Thursday 9 August 2012

Sage Advice

Watching sagely on as I flustered over packing for university, all-knowing and self-satisfied post-graduates would tell me: ‘Make sure to get involved in the societies- don’t miss out on anything!’ I would reply jubilantly in the affirmative – as I imagine most do - as I squashed the last of the drying up cloths, course texts and porridge oats into my suitcase. ‘And take a crate of beer for the first night.’

This enthusiasm for the extra-curricular often endures to the Freshers Fair where newly arrivals liberally deploy their free hand (the other clutching at an array of posters, flyers and other paraphernalia) to exultantly scrawl down their email address on sign up sheets waved under their nose in the labyrinth of stalls and balloons.  

Yet the balloons will slowly deflate and the weekly emails from the Planting and Farming Society are soon left neglected in the inbox. The urge to simply drink cheap beer and jump into bars and beds with strangers is strong and when finally – perhaps during the second bate of Freshers’ flew – the whim to follow up on those societies returns, the work load has piled up and the time appears to not be there.

With some statistics saying that as many as 80% of students are now acquiring a 2.1 or above, it is important for students not to let those emails fester but ensure that they get involved in the various spheres of university life so to lay the foundations for what they hope to achieve post-graduation.  Most students spend less than 1000 days at university so it is vital to get involved as early on as possible by going to those daunting welcome events.

I had a friend in Freshers Week who dragged me along to mumble away awkwardly to older students with him at the launch party of the university magazine. During the course of the evening my friend introduced himself to one of the editors and at her suggestion, found himself the next day marching along with a protest in the city against cuts to the NHS. He wrote an article on it, they liked it, it got published, he wrote more and eventually found himself in his third year as Assistant Editor of the magazine.

The experience he gained from his role as an editor will prove invaluable when pursuing a job in the media and it all began by simply forcing himself to attend that party of strangers. Opportunities can arise from anything if we look for them at university - a place which is about nothing if not meeting new people and trying new things, learning from experience and being prepared to tread water before we can swim.

Looking towards any career there is always something worth doing in preparation for that line of work besides your course. For example putting on a social will allow you to develop your organisation and creativity required in Event Management and Corporate Entertainment; setting up your own project or society will test your resourcefulness and business acumen; joining the Debating Society will improve not only your public speaking but the way you present your thoughts and lines of arguments in conducting interviews, presentations or lessons. 

I would recommend any student taking the lead on at least one project or event in the course of their degree. Holding ultimate responsibility will test your strength and fathoms will be learnt from the struggle and sweat to push your vision passionately through all obstacles and no matter what the outcome. It creates an appreciation of other leaders and makes that person a more valued and comprehensive team player.  

So much can be done at university that it is not only worthwhile for the enjoyment and satisfaction gained in the moment, but also in kick-starting a student’s prospects for the future. To ensure that university prepares them for the future, I would recommend viewing it not as the final stop before the real world, but a part of that real world already.

And take a crate of beer for the first night.
Bertie Digby Alexander
London 2012

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