University life can be daunting - making new friends, getting involved in societies and working your way around large campuses is always unnerving at first. At least that's how I felt when I started studying at Warwick. What I can say though is that I've learnt a lot about myself in those two years and university has definitely had a great impact on my life - but that's only because of what I've put in.
Before I started, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect; would I really enjoy university or would I just go back to my room and call my old school-friends? One thing I made sure of however - and I would recommend this to everyone who is just about to start - is to go to the Fresher's fair and sign up to the mailing list of anything that seemed remotely interesting. While you're at it, take all the leaflets too and stick them up on your noticeboard. They give your room some colour and give you something to do during the week.
One of the most shocking things I found was the amount of free time I had and therefore, getting involved in societies was really my best option. It meant that I broadened friendships to beyond simply students studying my course and those in my halls and also that I could learn from those in higher years as well.
I took an active role within the Warwick community, including the Student Union (where I was elected to be a first year councillor) and these various roles enhanced my experience. I developed my intellect and learned new things from people I would most definitely never have spoken to - this engaged my interest beyond my own university also.
One of the things that really sparked my curiosity was debating in Council - it made me think about the various issues that affect students and how we can get involved and take action. If I'm honest, that was one of the main reasons I started up The Student Journals; I felt alienated in the national community of students and wanted to build a platform where all students could get involved, regardless of their political leaning.
So how else has university benefited me? Oh, right, I was involved in organising TEDxWarwick from which I learnt from the experience of the speakers (the likes of which include Kevin Kallaugher and Mustafa Akyol. (editorial cartoonist for the Economist) and author and columnist
Of course I guess there is your degree too. What I failed to realise in my first year (as many people do) is that is does require work if you want to do well. My advice, at least for an Arts degree? Do the reading - sitting in seminars and lectures without really understanding anything is entirely wasteful; hours pass by listening to professors and without the essential knowledge, none of it really makes sense.
You may have noticed the absence of drinking or clubbing in my article; that's because I don't drink or go clubbing and it goes to show that you don't have to do either to have a great time at university. While all we hear about university students is their drunken antics, it's quite possible to get through university without sipping any alcohol. And, well, if you do drink, it's easy to fit alcohol into your schedule.
So university truly is a learning experience - the editor-in-chief of this very website made the most of the opportunities available to her while at Warwick when she edited the student newspaper. Most of you probably won't listen to me - and if I had read this article two years ago, I would've done the same. Yet regardless of whether you heed my advice, or simply ignore it, I wish you the best of luck over the next three or four years. University is an adventure quite unlike any you will have encountered before, but more than anything, it's an experience that is created by your participation and shaped by your input - you only get out as much as you put in.