So, you're in university now. A fresher. Congratulations! I was a fresher once. Oh, the joy and confusion, all rolled into one. I have two cousins who are freshers at the moment, and this is my way of welcoming them, and other freshers, into the university experience. Buckle up and take notes; you're going to need to know these to survive.
Always attend orientation. You're a fresher, chances are you don't know where things are or how they work. If you're called for orientation, take the chance and go. Throughout my university life, I heard a lot of people misleading freshers telling them that orientation was not important. Unless those same people are going to take you through a more detailed orientation themselves, which they most probably won't, don't ditch the one on offer.
2. Dress code
This depends on your university. Some demand dressing up in suits all day, everyday, and some demand dressing like you're going to church. If your university has a dress code open for personal interpretation, dress comfortably and class-appropriately. Be presentable. In your first semester, you may feel that your clothes are inadequate. This leads many to over-correct and overcompensate come second semester. Don't accrue debts because you want to dress a certain way.
3. Student loans
If you've taken a student loan, use it responsibly. Don't use it for frivolous things. Loans are not something you play with, they can come back to haunt you. If your loan is strictly for paying your tuition fees, then use it for that. If it's for living expenses, then use it for that. In some places, like the U.S., you can actually send the extra money back. You may think nothing of that extra money while you use it to buy concert tickets and fancy meals and to bling yourself to the max, but remember, that money, in 5, 10 years, will have accrued interest. Don't burden yourself further than you're already burdened. I have met students who used up their HELB on drinks and parties in one day, one day, and, consequently, had to call off that semester because that was their school fees. N.B. This also happens to students who aren't taking student loans; in popular speak: they be out here wasting their parents' money and shit. Manage your money wisely.
Attend your classes. It counts. A lot of times, lecturers/professors give away what they're going to examine while they're in class. So, unless you've got a legitimate reason to miss a lesson, attend your classes. If you have the freedom to choose your classes, choose the ones that you enjoy; the ones that align with your interests. If your course comes with predetermined courses, then you're going to have to choose a course you enjoy/have genuine interest in. Don't, for example, choose medicine when that's not what you want. You can drop classes, if you have the option, that you have no interest in. Usually that happens within the first month, but check with your academic counsellor. If, unfortunately, you get one of those lecturers/professors that are not serious with their jobs and are never present, there are university guidelines on what you can do about it. Report them. People have gone for entire semesters without seeing their teachers and they were still examined, and ended up failing, only to complain after the exams were done. And you have to pay to re-sit an exam or take a supplementary exam or retake the course. Will the teacher who cost you your grade pay for you? No, they won't. You have a class representative for a reason.
University exams aren't like high school exams. Remember when they told us that university was simple? Yeah? They lied. That and many other lies got many of us singing 'freedom' as soon as we cleared from high school. Shock on you. But don't worry, they're still passable. Make use of your library. If your university offers past exams papers, get your hands on those. You may notice a pattern in the questions. Some questions may be repeated in several different papers. That is how you know what they're looking for. Use those past papers for practice. N.B. Don't cheat. That goes without saying, but don't cheat. If you're caught, the consequences will be disastrous. And you shouldn't not cheat just because you fear getting caught. What happens when you're not caught? You'll be one more incompetent professional, and don't we already have enough of those? N.B. Start learning about plagiarism now. P.S. If you ever need free books, type 'get free books online' into Google. Try this 2018 list of 10 best sites to read and legally download free books.
6. Extra-curricular activities
Take part in extra-curricular activities. Join a club. Play a sport. Extra-curricular activities are a good way to meet people. They're also a good way to beef up your CV. Partying technically falls under extra-curricular activities, but do not party too hard. Party sensibly. Don't just attend any party; some of these parties aren't safe. Do you trust the people who will be at that party? If not, don't go. Better safe than sorry. Also, remember that you're there to get your degree, not to party. Don't lose focus.
You're liberated from your parents' grip and now you want to do all these things that you didn't have the chance to do before. Well, calm down, and pump the breaks on that. Take sex-ed first. This is especially important in countries where sex education is not formally provided and now you have these teenagers who are now legally adults and free to do whatever. What happens then? Unplanned pregnancies, dropping out of school, STDs, rise in HIV/AIDS cases... And the effects of this on the economy cannot be ignored. Although sex-ed remains controversial in Africa, it's worth noting that many African communities had sex-ed before colonization. So, where to get this sex-ed, you ask? I'd say your parents, but most parents aren't comfortable doing that. I'd say school, but school has failed too in that aspect. So, what remains? The internet. The internet is a dark place to learn about sex-ed, which is why parents and schools should step in, but, in the meantime, here are a few good websites. N.B. Consent is important. NO MEANS NO. If you don't have consent, you're committing a crime (sexual misconduct, sexual assault, rape). NO MEANS NO. If you don't get consent, walk away. If a professor/lecturer messes with your grade and demands that you perform sexual favours for them so that they can correct it, report them. Such practices are rampant in many universities. It is an open secret, I just can't name them here because big universities have big money and I don't. The police are usually not all that helpful either; in fact, there are numerous complaints of them making fun of victims of rape and sexual abuse and blaming the victims, but it still helps if you report anyway. But, most importantly, if you are raped/sexually assaulted, head to the hospital. Unfortunately, because of the way our society is set up, girls/women are disproportionately the victims of rape and sexual assault. 1 in 5 women will be the victim of sexual assault. And that sucks to hear.
If your uni has a mess, chances are, the food there is cheaper than the food outside. You could probably get fancier food outside, but you've got to manage yourself (remember tip 3). Get your affordable meals at the mess. If your school has an affordable meal plan, get on it. Basically, live within your means. Also, eat appropriately. You'll need the energy to keep up with your studies. Eat your fruits. Eat your vegetable - the tubers, the pulses, the grains, the leafy greens...all of them. Drink your water; stay hydrated, especially in the hot months.
9. Drugs of abuse
Stay away from them, they ruin lives. People often run to drugs because of an issue in their lives that they're not aware of how to handle properly, and drugs can be an easy escape, but it's hard to escape from them. If you need someone to talk to about something, see a counsellor. Most universities offer counselling services for free. You can also try free online counselling services like Betterhelp or 7Cups. There's no shame in seeking help. There's no shame in seeking counselling services.
Get adequate rest. If you can, try taking a day off ever so often. Take a load off. Spend an entire day doing 'absolutely nothing'. Watch a movie. Finish that series. Sleep the entire day. Just rest. God knows you'll need it.
Well, that's it! All the best, my youngins! Go forth and conquer the academic world!
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