Advice to my younger self

For most of us, university is a long, strenuous grind in which one toils to obtain a piece of paper with their name on it. The freedom one gains compared to high school feels liberating, yet it is marred by the daunting reality that you are now responsible for your own learning with no one to push you. As someone who was beginning their studies in Biomedical Sciences, I knew that I was in for a tough journey ahead. But I was never graced with tips on how to be prepared for the university life. Now heading into the last semester of my degree, I am much wiser and feel qualified in giving a proper response. This is what I would tell my younger self to ensure a more successful and fulfilling university experience:  

Set short term goals. All long-term goals can be broken down into multiple shorter ones. These goals typically provide a sense of direction and will give you motivation knowing that results are being achieved, better than tunnel visioning on a main goal. Designating a date to know certain concepts by gives you immediate feedback on how you’re doing because you know whether or not you are progressing with your goals.

Mnemonics are a lifesaver. Mnemonics are handy tools used to assist the recalling of information. With memorising pathways, especially in biochemistry, the impetuous thing to do is to repeat it over and over again until it’s hopefully retained in your head. They can almost be thought of as the “tape” used in holding objects together as the glue dries, because over time it’s no longer needed once the information is stored in long-term memory.  

Say you’re trying to memorise the substrates involved in the Krebs cycle: Citrate, Isocitrate, α-Ketoglutarate, Succinyl CoA, Succinate, Fumarate, Malate, Oxaloacetate. A mnemonic one might use could be “Citrate Is Kreb’s Starting Substrate For Making Oxaloacetate”. With the help of the mnemonic, the substrates of the Krebs cycle are much easier to recall.

Make the most of each day.  There are 86,400 seconds in a day - make each second count. Even watching an episode of your favourite TV series can be productive if it means you’ll be rested enough to tackle the content following your break. Plan the topics you want to cover each day and make the most of your breaks in between class.    

Discipline yourself. The biggest distraction during class is your mobile phone. Turning the Wi-Fi off on your phone is a good start or, even better, don’t have it out during class. When material is already familiar, it’s tempting to have a flick through your phone to pass the time. But before you know it, the lecturer has already moved on to the next topic and you have no idea what’s going on.

When you’re studying, don’t let that 1 hour study break turn into 5 hours. Mobile apps that I’ve found useful in mitigating this are Clockwork Tomato, a time management app that allows you to configure your own study schedule with breaks, and Forestry: Stay focused.

Familiarise yourself with content before lectures. Self-explanatory, you will absorb more content and have less information fly over the top of your head.

Make lots of friends. Spending your university career alone isn’t very ideal, and it would be a missed opportunity to not make friends with like-minded individuals doing the same degree as you. Those faces you see around class are likely to stick around until the end of your degree, and are potentially people you could be working with. First year is the best time to meet people because people are generally more open to meeting others, as some of them aren’t from Auckland. But once second year comes around, it’s harder to break into those clichés since they’ve already been established.

Join clubs. There will always be time for extracurricular activities if you plan your time wisely. This is another fantastic way to meet people sharing the same interest as you, and an opportunity to meet people outside your faculty. Clubs generally host events throughout the year and you’re bound to create fond memories and meaningful experiences through this.

Do an overseas exchange. The 360 Abroad Auckland exchange programme offers a neat opportunity to spend a semester or two studying at 1 of the 125 universities the University of Auckland is partnered with. Because you’re enrolled as a University of Auckland student, you pay the tuition fees for the University of Auckland, not the host university. However, you will be responsible for covering your flights, accommodation, and living expenses. The cost of the exchange can be alleviated by awards/grants/scholarships, and applications for Semester 1 in 2018 close on the 13rd of August. You can read about Ryan’s advice here.

While it may seem imperative to do well in your studies, don’t let that distract you from the amazing opportunities waiting offered by the university. Good study habits are important in achieving good grades, along with eating healthy and getting sufficient rest. Don’t walk out of this place with just a degree.  Make new friends, gain new experiences, and make the most of it.  

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of Chiasma's as an organisation.