Before I even start, I am going to hold my hands up and say that— this is probably my fault and inadequacy— I did not revel in my university life at all. Similarly, as a university lecturer, when I enquire my students whether they like to study at university or not, they—almost everyone—answer negatively. For several reasons, I devastated my four years of university life as an undergraduate student and I know for sure that many of you are doing the same. Although some of you are excited about coming back to university campus again and again, most of the students wish for long semester breaks…This article is aiming to address both of the above audiences. If you already find your university life an exciting and fulfilling experience, can it get any better? For those that see university life as a bit of a chore and just a ‘have-to-get-through’ period, I can guarantee that taking up just a few extra-curricular activities will dramatically spice up your university academic experience. Now, why am I talking about jazzing up your academic experience?
Because the effects of academic boredom can be problematic—affecting student engagement and achievement in a negative way, it should be taken seriously. What some students do is go to university and come back home. There is nothing else. In fact, it does not look like they are living a university life. How sad! Nevertheless, the good news is that you can make university life better. Below, I have delineated some of the ways through which you can make your university life much more interesting:
Make friends and have fun
Being an extreme introvert—a retiring and reticent person, I used to isolate myself in the library with nothing but my lecture notes while watching others having much fun. Don’t do that. Make friends and have fun! Moreover, it’s really not enough to just stick with the group of friends who have followed you to the same university from your college or school life. If you want a memorable university life with new and exciting experiences, it’s time to break out of that familiar, comfortable bubble and make new friends. University life is supposed to be a time when you discover more about yourself, and making new friends will really help with that. Learn from each other by sharing your experiences because it’ll make you a more rounded person and equip you with the skills needed to work with all kinds of people in the outside world. One of the best things about university is that it puts you in contact with so many new people. Thus, try to capitalise on this as much as possible by making a lot of new friends!
Get involved in extra-curricular activities
Graduating students often regret not getting involved on campus. So do I. While this doesn't mean you have to set up your own club or become the president of a club, you might want to consider taking part in different on-campus competitions, submitting an article to the university magazine, volunteering in different club activities, doing research with faculty members, signing up to attend seminars and conferences, or perhaps joining a student society or sports team. There is more to university life than sitting in lectures, submitting assignments or studying for the exams. So, look for opportunities to get involved on campus from day one.
Study somewhere different and use nice stationery
Studying often gets boring simply because you don’t change the place where you study most of the time. Studying in a different place can make the whole process feel less stressful and more jovial at the same time. I sometimes sit in my balcony and read books in the afternoon. Sometimes, I study sitting on a chair and table; sometimes I study completely lying on the bed. So, always try to bring some changes in how you do things. If being outside isn’t an option for you to study, you could—at least—be somewhere else in your house. Moreover, some people learn better by association, so you could study different subjects in different rooms, making sure you study each subject in the designated place. After all, the golden rule of studying is that nothing is silly if it helps you learn. Furthermore, if you have a desk full of lovely pens, pencils, notebooks, highlighters, and stickers, now is the time to use them and find delight in them. After all, if it’s not to be used when you have important studying to do, why bother hoarding lovely stationery in the first place? So, use them now, my dear!
Avoid doing the bare minimum
Being a student isn't just about showing up to mandatory classes or coming to the exam hall on time or making an appearance in the unavoidable university programmes. Try to attend all your classes (no matter how early in the morning they are scheduled), bring all necessary materials in the class including textbooks, calculators, notebooks, lecture handouts, etc., and avoid leaving assignments or exam study until the very last day. If you need to miss a class or don't think you can meet an assessment deadline, it's best to have a chat with your lecturer or faculty advisor, so that they can provide assistance. Maintaining this regularity and activeness all along will increase your confidence and self-esteem, ultimately making you happy. Therefore, avoid doing the bare minimum, my dear, otherwise you will make your university life dreary, tedious, and depressing!
Keep an eye out for great opportunities
Some of the opportunities that university life has to offer will be easy to find out if you are vigilant on campus. Of course, if you don’t check your emails or pay attention to the university official Facebook page/notice board, you’ll miss out even on this. Therefore, putting some extra effort into your search for opportunities will be worthwhile. What kind of opportunities am I talking about? There’s a wide range that is accessible to students. It might be a great internship at a really exciting company, an exciting competition, a call for application for a fellowship/scholarship. These are the sorts of things that might be posted on your department/university notice board, but that you’ll never find about if you don’t visit that notice board/Facebook page frequently. So, keep an eye out for great opportunities, do some research, and reap the rewards. Participating in those opportunities will bring happiness in your mind.
Consider a student exchange programme or summer school overseas
What better time to experience the world than as a carefree student? No institution stops its students from grabbing the opportunity to study overseas during their university life. Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, from short term study tours for a couple of weeks to a full semester or year completed abroad. The overseas study gives you the opportunity to travel, experience a different way of life and make new friends from all around the world. If you choose to study in a non-English-speaking country, you can also expand your language skills. Of course, there is also the opportunity to add life experience to your resume, something that many employers value from graduates straight out of university. So, search for student exchange programmes and summer school programmes. I will cover a number of student opportunities in details in another article in the future.
Work part-time if you can
Working part-time at university can be a very worthwhile experience: working as a teaching assistant or research assistant. Although most of the universities in Bangladesh don’t offer these sorts of opportunities for the students, a number of top ranking universities offer such kinds of part-time work opportunities on campus. Even if your university does not offer any on-campus job opportunity, you can try doing some private tutoring or something else relevant to your future career. It’s good for your CV that you showed up and did a job that others might not have found all that interesting. And if it does happen to be something relevant for your future career, then it’s so much the better. Isn’t it? It might be a stepping-stone to a full-time job once you graduate.
Finally, it has been shown that there is a strong correlation between a sense of belonging and the feeling of happiness. So, in order to be happy at university, you need to feel you belong. And to feel that, you need to get involved on campus. Naturally, we care about a place or a project a lot more if we have contributed to it or if we have dedicated a part of ourselves to it. University is just the place to try out everything you have always been meaning to, and in this process, discover and develop new talents. Always question yourself— “What are you getting out of university?” and “How can you make it better?” Enjoy your university life! Rest assured that if you follow the above-mentioned guidelines, you definitely will. Best wishes for you!
The writer is a Lecturer in Finance at Bangladesh Army International University of Science and Technology (BAIUST), Cumilla Cantonment. Email: [email protected]