Since I left university, I've not been writing as much as I would like to be. This is good as it means I have a job! But it's taken away from the time I had to write about what I wanted. I've also started ploughing through the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels (just starting no 11/42 today!). So I thought I'd try and make more time for writing to get back into the swing of things by talking about things closer to my personal situation.
This will be the first in a series of posts about university life and the transition from undergrad to graduate and on to being a 'young professional' as I go through that transition myself. so lets get started...
After being at university for 4 years I hope I've picked up a trick or two to make life a little easier. So as the new academic year approaches and freshers week is nearly upon us, I have a few tips and good habits to get into as early as possible. These are hopefully slightly more original than other 'tips for university' posts but I haven't actually looked at any so who knows! I was late to the game on many of these and now I wish I had thought about these things before I had already graduated. So, here we go...
- Keep a regular routine- getting up at the same time every day shouldn’t be that hard. If you get up at the same time you can still have late nights, you just go to bed earlier the next day or have a power nap or two during the day. You will have a much better sleep schedule and you’ll probably have way more time to do what you want to do.
- Learn where the good places to go for a night out are- don’t just go to the same 2 or 3 clubs that everyone goes to every time, you’re probably missing out on dozens of amazing places and countless fantastic drinks! When you leave uni and aren’t solely concentrating on how drunk you can get for the least money spent, you’ll regret not taking the time to introduce your liver to some drinks that might just about make it worth the last few years of punishment!
- Learn how to use Microsoft Office properly. Just by learning and implementing a few simple tricks with Word, PowerPoint and Excel will make your life WAY easier. By using headings, templates, format painter and layouts you can create a report or presentation with minimal effort that looks great every time. It might be a bit of a hassle to start off with, but once you get into the swing of it you’ll be wondering why you were doing everything manually like a chump all this time! For me, the absolute game changer was finding out that you can view a document in two windows, so you can look at two sections of a document side by side. My scrolling finger is very grateful for this feature!
- On the same lines, learn how to use a reference manager and use it properly. If your university will give you access, use EndNote, it may look slightly clunky but it is super functional and the word plug-in (there’s even a plug-in for PowerPoint) works like a dream! You can import citations from pdfs and from websites such as PubMed, organise your references super quickly using smart groups to bring all the papers on the same topic together and you can very quickly add citations on the fly in no time once you get the hang of it. Another super useful feature is that you can see the citations from the documents you’re working on in EndNote, so you can easily find the articles you’re using straight away.If you can’t get access to EndNote, then I’d recommend Mendeley, it’s free, slightly easier to use and looks much nicer, but it isn’t as functional. I’ve never used Zotero but I hear it’s also a good choice too.
- If you're studying a biomedical related subject, try out pubcrawler, it's a fantastic tool that trawls pubmed (a database for all biomedical journal articles) for articles you're interested in, you can search by title, author, journal, subject as specifically or broadly as you like. If you wonder how some people manage to somehow always be on top of the latest in the literature, this is probably how they do it.
- Get properly involved in societies, and try lots of different ones. Aside from the usual sports teams, there's often lots of other fantastic societies that people don't make enough use of. Some of them may not have great people involved, so you might want to give them a miss, but if you try a few out and stick with it, you could soon end up finding a group of people you'd never expected to get so close to. For me this was TEDxUoN, who summed up the whole point of the uni experience for me; people coming together from wildly differing backgrounds and coming together to talk about shared passions, to learn from each other and have a damn good time doing it!
- Living in the centre of town or slightly out of the central student housing hub is definitely not a bad thing! Sure you might have to walk slightly further to get to places (also not necessarily a bad thing) but you will likely find much quieter, cleaner and cheaper housing if you go a bit further out. These houses may be more dominated by post graduates but there's some real gems you could be missing out on. The best ones are generally houses that used to be a family home that is now being rented out to students, so the house will have been well maintained for far longer and a lot of things are much more modern than a house that was bought for student accommodation.
Finally, don't forget to have the best time of your life (easy right?), the stress and the debt will all be worth it if you make the most of every day that you are there! Let me know what your top tips are for people starting or staying at university. I'll soon be putting up more posts about making the most of university life, how to transition back to the 'real world' and lots more.