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if only i’d known: with every bathroom privilege comes great responsibility

with bathroom privileges come great responsibility
So you’ve finished school. Maybe you’ve taken a gap year. Maybe you’re returning from a gap year. Regardless of where you’re at the lyrics of that John Mayor song spring to mind:

Welcome to the real world, she said to me… condescendingly

Whether we know it yet or not, being at school is part of what keeps us sheltered from many of life’s harsh realities. Stepping beyond that requires us to navigate responsibility, work, study and our social lives without much adult help. You’ve now officially deemed yourself worthy of no longer asking for permission to go to the bathroom. But with every bathroom privilege comes great responsibility.

If you’re heading off on a gap year, particularly if it’s some place you’ve never been, then have a blast and spare us a thought as you fall in love with a new city, new people and new experiences. If you’ve bitten the bullet and decided to get a real job, then best of luck to you. If you’re heading to university then here is a guide to surviving year one semester one.

University can be a daunting time because for many of us it coincides with some of the most confusing times of our lives. They tell you you go through all of the “finding yourself” stuff in high school but that, as you’ll soon discover, is one of the many lies you’ve been told so far. The other, which you’ll very quickly encounter, is ‘do well in the HSC/VCE (whatever your state’s equivalent is) and you’ll be set.’ This is a complete fallacy. No really. Your end of school examination mark is no real indication of how challenging or breezy you’ll find university.

To help settle into one aspect of adult life I’ve compiled a list of things that might make that first semester less chaotic.

1. Go to O Week events (unless O week has already happened at your university, in which case, go straight to the next piece of advice). O week is a great way to get free stuff. Why would you want free stuff? You’re a university student now; you’ll be broke till the day you graduate and probably for a year after that. Unless you’re an arts graduate then hold on to your Centrelink number! That’s a joke… kind of. If you’re an arts student you can seek validation here. O week is also a great time to susa out what kind of clubs and societies are available at your university.

2. Join clubs and societies that sound interesting. It’s normal to join 76 different clubs and societies during O week and then discover you’re only committed to two of them. This is a great way to meet people and make new friends. If you’re shy about making friends I share some tips here.

3. Socialising, partying and meeting new people are one of the great things about beginning a new chapter, however since you’re at university to learn, don’t neglect the academic side. Leave yourself sufficient time to do the readings, study and actually attend classes. As far as I know all universities are strict about attendance, so a good place to start is by being in class. Another thing that really impresses tutors and lecturers is doing the readings. Some of them will be challenging no doubt and you won’t understand everything but the only way to get better is to persevere. If a concept or topic is confusing, use your tutorials to ask questions. If you’re confused chances are somebody else is too so don’t feel shy about asking.

4. Don’t expect to get Ds and HDs in your first semester. If you’re struggling to get the grades you’d like, don’t be harsh on yourself. There’s a skill to writing university essays, reports and papers and it takes time to master it. Ask for feedback on your assessments and take into consideration what your tutors’ comments were.

5. Find out where the library is. I know lots of things are online these days but not everything is. If you’re trying hard to preserve your rep and don’t want to be seen on a library tour, consider an inconspicuous camel coloured trench coat with a Paddington Bear hat and maybe a pair of black shades, or a Santa Claus costume. The least you can do is walk by the library and make a mental note of its location.

6. If mid way through the semester you realise you hate your course, talk to your course advisor about your concerns, particularly if you’re considering dropping out.

7. Following on from that, in the first week you should be given numbers for on campus doctors, counselors, advisors etc. Keep these in a safe place and if there are things going on in your life that are impacting your performance at university and you need to talk to someone about it, contact the appropriate person. Universities don’t want their students to drop out; they want them to graduate with an enjoyable university experience to boot.

8. Remember, university is an adjustment. For some it’s a big adjustment for others a minor one, but like all adjustments they just take time.

Congrats and enjoy :)

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