Are we having fun yet?

By admin
Category: Personal | Date: Tue 21 Oct, 2008

Something I learnt as an undergrad (mostly by trying to work too hard) was that the point of university is to enjoy it. You – or your parents – are paying a fair bit for your degree, and of course you want to make the most of it: which, in part, means you should be having fun along the way.

So when your wallet’s empty, your essay’s looming, your friends are absent and you miss your mum … what can you do?

Don’t get tied into a “should” mindset

It’s easy to put pressure on ourselves, especially when we need to be pretty self-motivated in order to succeed. Do you find yourself saying/thinking stuff like:

  • I should get up earlier
  • I should do at least six hours’ of academic work per day
  • I shouldn’t ever ask my parents for money
  • I shouldn’t bother the counselling service with my problems

One of my friends, Tim Brownson (a life coach with a brilliant blog) often emphasises the importance of the words we use in our internal chatter to ourselves. And as an English student, I’ve realised that there’s nothing mystical or magical about this: I know how powerful words can be, and how changing one word can have a huge impact. Tying yourself to shoulds and shouldn’ts is a sure recipe for misery.

Try saying things like:

  • I want to get up earlier / I’m going to get up earlier
  • I want to get at least six hours’ of academic work done today
  • I’d rather not ask my parents for money, but I know they’ll help out if I need them to
  • The counselling service is there for students like me – it’s one of the things my fees go towards

Give yourself an academic Sabbath

I picked up this tip from one of my undergraduate friends, who made a point of having a full day off from academic obligations, every week. He’d often spend this time on an extended cycle ride (yes, that wouldn’t have been my first choice of entertainment either, but each to their own…)

Taking a proper break from studying will let you throw yourself back into it with fresh enthusiasm. Also, if you know you’re taking Saturday off, you’ll be more motivated to plough through work efficiently on Thursday and Friday.

Figure out what you’re at uni for

What’s the main reason that you’re at university? Is it just to get that degree at the end of three years? Or is it more complex than that – perhaps to grow as a person, develop your self-confidence and “people” skills, to have new experiences and stretch yourself?

You might not have an exact answer to why you’re at university, but if you can start to unpick the reasons, this can help you to know what to concentrate on. Maybe your current course is just a stepping stone to the one you really want to do, in which case you’ll need to put in enough academic work to pass well. Or maybe you went to university because you wanted to move away from home and experience adult life in a somewhat “safe” environment – in which case, you may want to pay less attention to your studies and more to your social life!

Check in with yourself

This phrase is from a freelance writer I admire, Kristen Fischer, over on Freelance Radio. She emphasises the important of, during a busy day, regularly stopping to “check in with yourself”. That means thinking about how you’re feeling, whether you’re enjoying your work, or whether you’re starting to get exhausted, fed up or bored.

Learn to take a break when you need one. That doesn’t mean procrastinating over getting started on things, it means stopping before you have to force yourself to grind onwards with studying. A half-hour walk, or just a leisurely cup of tea, can make all the difference to your mood.

Get away from uni once or twice a term

Student life, naturally enough, ends up revolving around halls, the bar, the union, and perhaps a few local pubs, with the same groups of people each time. It can become claustrophobic at times, especially if your university’s town is fairly small. In Cambridge, we called this effect the “Cambridge Bubble”. After four or five weeks of term, you might be starting to feel a little stir-crazy.

Make sure you get away from uni – and uni friends – at least once during term. You might head home to your folks during reading week, or you might just want to take a day trip somewhere and meet up with old school friends.

Over to you

Further reading:

So how do you stay happy at university? Have you had times when you’ve felt downright miserable? What did you do to change things?

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