Thursday, 15 September 2016

9 Ways of Getting the most out of your Uni experience

1. Keeping those summer vibes near

I always found the hardest part about coming off the summer holidays and going back to Uni, was just how much of everything there was in the summer! As students, we probably do more in the summer than in term time, and if you have had a summer of Word Youth Day, holidays, tours and youth festivals, full of colour and light and joy, the thought of going back can be a bit depressing. So I always tried to capture the parts of my summer that brought me joy, to create something of that in my weeks at Uni. You might not be able to find the sun but listening to great music and singing and praising out loud, going to some extra weekday masses, finding time for prayer or going to smaller events, all helps to keep that summer of joy alive.

Paddie Denton - Leeds Uni & St. Mary's Twickenham

2. Make a great Praise Playlist

One thing I've really discovered at uni is the power of praise! There’s so much power in music, and as St Augustine said, “He who sings, prays twice”. For me, music has such an effect on my mood. 

Think about it; you go through a break up, you put on a bit of T Swizzle to help work through your heartache, or you're getting ready for a night out, so you put on a bit of J.B to get hyped; music makes a difference. 

The same goes for praise! You’re going through a bit of spiritual funk or difficulty with prayer, having a playlist at hand can really pull you out of it and refocus you. Plus, just by listening to my Jesus Jams playlist in the kitchen while I cooked or did the dishes started a lot of conversations about my faith with my housemates. If they hear a good song they’re going ask who it’s by etc, and there’s your window to talk about faith in an interesting and organic way! It’s all about that subtle evangelisation, yo’.

Megan James - Birmingham Uni

3. Don’t be afraid to say NO to things 

This is not a ‘say no to peer pressure’ piece of advice! This is more about spending your time wisely. University life has so, so much to offer – there are so many things to get involved it at university, and it’s natural to want to be part of it all (FOMO is real!). But take care that you don’t overburden your schedule. Give yourself time to rest during the term (hint: Sunday!), or you’ll burn out. When someone asks you to be involved in something, think before blithely accepting. I did this, quite often, and as a result had quite a chaotic time of it!

Emily Milne - King's College London

4. Be Charitable

Students are always typically living on a shoe string, and so giving to charity may not be what you were wanting to read here! But I will advise it above all else. There will be lots of ways that you can get involved in charitable initiatives at your university – but I say go even further! It’s easy to put on a T-Shirt, but St Teresa of Calcutta encourages us to “give until it hurts”. Be charitable with your money, be charitable with your time, be charitable with your patience, and find the best way in every situation to see the person before you, and to love the person before you – whoever it may be. If I may be so bold as to slightly edit St Paul’s words: ‘If I have a degree, but am without love, then I am nothing.’

Ben Hince - Exeter Uni

5. Get off your laptop and out of your room!

This is advice as much to myself as to you, and it may not sound spiritual, but it really is! It's funny how soon freshers cools down, and how suddenly people aren't around as much... except, they're all definitely just in their rooms, like you are in yours. It can be the strangest thing, to know that your whole house is just chilling in their rooms, all online on Facebook, not really doing anything. And you can be so convicted that you're doing good stuff on your laptop, society stuff, essays, ect. that you can all justify this. 

But really, you're spending a lot of time, essentially, alone. Having a group chat is nothing on going to the pub. As I start third year, I'm really seeing the time i have at uni as precious. You only get three years in this incredible social mixing pot, so don't spend most of it sat at a computer! Returning tired from a long day, with more work to get on with at home, it can be easy to think 'I don't want to be that social right now', but if you really want to get the best out of uni, spend as much of it as you can with the people that have been put in your life there, whoever they are. Especially when you don't want to.

Isaac Withers - University of Birmingham

6. Don’t live two separate lives at uni 

We’ve all done it, when a friend asks what you’ve been up to this summer, and you respond saying ‘I just went camping in Norfolk’ rather than to a prayer festival, simply out of fear of judgement, not wanting to sound ‘un cool’ or because your friends don’t know that you believe in Jesus. 

The best part about university, is anything goes, everyone is different and people can take pride in their identity no matter what that looks like. So take courage! Freshers is a great chance to start again. If you’re someone who feels like they live two separate lives, or keep’s their faith hidden, university is a great place to change that. At uni you can be the person you’ve always wanted to be. There’s something for everyone, which means you don’t need to keep your faith hidden. Jesus doesn’t want to be part of your life, just on a Sunday. He wants to be in your kitchen, in your society meetings, in the pub and in your work. Don’t live a segmented life, you’ll get the most out of uni by being true to yourself!

Eleanor Hill - Leeds Uni

7. You do you

It is more than likely that you are about to find yourself surrounded by thousands of people who don't even share the same interests as you, let alone the same beliefs. Some of those people might become the best friends you've ever had... But not all of those people will have your best interests at heart.

University can seem like something totally separate to real life, and it's not unusual to find yourself in situations where there are so many people doing something you never thought you would. Binge drinking, drugs, sex, pornography, to name just a few, can be commonplace if you find yourself surrounded by a group of people you didn't necessarily choose. Despite what the media says, those things don't have to define your university experience. 

You know God. You know how loved you are, you know how precious your body is. You know how to form true and authentic friendships and relationships. Don't forget that because someone is chanting about how much they like to drink with you. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." - Romans 12:2

Sarah Morton - Manchester Uni

8. Seek joy

Phrases like “last night was super chill” to “I literally don’t remember a thing” can become completely normal at uni. But not every night out ended peacefully climbing into bed at 3am with nothing more than sore feet to worry about. There were also the nights I stumbled into bed feeling ill or crying, waking up not knowing what I'd done or said — did I hurt someone’s feelings? Did I break my friends trust? Did I put myself in danger? 

It was easy to think that, since I wasn’t hurting anyone or ‘really sinning,’ I shouldn’t feel guilty about having a good time, right? Wrong! As Catholics we are called live in the secular world without adopting its hedonistic culture; as ambassadors of a different joy which is found in our Catholic values, moderation and is guided by the spirit! This doesn’t mean we become prudes and shun the secular world but it does mean we become more self aware and notice our boundaries. We were created for joy! The secular world is not an evil place, but excess is a temptation we don’t always see.

Kirsten Brown - University College London

9. Look for opportunities to show LOVE

University is an amazing experience but it’s also quite daunting at times. It can feel like there is a lot of pressure to prove yourself as an individual – be it socially, physically or academically. I definitely spent a few years trying to make myself stand out so it took me a while to see that your time at university can be so much more fruitful and grounded if you look beyond your own experience to all the opportunities there are to put loving thy neighbour into practice. It’s one of the only times in your life that you will be surrounded by so many young people, all in need of kindness and authenticity. The freedom and spontaneity of university life also makes small acts of love incredibly easy. So rather than worrying too much about yourself, look out for the flatmate that needs a cup of tea and a chat or the person looking nervous next to you in a queue at freshers. You’ll help more people than you know and the bonus is that kindness shown is often reciprocated.

Catherine Horsnall - University of Nottingham

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