25 Things I’ve Learnt in my Final Year of University
I’m coming very near to the end of my course at university, and I want to say that after nearly three years, I’ve learnt a lot. Unfortunately, I feel as if I’ve learnt very little about my course, apart from 1) the more you know the less you know 2) practically everything is so ambivalent that there is no right answer to the meaning of a text 3) many other things which cause me general gloom and disillusionment at the way I now interpret texts/go about studying/think of the UK’s educational system. So, I’m not going to write about that.
Instead, I’ve learnt far more this year about life, and I want to share some things to help anyone reading this.
1) The NHS and Student Finance England are in dire need of reorganisation. Don’t get me wrong about the mostly great work they do, and I don’t want to rant on here, but you know there’s something wrong when you have to wait months for a physio appointment, a hospital doctor and nurse you’re referred to speak inadequate and inaudible English, and you get a letter on your 21st birthday saying you have to pay back all your student grant despite their confirmation that they possess the right documentation.
2) Even by swimming and highlighting your hair, you damage it. My hairdresser (lovely as she is) never told me that I need to condition my hair before I go swimming, and that highlighting in general is addictive yet turns poorly cared for hair anyway (like mine) into crinkly, parched, lifeless strands. Thank goodness that dip dyeing is in fashion at the moment, so desperately growing highlights out doesn’t look that weird.
3) Having your hair cut regularly is far better than waiting every 6 months. Having a cut and blow dry every two months may be more expensive, but it makes your hair look so much more healthy, and apparently it helps it grow quicker!
4) Cooking inventively for one person is really hard. In my second year, I was fortunate to be part of a house cooking rota, so one person cooked supper for everyone each night, saving loads of time and knowing that 75% of the time there would be food provided for you. This year, living with four girls in a different house has been great, but one downside has been cooking meals solely for myself. At first I thought this would be okay, but when you realize that tasty looking recipes always serve four or six people, this caused me a few hiccups. Portion sizing is a ‘mare, dividing quantities by four or six is too mentally challenging when you’re tired, all food you buy quickly goes off (apart from pasta and baked beans), and preparing food from scratch is too depressing.
5) Getting into a routine really helps you in what you want to achieve. Whether it’s as mundane as getting into a good skin care routine so you don’t forget to moisturise, or regularly getting up early to make the most of your day, it reaps benefits long term.
6) ‘Mess’ in communal areas in a shared house can really affect one’s mood. Our house has definitely at least one housemate (I still haven’t worked out who it is), who regularly leaves cups, plates, empty yoghurt pots and other miscellaneous items in the lounge, and dirty kitchen stuff either unwashed next to the sink or scattered all over the work surfaces. This time last year it wouldn’t have affected me so much, unless we completely ran out of clean cutlery. In fact, I probably was this housemate. Now I realise why my Mum found it so irritating when I left things all over the place at home before I left for university. It’s why those rooms are called “Kitchens” and “Living Rooms”, not “Dumping Rooms”. Clutter can truly be an eyesore only when it isn’t yours.
7) Overanalysing is truly terrible. I thought for the last two years that a long-distance friend found me really annoying. A few weeks ago, via email (to cut the long story short), I discovered I was utterly mistaken. Why, you may ask? Well, I’d unconsciously been reading far too much into their behaviour and written communication, to the point where I assumed it was all my fault that they seemed so moody and terse. When work for my degree is over in a few days time, I will stop overanalysing everything once and for all.
8) Some people are now paid to make Youtube videos blogs, and others just do it for fun. I make video blogs, but I don’t have the guts to put them up online. (I make them when I can’t express myself in writing – I hope they never see the light of day). However, this year I’ve loved watching the hilarious (though often crude) insights of Youtubers like Jenna Marbles, tyrannosauruslexxx, Zoella, Emma Blackery, Ryan Higa, missxrojas, Hayley Hoover, Blimey Cow, Lizzie Bennet, Lydia Bennet and many others whose names I can’t recall. Youtube definitely = 21st century TV.
9) If someone/something destroyed the internet, the current student way of living would undoubtedly fall apart. The demise of Facebook, Youtube, Skype, Google, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Jstor and email would knife procrastination stone dead and make accessing scholarly work a nightmare. I asked my Dad last year what he used to do to procrastinate at university. He said, ‘Nothing. I just got on with work really!’. Thank goodness/it’s a shame it’s not the case now.
10) It’s far easier to send or post something online about someone, than say it to that person’s face. I look at comments on web pages, and wonder whether most people would have the guts to say the same things to the person who wrote the article or made the video. Yet it’s such an easy thing to do, to hide behind an online persona we create for ourselves.
11) Social media is essentially attention seeking, and something we’d actually be better off without. This is so hypocritical of me, but why do we post stuff online? Is it so people will notice us, find us funny/wise/cute/cool? Are we posting stuff for the right reason?
12) It’s never too late to make new friends as a finalist. I joined a student string group at the start of this year, and really made an effort to get to know other course mates I said hi to but not much else. I certainly didn’t expect to meet some more awesome people.
13) A couple of people on my course do awesome things I never knew about until this year. One of them writes songs for Girls Aloud, Kylie and the Saturdays. The other is a Youtube sensation. Having this knowledge now means I feel completely inferior in their presence, and I hope I never have to have a proper conversation with either of them, in case I say something which lets on I know this.
14) Be kind to guys. I’ve done a lot of ‘guy-bashing’ in my life. But I’ve realised that though it’s somehow seen as okay for people like Mark Driscoll to shout at men to ‘man-up’ , and for girls to complain about guys amongst ourselves, it’s somehow unheard of to blame girls too for relationship issues. Us girls who love Jesus and want to honour Him need to truly love the Christian guys around us by thinking of and treating them as brothers in the Lord. Not as potential boyfriends or husbands, but as friends. We must stop reading into every action and word, and know with certainty that the only way to know for sure if a guy ‘likes’ you is if they tell you. Plainly. In person or over the phone, not via text or email. We need to be approachable to all of them as sisters. We need to build them up in Christ, not tear them down. We need to remember our as well as their sinfulness, yet that God is constantly at work in their hearts to mould them into Christ’s likeness. We need to commend, not condemn them.
15) Relax when it comes to romantic relationships. After second year overwhelmed me with ‘romantic disappointment’, I was fed up of worrying about relationships and obsessing over the actions and words of every guy I interacted with. I told this to my friend Rachel over Skype before I started this academic year.
‘I’m sick of this,’ I moaned.
‘Have you asked God to guard your heart?’ she queried.
‘Yes, and it didn’t work!’ I huffed. She laughed.
‘Well, remember, it’s God who does the guarding!’ I probably grunted again, but she prayed there and then that God would guard my heart. Since then, the obsessive analysis has definitely pretty much vanished over the last seven months, and though I haven’t stopped finding guys attractive or thinking about relationships, I’ve stopped worrying about it.
16) Singleness is awesome but a struggle. There are so many joys, but when you start playing the comparison game with others, it’s so easy to wonder if there’s something wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get married, yet it’s wrong to waste those years moping and complaining to everyone you meet about your loneliness. It’s wrong to not challenge people’s misconceptions about singleness. And it’s also wrong to believe lies about God AND about marriage and relationships, as…
17) Marriage is i) such a huge commitment ii) messy and broken. The more I think about marriage, the more I’m aware of how much of a commitment it is. No wonder so many people in our world now choose not to officially marry. It must be terrifying having to stay loyal to another sinful person you’ll have to put up with day in and day out, no matter what happens. And it’s not a place to find security – sadly I know two young Christian women whose professing husbands completely abandoned them, walking out on them only after a couple of years marriage. This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t get married – after all, it is God’s gift to us and a wonderful way to reflect God’s love for us, and an opportunity to do ministry together as a husband-wife team – but it shouldn’t ever be undertaken lightly or idolized.
18) Perspective is essential, and worrying solves nothing. This year has been one riddled with work-related anxiety. But did that worry make it all better? No. There’s no shame in going to your GP and telling them if you feel overwhelmed with worry. Stick up reasons not to worry where you’ll see them when you wake up, pray constantly, remind yourself that there is so much more to life, and go for regular walks in the fresh air.
19) Spending time regularly with God is so important. Christians often hear this ad nauseam. But there’s a reason why. It’s so easy to put off quiet times to as late in the day as possible, squeeze Bible reading into a thoroughly inadequate 10 minutes, drift off into daydream half the time, and go through the motions. If I put off seeing friends, spend minimal time with them, don’t listen to what they say and not feel any genuine affection or love for them, will I get to know them better? (I really don’t need to answer that question do I?) Regular and thorough quiet times are not only essential for perseverance in the Christian walk, but one of the only ways to develop your relationship with God.
20) We must regularly pray for others, not just say we will. It’s so easy to say, ‘I’ll pray for you’, but so many times I’ve been guilty of not following through. Neglecting intercession isn’t fair and only adds to our preoccupation with ourselves.
21) Keep going to church, especially when you don’t feel like it. As a finalist student, you’ll get fed up of people at church asking these two questions over and over again: “How’s your dissertation going?” and “What are your plans after you graduate?”. Relax. They’re only making conversation. If you don’t want to talk about it, be honest and say ‘I don’t want to talk about that – it makes me want to join the circus’. Make sure you ask them how THEY’RE doing. Move churches if you still feel out of place after two years, but whatever you do, don’t stop attending and serving in one.
22) Motives for serving God can so easily become distorted into self-service. I’m reading a really challenging book at the moment called ‘Serving Without Sinking’ by John Hindley, which tackles our wrong thought processes behind serving in Christian community. Namely, we should be serving God because we love Him, not to get His/others’ approval or acceptance.
23) God ALWAYS answers prayer. It may not always be yes, but He is very gracious in what He grants us. And He wants to hear from His children!
24) God pulls us through dark times. I’ve found this year mentally tough, and I thought I would have dropped out long before my degree wound up. But looking back, His strength has sustained me, and will continue to keep me going till I breath my last. Praise Him indeed.
25) We are so broken and we reject God so frequently, yet God poured Himself out for us for that very reason – not so we’d feel guilty about it, but so that we can run back to Him.