10 Things I Wish I’d Done At University (Part 1)

Date Published: October 21, 2014

It’s been awhile since I graduated from uni, yet today I’m still trying to master these things. Learning is a journey, so the sooner you start, the sooner you get to start seeing the fruits of applying what you’ve learnt. Plus it’s always better to learn from others’ mistakes and experiences, rather than having to experience difficulties yourself. I’ve always felt that whatever it is, I want my life to make a difference to others, and if my sharing can help you make the most of your youth and your time in uni, I’ll be able to sleep well!

We all like lists, don’t we? And so I’ve come up with my own list which I hope will help you, and perhaps get you to start thinking about your own life as a student, and to decide how you want to spend your time. So here goes.. The 10 things I wish I’d known and done when I was in still in uni!

I wish I knew back then that I shouldn’t be afraid to be myself. We are all unique. You and I. There’s no one else like you in this world. Even if I had an identical twin, we would never be 100% alike. I used to think “I wish I was like so-and-so”… and try so hard to be like them. It took me a long time to realize that it’s the things that make you different that make you interesting. In any organisation, we talk about diversity and how important that is – imagine if everyone had the same way of thinking and the same ideas? There wouldn’t be much creativity or innovation, I don’t think. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and embrace your uniqueness. But of course, work on your weaknesses – we all have them. Nobody wants to work with someone who thinks they are perfect.

I’ve always been shy. Scared to talk to people out of fear of how I appear to them. This is something I wish I had learned to overcome much sooner. University is the place where you should make as many friends as possible. Not just people like you – from the same background or kampung or ethnicity – it’s a great time to practice being 1 Malaysia. Help one another understand each other’s culture, beliefs and creed. Learn to accept one another. Learn to let others have their own voice and opinions. Learn to develop your people skills – this is one of, if not THE most important skill you must have when you go out to work. Be someone people enjoy talking to. University is an excellent place to develop networking skills – the ability to speak (and more importantly, listen) to people of all levels, from all walks of life. Learn and understand as much as you can about others.

I really enjoyed my time at uni, but I wish I had realized how blessed I was to just have the opportunity to be there, studying for my degree. Did you know that only 7% of the world population has a university degree? Did I make the most of my time there like it was a privilege to be there? Sadly I’ll admit that I didn’t. I have skipped classes, I have glazed over or doodled while the lecturer was teaching, I chose not to participate in some university activities, I didn’t make full use of the facilities provided to me – library, computer lab, student services, etc and I could have given back more to others – helping orientate freshmen who had just started uni, becoming a volunteer in uni activities. Which leads to my next point.

They say a well-balanced individual, or an all-rounder, is better than a bookworm. But truth be told, I could’ve done so much better in my studies had I put in more effort. Asking questions whenever I was in doubt. Paying more attention in class. Understanding what I was taught and learning to apply it to real life, and knowing when I would need to use such knowledge. Study ahead of time instead of last-minute – the day before exams. Reading ahead and going into a lecture hall prepared, so that I’d be able to grasp what is being taught much easier. Not leaving everything to chance and hoping that whatever I didn’t study will not be examined.

Never do anything for the sake of doing it. Do it well, and give it your best effort. Surprisingly, your grades do count when you’re looking for a job – it may not be straight A’s but at least show that you’ve cared enough to earn it. Your CGPA will be the first obvious thing that a recruiter looks for.

University is a great place to experiment and work on building up new skills and talents. I wish I had spent more time and effort on building up my tennis skills. I joined the tennis club at uni, but I played just for fun. I didn’t have the tenacity to work on the technical stuff I would need to play competitively. I wish I had put in the effort to understand the rules and technicalities of the game and practiced to become good enough to play. When you start working, having such skills gives you an edge. Not only does it show that you are a focused individual, it gives you more confidence having something not everyone else has, and you can use this skill as a great networking tool and icebreaker – it gives you something to talk about, helps you make more friends and builds up your personal profile. Chances are, you would probably also have better communication skills because you’d have to interact with people unless your hobby is painting or origami.

Find something you have an interest in, and turn it into a real skill. We all need experts around us! This also applies to skills developed through participation in extra-curricular activities – project management skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, time management skills – these are intangible skills that can’t really be taught, but are much needed in any organisation. You can look beyond university to put yourself to action – consider volunteering with an NGO for community work where you will also learn about having compassion and empathy for those around you.

Stay tuned for Part Two and the last five items on my list of things I’d wished I had known and done while still at university. You won’t want to miss it.

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