only option. In junior high, I imagined myself as a fashion journalist, thus allying two of my main interests, fashion and writing. I had it all settled in my mind.

After receiving the rejection letter from the department in charge of the very selective double degree, reading the stories of people who had made their breakthrough in journalism careers, I eventually realized that I was not sure whether I wanted to be a fashion journalist someday. What about investigative journalism? And what if writing reviews or columns suited me better?

On reflection, it occurred to me that I might have been a bit too keen on the future. What if I took time to focus on the present, on my current degree and let the future bring unforeseen opportunities? Every single detail of your life does not have to be planned when you are eighteen. Have a little faith in the future!

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2. ‘CHOOSE A JOB YOU LOVE AND YOU WILL NEVER HAVE TO WORK A DAY IN YOUR LIFE’

Given the liberty offered by the higher education system, it is easy to get lost behind the tons of essays, the list of books to read and the lessons to learn. However, there is one thing that can prevent you from getting behind: having passion for what you do. There’s a well-known Chinese proverb that goes: ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’. It is utterly relatable to university. No one checks if you’re attending class or if you’ve learnt your lesson, therefore if you are not passionate about what you are studying, chances are most-likely to be high that you won’t make any efforts.

Changing my major has been life-changing somehow. Writing English literature papers and following the lectures is something that I really love doing now compared with learning French grammar rules. The subjects you’re studying are very important so that you can be completely involved and concentrated.

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3. ALTERNATIVES DO EXIST

When I entered university, I thought it was my only option (from a money-related perspective). How wrong was I! A bachelor’s degree is certainly valuable but it is not the only detail that matters in a resume. Work experience, internships, part-time jobs are profitable too. Besides, choosing the right degree to pursue is one of the major tasks of the process.

My first semester at university was pretty much disastrous. Aside from the fascinating brief journalism class, French literature, although I love reading it, was not a subject I was passionate about. In addition with the university system, this path led to a total disinterest in the pursued degree. Hopefully, the French system allows students to shift their major in-between the semesters of the first year. Thus, I became an English major at the second semester and English and American literature and civilization sounded much more interesting to study in my opinion.

Whether it is within the education system or at a wider scale, there are always alternatives, provided that you put some thoughts into it by doing some research.

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4. LOOKING AT ALL THE OPTIONS IS NECESSARY

The end of the academic year is approaching fast, and I have barely grasped that studying for a degree specialized in English for the two upcoming years might in the end not be what I am looking for. May is already coming up, and I’ve barely started re-doing research about other degrees that would be relevant to my wishes. On the internet, I have come across one or two courses that may interest me. I click on the enrollment guidelines somewhere on the website. The deadline is passed. Last-minute possibilities exist, but they remain rare.

This is one of the key points of transitioning from high school to higher education. The most detailed curricula on the official websites should be read (not just the brief introductions to the courses or the attractive title of the degree — yep, that’s what I’ve done). And if you’re aiming at the most selective degrees, you should know about it as soon as possible in order to know what you’re preparing for, so that your student file is eligible. Last-minute is never a good plan as regards to it!

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5. LOSING YOURSELF IN THE PROCESS DOES NOT MEAN FAILING

The most important lesson I have learnt from this year is that it’s okay if your first year is a mess. It is fine if your grades are dropping and you didn’t expect it, even if you were a Straight-A high-schooler. To be doubtful about your education is normal. There is nothing wrong in losing yourself for a while. All of the bad choices you think you have made are actually good choices because each of them will teach you a lesson. And there will always be alternatives. Getting lost in your first year of uni doesn’t mean you’re failing. There are still so many roads you can take, so many varied paths to follow.

You will find your way.

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Good luck for your finals and other exams!

What has university taught you?

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