New year, new me: how to make the most of your time at university

With a new year comes a new start – or so they say. But really, after a couple of days the feeling of being born again has already been stamped out. Nothing is different from how it was the year before; the weather is the same, the people are the same, and for better or for worse, we are the same.

Our list of resolutions, recycled from the last five years, are once again in the bin. That hungover fry-up on the first of January means you’ll give going vegan a go next year, and as for stopping drinking? Well, you were necking Carlsberg at two in the morning.

University is like New Year’s Eve. It’s romanticised: from our earliest years we are exposed to movies, films and books which glorify the university experience. The first month is a train-wreck, and it gets better for a while until the novelty wears off and it just becomes a bit ‘meh’. We take photos of ourselves with friends – most of whom, to be honest, we’ll scarcely see after we graduate, much less so than our home friends – at Ocean, week in, week out, because there are no other memories to photograph.

Despondent, we might read articles about ‘How to Make the Most of Your Time at University’, and are told what we have always known –  ‘go to the gym’ and ‘join a new society’, both brilliant ideas that very few people get round to, and many of those few who do might say this has improved their quality of life, but probably hasn’t actually changed it.

“University’s only a bubble if you want it to be”

To help this new year really be a new start, Impact gives you a list of things that will make a change – for while you’re at uni and beyond.

Look at how much fun I'm having. What a great memory. So happy. And alone.

Look at how much fun I’m having. What a great memory. So happy. And alone.

  1. Be an Academic

Actually go to your lectures. And not just because you’re paying for them, but because you want to learn. Sure, you can go over the slides, tucked up in your bed after Crisis, but you don’t get the same immediacy and interaction with the subject as you would actually being there. They can be dire sometimes, but as pointed out in our Are Lectures Even Necessary? article, lectures stir up a passion for the subject – and you’re much more likely to have a breakthrough in that problem you’ve been working on when you’re fully immersed in the subject space.

But being an academic involves more than punctuality: attend extracurricular lectures when they occur, book a careers appointment to help you with your next steps, and actually talk to lecturers – many of whom will be more than happy to go for a coffee or a beer. They’re world experts, and university is the only place you can find them easily. And if you do all this and still don’t feel academic enough, go to as many balls and formals as you can, dress up fancy and eat lunch beforehand in Hugh Stew canteen to get that classic Oxbridge feeling.

  1. Learn a Language

The university offers a number of language evening classes throughout the year – the deadline for enrolling on a Spring term course is the 16th of January – but if they don’t fit in with your schedule or you don’t want to fork out, there are plenty of great language-learning platforms online, many of which you can find for free. Mandarin, Russian, Arabic, French and Spanish are all really useful languages to learn in terms of career prospects, but it can be fun to learn a language just for the hell of it, and to open yourself up to more cultures. Esperanto, though artificially constructed and not without its faults, is a very simple language to learn, and can open the doors not only to communication but can also act as a springboard off of which you can learn other European languages.

  1. Go Travelling

“Nottingham is perfectly placed for seeing more of our Fair Isle”

You don’t have to spend a lot of money – Nottingham is perfectly placed in the country for seeing more of our Fair Isle. The Peak District isn’t far off, and in the Midlands we have our very own Chicago in Birmingham, the fastest-growing city in the UK with an amazing nightlife to boost. Nottingham itself has tons to do for when you have friends or family visiting, or just fancy a day off work. For those who want to travel further afield and see more of the world, it’s worth checking out how to travel on a budget.

  1. Enrol on an Internship

This doesn’t have to be long – I’m not just talking about summer internships here. Even a seven-day programme which you can fit around your university timetable, or all at once during reading week, can bring you some invaluable experience, and the more internships you fit in now, while student finance keeps on rolling in, the less likely you’ll have to spend months post-graduation doing unpaid work and really knowing what it means to live on just beans on toast.

  1. Shake up the Nightlife

Variety is the spice of life, and while we know that we can’t go wrong with a nice dip in the Ocean, there are plenty of other things to do around town when the sun sets. Nottingham has a fantastic live music and poetry scene, and the Glee Club and Just the Tonic are comedy clubs with guaranteed laughs. University Campus’ very own New Theatre puts on professional-quality productions throughout the year with an all-student cast, so if you like what you see – and chances are you will – you can always get involved.

“We know it sounds mental, but go to Rock City on a Friday”

On the alcoholic side of things, Be At One is an amazing new American-style cocktail bar in the Lace Market, and there are plenty of independent pubs which provide a nice change from ’Spoons. And we know it sounds mental, but go to Rock City on a Friday for Get Lucky, and dance to the perfect mix of nostalgic pop and current club bangers. Avoid the Ocean queues and the scramble for a ticket, and best of all it’s free entry before 11, and livens up very soon after.

  1. See Your Home Friends

University is only a bubble if you want it to be, and if you’ve realised that your group of friends from back home diminished after Sixth Form, think of how many you’ll let go post-university, when you all inevitably return to different parts of the country, or even the world. It’s worth staying in touch with your home friends not just so there’s someone there for when you get bored two days into your holiday, but because for all the faults your friendships seem to have half a year in when you’re convinced you’ve met ‘your type of people’, they were your people once, and everyone knows you can’t really have ‘too many friends’.

  1. Become Yourself

Experiment. Be spontaneous; say yes to new opportunities. Watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and take a day off yourself and see where it takes you. Don’t be afraid to let new people in, and try to avoid the cliquey mentality which tends to develop after Freshers. Even for people with graduation on the horizon, the great thing about university is there never stops being opportunities to meet people and try new things. Contact that friend you made in halls on your first day who you haven’t seen in two years; have a catch-up. Watch Fresh Meat and revel in the great insignificance of it all, content in the knowledge that day-to-day, everybody’s university experience is pretty tame. But most importantly, go out and make some memories with the people that you love, because there is never a better time for finding out who you are and what you like than here and now. But most importantly of all…

  1. Write for Features and Get Involved

Happy New Year, everybody.

Matteo Everett

Featured Image ‘Another Year’ by frankieleon on Flickr, embedded image by Matteo Everett.

One Comment
  • Bill Chapman
    4 January 2017 at 07:58
    Leave a Reply

    Learning a new language is certainly good for the brain. My view is that learning any language is worth doing, although life is simply too short to learn them all. We need to ask ourselves which language we are learning and why. Learn Mandarin, and you’re tongue –tied in Japan. Learn Portuguese and you can’t even ask for a loaf of bread in Germany. Learn Arabic and you are reduced to miming in Russia. The obvious solution would be to make wider use of Esperanto, as you suggest.

    Esperanto works. I’ve used it in about twenty countries over recent years. I recommend it to anyone, as a way of making friendly local contacts in other countries.

    Over 550,000 people have signed up to the free Duolingo Esperanto course in the last year.

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