HIGH SCHOOL’S LONG BEEN A DISTANT MEMORY. Preferences have been locked in, offers awarded and accepted, tutorials booked, clubs and societies joined, and by this stage you’ve sat through enough introductory talks to make you want nothing but a beer or three at the UniBar. The prospect of landing yourself in an entirely new world is probably beginning to look daunting, to say the least, however it’s important to remember just how exciting this will be as well.
Whilst the reality of our tertiary lives is bound to fall outside, short of, or beyond our expectations, I think it’s difficult not to construct a mental picture of how the next three, four or five years will play out. If my personal image comes anywhere near the truth, I think it will mostly be three broad aspects of life that are transformed.
Being a student at the University Of Wollongong, a lot has been made of what the university has to offer socially. Given that I’m from Sydney, it has to be said that it’s this that will drag me out of bed and onto a two hour train trip every morning.
I think it’s the unfamiliarity that makes the social life seem so appealing. What made Wollongong stand out as the prime “social university” for me is the somewhat exotic location – while close to what I’ve always known, there are new beaches, events and nightspots to explore, and potentially 23,000 new people to explore them with. Like most enrolling students, I made a point of being friendly to everyone I met, and was personally lucky enough to find that group of people before I sat down for my first lecture.
It’s technically the reason you’re here – what you spent all that time and effort in high school trying to achieve – so it should probably get a mention. Without making this sound like a UOW ad, I think the outstanding social culture of the university can allow the academic side to become somewhat unnoticed at times; yet I am expecting, after all those info days, to be educated in a first class institution, with first class lecturers and facilities, and I believe this is another significant way my student career will be changed dramatically.
The library is bigger. The support staff team is bigger. The online resources are more widespread and available. If there is anything in university to overwhelm and confuse a first year student it’s clearly the academic side of things, but better marks should await those who use it to their advantage. So here’s to embracing a different, more creative type of studying for the next few years. The one allowing more freedom to learn the way you want to.
Now to say something I’m sure no one would have realised so far. University isn’t cheap. Aside from the annual fees, which can be put off with HECS, transport costs, daily meals, money for those UniBar beers I spoke about earlier and possibly on-campus accommodation can all make you realise one thing: it isn’t going to be easy living the life of a uni student, and to pay for it all, you’ll need some sort of sustainable income.
On-campus employment is the most convenient option. UOW’s "Jobs on Campus" team provides an effective service by handling incoming resumes to try and connect students with opportunities as they arise within the on-campus businesses – however not all universities will operate this way. While bar work is a popular choice for students, an internship in your chosen field should also be considered to kick start your long-term career, or perhaps volunteer work, for that warm fuzzy feeling – largely unachievable throughout high school. There are more options out there than there was in previous years, more time available to be earning money, and a lack of excuses to put off getting a job any longer.
The three ways uni life will differ from high school life are fairly simple and most likely nothing you haven’t considered before. However you may have noticed a common theme throughout the three areas: freedom. Personally, I expect the next four and a half years of my life to be dynamic ones, riddled with unexpected twists and turns – for better and worse – mostly thanks to the freedom I have to make my own decisions, in my own time. After the comparatively repetitive routine of high school, I can barely wait.
For now, however, it’s time to go grab those beers.
What made Wollongong stand out as the prime “social university” for me is the somewhat exotic location