Five Things I Learned About Myself in my First Semester of University

The transition to university is quite the adventure. While being an exciting new experience, it can also be quite daunting. You face a whole pile of changes in the way you learn and the way you live. I recently finished my first semester of university and learned a lot in the process! I’m going to share the top five things I learned about myself that I wish I had known prior to this huge transition.

1. I need that extra hour of sleep WAY more than I need that extra hour of studying

With university comes those dreaded midterms and finals. Going into my first sets of both, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. With this uncertainty came an obsessive drive to study until I physically couldn’t anymore. I’d go until I was falling asleep amidst the notes and textbooks. While studying is important, so is knowing when enough is enough. That extra hour of studying at midnight the night before an exam is going to be far less beneficial than an extra hour of sleep. Chances are, you won’t retain any of the information that you’re taking in that late anyway. An extra hour of sleep means you might be able to get up early and have time to go over your notes in the morning with a fresh mind to actually retain what you have reviewed. You’ll also give yourself time to enjoy a balanced breakfast, which will increase your focus and attention to detail as you write your exam. I struggled with this especially during midterms, but by the time finals season rolled around, I had established a more steady study routine. Rather than going to bed super late at night, I’d go to bed when I was tired and set my alarm for early in the morning, to utilize that extra time when I was feeling more refreshed for my studying.

2. I need “me time” every day

It can be way too easy to get caught up in your work load. Sometimes I found that I wasn’t giving myself a break until I was so exhausted, I had to go to bed. The trouble I found with that is I would often have a hard time falling asleep because I hadn’t had any down time to relax. Making sure that I balance things that I enjoy, along with my school work, in my daily routine has been extremely beneficial. Some of my personal favourites are going for a run, spending time at the dance studio or simply taking some time to enjoy a cup of tea and a good book!

3. Eating properly is crucial!

With the transition to university comes a new routine for almost everything, and it can take some time to adjust to it. I’m sure one of the biggest things we’ve all noticed is that suddenly we’re responsible for all of our meals. Mom isn’t there to cook you a nice dinner every day, to make sure you’re drinking enough water, or to bring you a power snack in the middle of that intense study session. Personally, in my first semester I found that I’d get so caught up in working on an assignment that eating wouldn’t even cross my mind. I live off campus so most mornings I’m up at 6 AM, catching a bus at 7:15 AM, and usually not home again until late afternoon. I ate breakfast as soon as I got up, and found myself not eating again until I got home, or snacking on unhealthy, purchased food, thinking I preferred having lunch at home. For a while, this resulted in awful headaches that would not go away without taking a nap. This may not necessarily be the case if you’re living on campus and have access to the dining hall, but finding an appropriate time for meals and snacks can still be tough. Try to schedule your meals each day, as incorporating them into your schedule like this can help to make them routine again. Also, make sure to keep a balance of healthy snacks, along with a few treats in your room for whenever you need a study snack, or for those bouts of midnight hunger. I started taking a lunch to school every day- even if I was done class in decent time. This way, if I got hungry during the day I was eating the lunch and healthier snacks that I had packed for myself, rather than buying snacks from the food court, saving money and calories! I haven’t had a bad headache since I made this change. If you’re struggling to find the time or the money to maintain a proper diet, don’t hesitate to contact the foodbank at Laurier! They will confidentially deliver food right to you, so we can ensure that everyone is getting the proper nutrition they need to be successful.

4. I deserve a treat once in a while

While eating well is important, it’s also key to maintain balance and treat yourself sometimes, just avoid getting cookies and Timbits, or Frappuccinos and fast food every single day. The reality is, if you’re really craving a treat, you deserve it! Whether it be during a long break between classes, at the end of a really tough day, or as a reward after that midterm that you were stressing out about, treating yourself is a form of self care and is important, albeit in moderation. One strategy to help reduce spending on treats is to get yourself a gift card to your favourite fast food joint or coffee shop, and tell yourself that it has to last you for a certain amount of time. You could then choose to ration it to last you for that entire time period, or spend it all at once, but then there isn’t as big of a risk of unconsciously using your debit card at Starbucks almost every single day (I’ve been guilty of that before, whoops!)

5. Effectively managing my stress drastically improved my over-all well being

I am definitely guilty of overstressing over just about anything. While stressing about some things can help you get them done, you should never stress about anything to the point that it impacts your sleep, your health, or your performance in school. I struggled with managing my stress at the beginning of first semester, but after an eye-opening assignment (thanks Dr. Vance!) I learned how to deal with it more effectively. I started doing more things that I enjoyed, eating better and getting more sleep, and also continuously utilizing a colour coded white board to keep track of all assignments and engagements that I have coming up. This helps to avoid the all too common realization that you have an assignment due at midnight when it’s 11:45, or cramming until the early hours of the morning right before a midterm or final.

While stress affects everyone differently and everyone has their own tactics that they use to combat it, these were some that were extremely beneficial to me!