Six things university has taught me outside of my degree

Sophie Hunt talks us through the most important things she's learned at university, from blagging seminars to cooking stir fry

University is a time of personal growth, learning and preparation for the world of work. But after a year and a half of being here, I’ve found that I have gained many more valuable lessons from general student life than from my degree itself. From cooking and cleaning skills to knowing your alcohol limits, being a student is a rollercoaster ride of discovery. Here are some of my top lessons…

1. The Midlands definitely exists The first and one of the most important things I’ve learnt from studying here is about the rivalry of the North and South divide. It’s clear that Northerners and Southerners are two very different breeds, both being unwaveringly loud and proud about where they’re from. However, one thing that’s very baffling to me is how the Midlands is seen as a bit of a myth. I’m from Staffordshire and therefore I can officially confirm that the Midlands does exist, and if you’re at all in doubt, just have a quick look on Google Maps at where Nottingham is situated in the country. I hope this denial of the Midlands will soon stop – #bringbacktheMidlands.

“I have very quickly learnt that I can’t cook for shit.”

2. The Art of fancy dress Another lesson you will learn within the first few days of Fresher’s Week is that fancy dress is a serious sport here. Pre-uni days stupid-old-me thought that fancy dress was exclusively for Halloween, but boy oh boy was I wrong. From Baywatch t-shirts in Ocean to superhero night in Crisis, fancy dress is rife in Notts. I’m a big advocate for fancy dress: any excuse to whack on a mask or bring out my shiny mermaid leggings from Luvyababes and I’m there. But be warned, go cheap or you will seriously regret it. You will most definitely return from a night out with only half of your costume intact.


3. Blagging seminars Being an English student, the reading lists we are given are longer than Apple terms and conditions. Naturally, a lot of this reading doesn’t get done. So, a most useful skill I have acquired is how to blag very convincingly about a book where I didn’t get past the first page. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can put this on my CV. Many of my literature seminars have consisted of me frantically looking up the synopsis five minutes before and then proceeding to nod aggressively in agreement whilst everyone else discusses the novel. Sparknotes is my best friend and I think I owe them my degree if I ever graduate. Any fellow English student will agree with me on this one.

“the best free item I have ever been given is an ingenious invention: the canvas bag.”

4. Cooking (or not) Next is the topic of feeding yourself. I was in catered halls in first year which left me with severely inadequate cooking skills going into a house last September. I have very quickly learnt that I can’t cook for shit. Whilst the rest of my housemates prep and bake their food to perfection, constantly consulting their student cookbooks and trying new recipes, I am currently living on a diet of crisps, hummus and pitta bread, and the one thing I can cook: stir fry. It’s evidently a very balanced diet. Some of you lucky sods out there will have been blessed with natural culinary prowess, but for me I’m lucky if I don’t give myself food poisoning. Better to learn and accept my cooking failures now when I have the rest of my adult life to improve.

5. (Free) canvas bags One of the greatest things about a student and another thing obvious from Fresher’s Week is the simple fact that we get given a lot of free stuff. I have eaten more free Domino’s pizza slices from Portland than I care to admit. But amongst all the t-shirts, posters, pens and keyrings, the best free item I have ever been given is an ingenious invention: the canvas bag. Right, let me explain. The canvas bag has many uses, firstly for food shopping. Save yourself a few pence and the anxiety of your plastic bags splitting whilst you trek back from Lidl with a few trusty canvas bags. Secondly, for stuffing all your mates’ coats into on a night out so you can save money on the cloakroom. By mid-October most won’t be brave enough to brace a night out without some kind of outer layer and a canvas bag can be easily stuffed into your pocket before you need to crack it out, so thank me later.

6. Extra-curricular activities The final life lesson I have learnt as a student is that doing a degree just isn’t enough anymore. You have to be involved with 27294 societies, be an Olympic level sportsperson, have more work experience than you’ve had hot dinners and somehow manage to juggle all that with housework, social activities, sleep and studying. Every job application I’ve filled out or interview I’ve been to I’ve ended up speaking about extra-curricular stuff more than my actual degree, so do yourself a favour and do something productive with your time.

So there they are, my pearls of wisdom from my university experience so far. Hopefully we’ll all leave university equipped with the skills to conquer the world, but first let’s work out how to use a gas oven.

Sophie Hunt

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All images courtesy of Sophie Hunt.


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