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A Guide for the Fresher

by Maryam Haneef

The waiting is finally over. A new chapter is beginning in your strange and exciting life. After all the stress and anxiety of searching for the right course, the right university, going to open days, falling in and out of love with different campuses, cringing at writing a personal statement and even worse, having it read and scrutinised right in front of you, and then finally submitting the dreaded UCAS form only to realise that now nothing is in your hands.

Hopefully out of the five universities you’ve chosen, one of them likes you, and unless you are really lucky to have an unconditional offer you would most likely have been one of the many who gave your absolute 110% in May and June to meet your offer.

We all know how cruel examinations can be. You get high marks in the tests you thought you didn’t do well in and low marks in the ones you thought were a breeze. And when finally the umpteenth hurdle of exams are over  and it’s Summer  you have to wait an awfully long time for the whole country to get their papers marked and converted into UMS (whatever that is).

The whole Summer is now a means of spiritual development. You have never prayed the way you do now, reading all the duas so that all the cosmos unite to lift the grades you need to be lifted. And so like a pure soul you go to results day in August, also known as ‘The Day of Judgment’, to open the sheet of paper that determines your future.

At this point, you may leap with joy. The Uni has said YES! It’s a perfect match made in heaven and you run off into the sunset. On the other hand, you may have missed the grade, narrowly or by a large margin, which means there are many phone calls to be made, emails to be sent and nails to bite. At the end of it all, no matter which of the 99 routes you take to gain the right of passage to university, it will still be an exciting and important part of your life.

I’m about to enter the second year of my degree, so I’m not a total veteran in the field of university life. Having had a particularly tortuous route to my university, I was very nervous on my first day and found it a very daunting experience. Soon though, all the nervousness left me and now I’ve met amazing people. I love my course and my campus is like my second home. Sometimes I do think back to how worried I was and wish I had known some things earlier. Here are some of the tips I would give myself if I were starting university all over again:

1- Make friends – Have fun:

There are lots of socials in the first few weeks of uni for new students (freshers). However, there’s a good chance that a lot of the popular socials and events will allow alcoholic beverages and may be in pubs etc. Note however, that there are still other societies such as faith societies that will let you to have fun in a ‘halal’ way. (Shout out to Ahlulbayt Islamic Societies). Just check up the society’s Facebook page where they will be advertising their upcoming events. They often have fun and cool interfaith events as well.

There’s no avoiding the potentially awkward situation of being asked to attend a party (in a pub for example), especially if you are living on campus. Take it as an innocent suggestion by someone who doesn’t know you and kindly decline the offer. It will make your life easier to set clear boundaries from the start. There are lots of students who share the same values as you and trust me; others will respect you for being honest and not just following the crowd.
2- Live a little:

  • Make university life interesting. Step out of your comfort zone. Join a society that you have no clue about. Learn a new language, join the rock climbing society…

 

  • At university you are perfectly positioned to make a difference in society. There are so many resources at your fingertips that there is no reason to not actively fight for a cause you are passionate about. So if gang violence or poverty makes your heart ache, then use your university to campaign and raise awareness. Don’t leave uni without having made meaningful change in your environment.

 

3- Study, study, study:

  • With all the social gatherings and activism you’re hopefully going to participate in, you still have to study! This is not the first time you’re hearing this, but it is really important not to leave studying to the last minute.

Chances are no one at university will chase after you as rigorously as they did at school. Deadlines are set in stone. There is zero sympathy for late assignments and in fact, the uni has already estimated the number of students they expect will fail the course. Don’t be included in that statistic.

 

  • Make friends with the senior students. They can offer you the best advice and information about your course. They can also recommend loads of useful resources to you.

4- Think critically about your faith:

  • This is a very important tip. University atmosphere is booming with new ideas, creative thinking and exploring new possibilities. All of these are great characteristics of an academic environment. However, just as it is possible for someone to rethink their views on ideas like Socialism and etc. due to their surroundings; it is also possible for one to lose faith as a result of the environment.

At university you are bound to be questioned about your faith at some point. Believing in God is now very much out of style. Remember that Islam encourages us to think critically about our religion and not to accept anything blindly, so it is important to have concrete reasons for why you believe in God and Islam. Unfortunately, I have seen many Muslim students who have felt embarrassed to talk about Islam and believing in God. It is important to be knowledgeable about your religion and contemporary issues affecting religion as well as being proud of your beliefs. This will no doubt be an asset in any discourse and also help you to engage effectively in discussions.

 

These are just a few tips I can offer to the first year students. Know that everything will work out. Your university experience will be unique to you and no matter how many tips and advice you get, there will still be something unexpected wrapped up inside. Stay true to yourself and your beliefs. Keep in touch with your family if you live on campus. Cherish the free food, free housekeeping and zero rent if you live at home.

Put your trust in God and thank Him for bringing you this far and looking after you every step of the way. Know that He did not bring you all this way to leave you now.

There will be drama, highs and lows, but you are poised on the cusp of a very exciting journey that can help develop your fullest, magnificent potential.
mariam

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