University was a battle I never thought I could win at one stage. Between the caffeine addiction and accumulating debt, I felt like it was a never-ending war. I was a solo soldier, while lecturers, due dates and powerpoint presentations combined to make a battalion against me. University was never going to be easy. It wasn’t. Yet, despite the large work demands, I was able to enjoy my experience.
Between organisation, my support network and my thought process I was able to beat University. I’ll soon have two degrees to frame and the bliss of walking across the stage to shake a professor’s hand. (I need to consider what filters I want for when I post these moments to Instagram.)
I’m only going to say this once. Kikki K, Typo and other cute stationary buys don’t work. Sorry, but the truth does hurt. I’ve spent countless dollars on stationary that has had gold foil trim, spaces for me to write my to-do lists and pens to match. I used it once, then put it in a draw with my other failed attempts at organisation. The organisation comes from you. You need to have the motivation to keep on it. You don’t need the fancy paper with flowers to do this. A scrap piece of paper works just as fine. I know I feel better when I scribble and cross out things, which is something I couldn’t bring myself to do on a pretty piece of stationery. If it makes you happy, go for it. But know there are cheaper ways to feel organised. This was simply my biggest realisation from four years at university.
Purchase a diary at the beginning of the year to keep ahead of due dates and events. You can add in work shifts, date nights or gym days so you don’t have to cancel things to complete assignments you didn’t make time for. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice other sections of your life. Balance is crucial to defeating university. Otherwise, if you only focus on assignments and readings you’ll drive yourself insane. In the diary keep a running list of dates you need to remember. Specifically due dates. I organised this by class. I hand wrote it so I would have a better chance of remembering it. Here’s a typed up version:
Assignment one, essay, due March 15
Assignment one, book review, due March 20
It’s simple, but it worked. Every time you open your diary you’re subtly reminded that an important date is coming up. Once you hand that assignment in, cross it out for some satisfaction.
Try to keep your computer or notebooks categorised in a way that suits you. Whether this by colour, alphabetical or whatever system works for you. Back up everything you do, because technology can suck. Finally, don’t feel you need to be tied down to one method or organisation. What works for your friend might not work for you. Heck, what worked for me might not work for you. Just treat each semester as a fresh slate to trial new organisation methods.
The most important part of my university experience was the relationships I created and watched grow. Keeping a support network around you is key to not losing your mind. I owe a lot of my sanity through university to the friends I made there. We went through the exact same experience, so we understood each other. My parents and boyfriend didn’t attend university, so whenever I went to them to stress out they couldn’t 100% relate. That’s why these university friends were so vital to me. They understood the pressure and the stress of wanting to nail an assignment or exam.
Despite my family and boyfriend not understanding the full scope of the university experience, they never faltered in support. They took my mind off the stress when I needed them too. Often without me even asking. It could be as simple as watching a movie with me or encouraging me to stop studying for a bit and rest. I truly had the best of both worlds.
Thoughts and Feelings
The biggest enemy I had in the four years I spent at university was me. My thoughts often caused me to push myself into a negative space. I would allow depleting thoughts such as ‘this is a waste of time’ and ‘you’re not good enough’ invade. I would take a decent grade and turn it into a fail. I would allow a credit to define me. Having now been spit out the other end of university, I can say that failing that exam wasn’t the end of the world. Roll your eyes. I know I did when I wrote that. But failing an exam won’t matter in 10 years time.
I fought my negative feelings with various methods. I took to reading books, I took up learning to play the guitar for a bit and I tried to keep up with writing in a journal.
My best friend became a qualified life coach and she provided me with life-changing information. Thoughts create feelings which control actions. Feelings are just vibrations in our body. If you change your thoughts, you by default change the feelings. I don’t need to make anger, fear or disappointment mean something.
Instead of thinking “I didn’t get the mark I want, I’m a failure” I tried my best to think “I’ll kill it next time. I know I have talent.” I would use believable affirmations to change my feelings. I didn’t want to pick affirmations that I would call my own bluff on. The stress of an assignment and how I handled it can be applied to the more stressful times to come in the future. Bills, wedding and birth come at me!
For those of you that still have semesters ahead, know that University, bad grades and textbooks don’t define you. You define you.