The Three Biggest Tips I Learned As a First-Year

A person sitting in a chair with a laptop resting on their lapWritten by: Swathi Thushiyandan

I’m someone who has never moved once in their entire life, has grown up with the same friend group for the past seven years, and rarely leaves their hometown. It’s no surprise that moving three hours away from home for eight months was a huge jump for me (spoiler alert: it ended up being six months instead). There were so many things I needed to learn and relearn before becoming a successful undergraduate student. Although I’m still on my journey towards becoming that “it” student, here are a few key tips that got me started on my journey.

#1. Physical scheduling is my best friend... and could be yours too!

Frankly, the notes and reminders apps on my phone never exactly worked for me. Memorizing my tasks for the day wasn’t exactly an option for me either especially with a seven-course load. This wasn’t high school anymore. Teachers weren’t going to check up on you everyday to make sure you’re caught up. So, what’s left for me to do? Creating a written schedule! Listen, to many people, this may be old school. However, this ended up being the most effective way for me to figure out what exactly I must do and when I have to do them by.

First, I started off by creating a page with eight sections: one for each course and an additional one for extra-curriculars and personal tasks. However, this resulted in leaving everything to the Friday of the week, which ended up being super stressful. After that, I added a calendar to this method. After figuring out what exactly I had to do for the week, I wrote down which day of the week I should do them on. I also included how long they would take so that I wouldn’t overwhelm myself for the day.

#2. Empathy is key.

Oftentimes empathy is used interchangeably with sympathy. However, these are two very different traits a person can have. As a first-year student, you’re living with your friends every single day, 24/7. This could mean, as it did for me, that you might need to expand your emotional range. It was no longer about just saying, “Oh, I know how you feel about the quiz you just failed. I’ve failed so many quizzes in my life too!” To a lot of people, that might not be what they want to hear. Sometimes, they just want someone to share their pain with, and that’s okay too. Empathy is all about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and understanding their needs and wants. Learning how to use empathy and turning it into a trait of your own can help you form connections with people that you’ve never been able to form before.

#3. Love and accept yourself as a person before trying to love others.

Although we just talked about forming valuable connections with others, first-year university taught me that I must nurture my own self-connection first. A lot of people have heard the phrase, “love yourself first” before, but how many people have actively tried pursuing this? I know it took me a while to do it because I was so overwhelmed with presenting myself to other people in the best way possible. This meant putting their wants and needs first and ensuring they thought of me as a likeable person. However, this resulted in me losing myself as a human being. I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be, someone I didn’t even recognize. I was no longer putting myself first, and that became mentally exhausting. Because I didn’t have my own identity, there was no reason to take care of myself because it felt as though I didn’t matter. However, I quickly learned that this wasn’t helping anyone at all. I wasn’t helping the people who I thought I was helping because I ended up exhausting myself quickly. Loving yourself first allows you to build your own identity. I’m not going to lie, self-acceptance is scary. My journey towards self-acceptance still isn’t complete. However, recognizing that you need to learn to accept yourself is the best first step. This journey will allow you to learn to become an overall healthier and happier person, allowing you to not only help yourself when you need to, but better help others as well.

These tips may not have been the tips you were looking for. Maybe you were looking for something more academic-based, or something that could kickstart your career as the next CEO of a big company. However, I believe that it starts with the small things. The soft skills you build for yourself, such as organization, self-discipline, empathy, and self-acceptance, are what helps you get started on your journey to becoming that CEO. University is all about your journey. How you start your journey is key, so make sure to start it right, and don’t be afraid of the hurdles and lessons you’ll learn along the way as well!

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