From First Year to Last, 10 things I wish I Would Have Known Before Starting University.

1. Treat your first year as your carte blanche

You may- like me -feel that you are obligated to pick modules and courses that strictly adhere to your career aspirations but that is not the case! Use your first year to get a feel of different courses that may interest you as well as those that would be beneficial to you. I am a publishing major; yes, I spent my first semesters, every Friday in a Japanese Culture lecture that I found no interest. Besides that, I also found out that I have a great interest in Film Studies; I even learned a thing or two that helped me ace a few of my essays in Publishing Media. Moral of the story; no effort is wasted in first year when it comes to your modules. The only time I’d ever say someone is wasting their first year is when they are not taking advantage of opportunities first year has to offer.

2. No, your first year doesn’t count but be mindful
In many universities, it is only the grades you receive in your second/third/final years that actually count towards your overall classification. Now, this is all find and dandy but just be mindful that first year could just be a smudge of your university experience that you just wish to wipe out or it could potentially be the blueprint for your final years. What I mean by this is that you could do absolutely horrible in your first year but there is always ample chance to redeem yourselves. Alternatively, you, like me, can take your first year as a learning experience. My first year really showed me what my weak points were and allowed me to focus on strengthening those weaknesses. Don’t get back those exam results or those marked essays with Cs and Ds on them and think ‘”oh well, it’s only first year” I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that it only gets  a lot harder!

3. Find a lecturer, subject or academic adviser that you like and build a rapport with them.

It is really unfortunate that in many cases, students go through their whole university experience without building a rapport with the people that teach them. University is a completely different ball game to sixth form or college. You do not always have the luxury of an assigned tutor that you can touch base with everyday like you did in school. I’ve only spoken to my now academic adviser about 3 times and I am just finishing my final year! Whether it is a subject adviser, a lecturer or academic adviser, make sure you build a rapport with at least one of these people. These are the people you will need to seek out for things like references, job recommendations, questions and queries and academic support. This is not to say that there aren’t an array of  allocated people you can go to for a specific issue or query but it is always better to know that you do have some sort of a mentor in your corner that knows you and that you feel comfortable to talk to.

4. No, you do not need to be a party animal to fit in

Freshers was daunting for me, I was  never a drinker or a partier, in fact I’d never been to  a club before starting uni. I therefore thought it would be harder for me to make friends but that turned out to be furthest from the truth. Please do not feel the need to attend freshers if you do not want to, yes it is a good experience to meet new people but it’s not for everyone and that’s more than okay. You will have several opportunities through out your experience to meet new people from your flat mates (shall you have any) to the people on your course. Most of my now friends are people who shared the same courses I did in first year, I’ve even met some good friends in my final year.

5. Get to know your flatmates

One thing I will say in terms of meeting new people is get to know your flat mates, be open, be friendly and don’t shy away from interaction with them. You need to get comfortable with the people you will be living with because inevitably, you will be sharing a flat with them. You will not enjoy a year of living people you re not comfortable with being around. Now I’m not saying that you have to be best buddies but just simple things like showing your face around the flat often and saying a quick hello when you see your flatmates is a way to break that barrier between you and new flat mates. Also, the “So what are you studying” and “so did you have a lecture today” questions can get so repetitive and tedious but they are nonetheless great ice-breakers.I kid you not,  these questions have been the start of beautiful friendships for me.

5. If you are not comfortable with your academic adviser, request a new one

This one is going to be short and simple; if you are not comfortable with your academic adviser (or subject tutor as some universities like to call them) then request a new one. In most cases students are allowed to request a new academic adviser, perhaps one that is more suited to them and the subjects that they study. My academic adviser was someone who had only ever taught masters students and had no real sense of the phrase ‘first year student’; you can probably just imagine how much of disaster that was for me. So, if you’re on the same boat as I was, then jump off and swim to a new one.  Request. A. New. Academic. Adviser. Please, for your own sanity.

6. It really does only get harder

The difference between your first year and second year (or second year and third year) is no joke. Trust me when I say, that the difference will come at you like fright train out of nowhere. First year is a walk in the park compared to your final years. Even if you were straight A student in your first year DO NOT expect to maintain that average by putting in the same effort. Double those efforts, in fact triple those efforts if you wish to maintain those healthy grades. I won’t lie to you, I was easily an A/B student in my first year which caused me to be complacent, so much so that I thought  I would easily graduate university with a first class honours (key word ‘THOUGHT’ you guys). I’m not saying that good grades are not attainable because they really are, you just have to ensure that you are continuously working VERY hard at it.

7. Start thinking about work experience by the time first year comes to a close

Please do not listen to anyone who tells you that you do not need to be thinking about work experience so soon because they are lying to you. Ideally, you should start thinking about work experience by the end of your first year. Experience looks great on your CV, having work experience by the start of your second year already puts you steps ahead of your peers. My first course related work experience was in between my first and second year, I cannot be more happy that I took part in it. I know of people now, who have no experience and are struggling to find work experience in their third year. Leaving it till your third year is just plain risky. This is doesn’t by any means suggest that having no experience means your job prospects are 0 to none, it just means that building up your resume from early years puts you ahead of the game and that’s where you want to be!

8. Extra-Curricular

This piece of advise can be related to any university student but mostly media students like myself. Another way of building your resume and getting yourself noticed is by being a self-starter. I have been publishing content online since I was in year 11, I had my own blog as well as several other digital magazines that I contributed content to. You would be surprised at how many companies within the creative media, publishing and journalistic industry are interested in seeing your published content online before considering you as an applicant. Many times I am asked to send in a piece of my work and my CV as opposed to a cover letter. This is something that is super easy for students to get involved in, granted you don’t mind writing.

9. Be a self-starter

Now is a better time than ever to consider being a self-starter. I don’t necessarily find it ideal that the status-quo of today’s youth is to go to university in order to get a corporate job. I feel like more should be done to promote entrepreneurship in young people. Look at your hobbies, what can be done to turn this hobbies into a job? Perhaps even a paying job? Again, I use myself as an example (sorry guys lol). I have enjoyed writing and reading, I’ve had my work published online which led to me being paid to write articles for different online magazines  and self-publishing my own fiction novel. This is not to brag but this is to tell you that pursuing entrepreneurship, turning a hobby into a job and getting your degree is all very possible. If that is something that interests you then don’t be afraid to pursue it. You’re university students, you have resources at your hands that many other people do not have; take advantage of them.

10. Take advantage of freebies and discounts

Consider university to be the world in between your carefree youth and hard knock adult life. Yes, life is probably easier in university than it would be in adult life (I’ll get back to you a few years down the line to confirm or deny this notion) but your yester years of weekly allowances, mumzy ringing up the GP to book an appointment for you, having dinner on the table when you get home and only worrying about transport money are long gone. What’s most important too understand is that you will be paying for your own living expenses and fair enough a lot of us are fortunate enough to receive loan and grant but that sometimes isn’t enough. You need to budget. Don’t be like I was in my first year that went home every half term and holiday broke as a joke. Budget your money and take advantage of freebies and discounts. I cannot tell you how many times my club card points from Tesco have saved me from going home to pot noodle and boiled eggs. See what perks your bank is offering in regards to student accounts. For instance, Santander gives students who bank with them a free 16-25 railcard that will literally save you hundreds a year travelling between home and university (if you use the train to travel between university and home)

Pro-Blackness: Where We Get Lost In Translation

Okay, so you use the internet? You’re a millennial with the use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the three pillars of social media? If you answered yes to those questions then you probably know about just how much this re-emergence of ‘pro-blackness’ is taking off. Better I call it a renaissance because the movement is nothing like it was in the times of our parents and their parents. It has been re-birthed on the foundation of 21st century ideologies.

Now, the reemergence of the movement with gusto isn’t a bad thing at all, in fact it is something to rejoice, I, in my life thus far , have never seen black people more universally proud of their skin and heritage or wanting to know more about it. It’s refreshing. It’s binding. It’s empowering.  It’s something I hope transcends generations to come in a positive way.

HOWEVER, there  are flip sides here. Oppressive, undesirable irritating flip sides. Flip sides that I’ve seen much too often this year. Let me briefly say this, what you may love, I may love. What you may, love I may hate. What you may believe, I may not and we should feel okay about that. These are the essentials of what I deem to be a cohesive pro-black movement. Open to all, discriminating to none, encouraging discussion, welcoming varying opinions. What people should ideally understand about the pro-black movements is that we shouldn’t be here envisioning goals of creating robots with the same ideologies and perspectives, the purpose is not to create or impose identities for and onto people. What this generation of pro-blackness needs to be doing is  paving a pathway for the next generations; several path ways in fact! It needs to give them the tools, the platforms and the confidence to face adversity, to speak up and to show pride. It needs to teach tolerance, brake social barriers, give knowledge that leads to empowerment.

I could go on and on about this but for the love of my own sanity as well as yours, I will endeavour to tweak it into a list much more accessible to the human eye and brain.

  1. I AM NOT MY HAIR; MY HAIR IS NOT ME!

Listen up people, the length of your Afro is no measure of what is within! To think that how you style your hair is a testament to how pro black you are or a statement of self-love/hate is very wrong not to mention so not ideal! So what if you as a black woman or man, fully intact with your on sense of expression and independence want to rock the biggest afro or a bone sleek, kinky, or pixie  weave in different colours. Sometimes I don’t like my uncooperative afro and I’m allowed to do that. Sometimes I hate the idea of wigs and weaves, I’m allowed to do that. Sometimes I could care less about my hair and guess what? I’m allowed to do that too!

2. Can we agree to disagree? Is that allowed these days?

Let’s be realistic for a second. So, you and I are not the same person, do not know the same people, grew up in different places, had a different upbringing and do not share a brain yet you seem to think that we absolutely must agree on everything?! We can’t really get so obtuse whenever our brothers and sisters do not agree with our opinions. Please, do not call me a coon or anything of the sort for not agreeing with you….. ever!

3. Sell me down the river you will not!

Okay this goes out to the people who supposedly care about black lives but don’t extend the love to black lives that share non-heterosexual orientations! Let’s keep it short and snappy; no one likes a hypocrite.

4. Let’s chat.

Whether it’s a tête-à-tête with your mates or an open discussion in the comments of an Instagram page, discussion should always be welcomed.  To force someone in a corner of silence, to berate someone for having an opinion or to infer that certain people cannot join certain conversations isn’t the most ideal route of options. No race should feel uncomfortable discussing the issues caused by racism. It’s retrogressive, useless and ineffective. It’s like trying to find out what x + y-x equals without having the values f x and y (I’m not a mathematician but I’m sure you get the gist). Face it, the problems of racism will never go away without the cooperation of all races to some extents.

5. Nobody has the time or patience for an intellectual masturbator.

And by intellectual masturbator I do not mean someone who gets titillated by solving maths equations or coming across scientific happenstance. I mean those people who have the knowledge but don’t know what to do with it. Those that would rather hold that knowledge over your head than share that knowledge with you. If people actually shared important knowledge these days instead of brandishing it like a brand new toy that  they have and you don’t  then we wouldn’t be having this virtual conversation right now.  Go forth and spread knowledge accompanied with wise and positive words. Knowledge is key so open minds and open doors. Don’t preach, teach! Don’t masturbate, educate! Don’t lecture….  (Sorry, nothing sensible really rhymed with ‘lecture’).

Glorified Stoner?

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Is there anything wrong with the glorified life of a stoner?

Everybody knows somebody that knows somebody that’s a stoner. A lot of these weed smokers start young and don’t see anything wrong with smoking it sometime in their lives. Plus there always seems to be that argument of weed not being bad for you, or cigarettes and alcohol are worse for you than weed is or the oh so popular one these days; Obama smoked weed, Miley does it, Bob Marley smoked weed, so why can’t I?

Well let’s look at it from two viewpoints. I happen to know a lot of stoners but I myself do not smoke so I will try to provide a balanced argument.

The Glorious Side

On the one hand some people who do smoke are in fact geniuses and these geniuses say that weed is the trigger that unleashes their more artful sides, let’s take one of the most influential weed smokers ever Bob Marley. Bob Marley believed that weed was a natural herb and that it revealed you to yourself.

Many people do believe that weed calms people down and many use it to meditate and relax. So in some ways you can say that weed is a harmless and natural herb. I mean things like alcohol and cigarettes are chemically modified substances whereas weed is a plant that you grow naturally. What is the harm in that?

Not so Glorious

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There hasn’t really been any solid evidence that weed actually good or bad for you but have you really met a weed smoker from both spectrums of the board? The weed smokers who turn into these artful vibes and actually do something productive with these vibes or the weed smokers who you could call addicts; the ones who would spend their last penny on the stuff? Well I have.

I have met some people who become someone else when they have smoked ; someone who creates their best work when they have smoked whether it’s poetry, art or music, their best work is after a blunt.

However I have met people who are actual potheads and would spend their last penny on weed, they also become grumpy and aggressive when they haven’t smoked. I also know a group of older people who have smoked all their lives and they wished they had stopped when they were younger because not only does it really effect them now but they find it very hard to stop. It is plain to see weed has become the centre of their lives and it wears away at your brain. They complain about memory loss, mood swings, obliviousness.

Despite long term effects, weed are glorified by media to a point where many young people feel like they must smoke it. These days people have access to media from a very young age and when things like weed is being glorified by all of these celebrities younger people are more prone to start at young age. So is it such a good idea that people like Miley Cyrus or Rihanna with such young fans take titles as glorified weed smokers?

In my personal opinion I believe that you have the freedom to do whatever you want but at the same time people must remember that somethings you do have ramifications when glorifying the life of a stoner, remember that young people are looking at what the media does and says and with platforms as reaching as Twitter, we are only making it easier to draw people into that lifestyle.

Not to say that their is anything evidentially wrong with smoking it but you must look at the wider picture, it is still illegal and is a drug and it’s just not something that I believe should be promoted on such a wide scale. If people want to smoke at their own leisure they should have the right to do just that