Fiona’s Declassified University Survival Guide

Books on a light brown shelf in a libraryWritten By: Fiona Lee, 4th Year Medical Sciences

Photo by: Wander Fleur on Unsplash

It’s so hard to believe that I’m already in my fourth year at Western. As an incoming first-year student, I was excited to come to university and explore my independence as I moved away from home. In fact, I had romanticized the idea of university, as a place where I would be able to perfectly balance my academic and social lives, as well as prioritize my own mental health, without encountering any barriers along the way. Reality hit me, however, once the first year began: lab assignments and exams were piling up around me, and on top of that, I was also trying my best to join clubs and still stay involved in extracurriculars. 

To be honest, I didn’t have a good grasp on dealing with ‘university life’ until last year—my third year of university. Up until then, my university experience could be summed up in three simple words: trial and error (with an emphasis on error!). Despite receiving some disappointing exam marks and pulling countless all-nighters to cram for last-minute assignments, Id say that my university experience has provided me with much-needed opportunities to learn more about myself and grow. I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way, and I hope that by sharing them, other students will benefit too! So, without further ado, I present to you: Fiona’s Declassified University Survival Guide! 

Balance study and sleep

Maintaining a good balance between time spent studying and time spent sleeping can be easier said than done—especially when you’re drowning in a sea of work right before finals. During my time in university, I’ve made the mistake of procrastinating my work and frantically pulling all-nighters days before my exams (unfortunately, more than once). Although completely sacrificing my sleep allowed me to somehow cram all the knowledge I needed to know into my head, doing so only ended up badly: with me pumping myself with copious amounts of caffeine and feeling extremely tired, groggy, and sick in the end. Looking back, something that I wish I had done differently was plan out my exam study schedule far in advance; doing so would’ve ensurethat I dedicated the proper amount of time to studying for each exam.  

When planning your study schedule, the most important thing to remember is that you need to be realistic about how fast you’re able to study, as well as how much studying you can handle in one day; being realistic can help ensure that you’re able to stay on track with your study schedule. It’s important to recognize that we all have limits, and rewarding ourselves with time to relax, re-energize, and sleep is just as important as studying! With that being said, it can also be helpful to schedule your sleep time into your study schedule, as this might help you get into a routine that you can get used to and follow! 

Step outside of your comfort zone

This tip is pretty broad and is 100% open to interpretation since everyone’s ‘comfort zone’ can be described and viewed in different ways. For me, stepping outside of my comfort zone involved building the courage to speak up and participate more in class; this was really helpful as I become more engaged with what I was learning about, and being more engaged also helped me retain the information a lot easier. Stepping outside of my comfort zone also involved exploring new clubs. As a first-year student, clubs’ week was pretty overwhelming and I felt intimidated by the thought of joining clubs without knowing anyone else, and by the thought of applying for executive positions. Once I took that leap of faith however, I was able to meet people who had similar interests as me, and I was able to make tangible changes to better the club through my exec roles as well (which I found to be very rewarding)! Whatever your ‘comfort zone’ may be, stepping outside of it is a great chance for you to grow: you might be able to meet new people, discover new opportunities, and who knows—maybe you’ll discover something that you didn’t think you would like before!  

Explore the city!

Something that I think I really missed out on during my university experience was not venturing out of campus and exploring London enough. As someone who’s not from London originally, my perception of the city was limited to the Western campus for a large part of my university career. Recently, however, I’ve come to realize all the beautiful parts of London that I’ve missed out on: Covenant Garden Market, Gibbons Park, Storybook Gardens, Victoria Park—just to name a few. Exploring a place outside of campus can really help to enhance your university experience, and allow you to enjoy aspects that aren’t entirely school-related! 

With everything being said, it’s important to remember that everyone’s university experience is unique. Hopefully, these tips will help make your time in undergrad a little bit easier, and more enjoyable! I know it sounds cliché, but time really does fly by in an instant and your undergrad years will be over before you know it—so make the most of your time here at Western, and don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it! 

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