Moving To University – Lessons I Have Learnt

For most of us, going to university or college is the optimal choice for pursuing further knowledge in the academia. You might choose to study at the local post-secondary institution, or if you are like me, decide to go somewhere further away from home. Regardless of what you choose, there will be a big leap on your journey. It would be fun, exciting, adventurous, mind-opening experience, but it could also be stressful, scary, over-whelming at the same time. For so, I would like to share with you my story of coming to a university on my own, outside of my comfort zone, and tell you what I have learnt so far. This would be an on-going series, so I am posting monthly.

  1. Engage with the professors

Back in high school, teachers usually tell you to do homework, keep you focus in class, give you the necessary materials to study for exam, etc. However, your university professors would be less likely to do the same thing like that. It is simply impossible for a class of hundreds of students. Therefore, it is your utmost responsibility to address any problem or concern with your professor. I know it sounds redundant when you have probably heard it so many times before. I did feel annoyed the same way too, yet now I am saying these exact words again to you. This shows how important it is to communicate with your instructor.

Engaging with profs is important in better performance. Source: https://medium.com/zhongwei-chen-canada-research-chair-materials-for/why-professors-should-choose-to-be-a-student-mentor-by-zhongwei-chen-university-of-waterloo-b176abf2d6bf

Here is a tip from my experience. Find a professor that you feel most comfortable talking to and be on good terms with him/her. Dedicate a bit more effort, and you will have the most helpful person on the campus. I got all of the advice, motivations, tips on how to study, what to do in the first year, etc. from my elective course professor. And in return, I often make him a cake or some cookies as a thank you. The takeaway message here is NOT to bribe your profs, or be nice just to get the materials from them. It will never turn out well in the end. Be honest, be considerate, be respectful, and know your limit. I promise, you would have a very good friend on campus

  1. Spend time reviewing and studying

For the first half of my fall semester, I felt my schedule had so much free time. The hours I spent in lectures and labs are half of how many I used to have back in high school. I felt great, so most of the time I spent on going around taking pictures, hanging out with new friends, cooking, and not so much on studying. I knew what I was given, since I had the same course content back in high school. And that was my major down fall in the mid term exams. I was not familiar with the questions, nor did my brain function the way it should be. And my marks reflected how much effort I put in them.

Part of your non-class time should be dedicated to study, review, and prepare course materials. Source: https://www.butlertech.org/teen-education/future-students-parents/calendars-and-forms/student-studying-writing-notes/

No matter how easy you think the course load is, do not underestimate it. Take an extra hour after class to review the content you just had. It will remain longer in your memory. And if there are things you could not understand, you realize it early enough to address it.

  1. Read ahead, and how to

This is a habit that every student should try to adapt. It appears to be useless as the content you spend hours trying to understand would be covered by the professor in one lecture. Let me get this straight! Reading ahead is the most useful activity that will get you far ahead of other students. Why? When you listen to lecture for the first time, your brain would either be too busy processing the same piece of information that it misses out the next ones, or it would be passively taking in knowledge, but not storing it – things you hear come in one way, and then exit the other way shortly after. Nothing remains, so you learn nothing for an hour and a half.

When you read, your brain tries to capture the knowledge, piecing information together and making meanings from it. In other words, you are working to understand the content. Now then go to class and listen to the lecture. It was a life changing moment for me, for not only I caught up with the speed, but also clarified many questions and hard concepts. There are endless reasons why you should read ahead of class, from understanding, long-term memory, to problem-solving, and even self-reflection of the progress.

Reading ahead is important. And here is my way of doing it. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgVjmFSx7rg

But how to read the book in advanced the right way? Honestly, there is no solid answer to that. In my opinion, a good way to start is to read the end-of-chapter summary (if you have any) for the big picture, then introductory paragraphs for useful reference to daily applications. That alone would show the general expectations of what you need to know and understand, plus you would find studying those knowledge more practical and useful.

  1. Know your sleep

I slept way less than I used to before because of how much freedom I have. My parents would not be telling me to go to bed at 11 and turn off the wi-fi anymore, so I stayed up very late for the past 2 months. And the result? As expected, my sleep schedule was completely disrupted and I began to fall asleep in class (which never ever happened before). I could not concentrate, keep getting distracted from what I was doing, and my mind was never fully clear. And that is very common amongst us first year students. Some of my fellows stayed up to 6 a.m. and then sleep until supper time on weekends. Talk about the extent of how serious this is.

Image result for sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation affects your mood, focus, and thinking. Source: https://www.thedailybeast.com/this-is-your-body-on-sleep-deprivation

So, be conscious of how much sleep you need every night. I might sound like your mom right now but you need enough sleep to function normally. For the sake of mental and physical well-being, always keep that in mind when you decide to stay up late.

That is the 4 important lessons I learnt in the first semester away from home. Stay tune for more stories from me! Thanks for reading, hope you find it useful, and take care of yourself ^.^

Cheers,

Henry Ha

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