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16th May 2024

Three years at university: What have I learnt?

As the academic year draws to a close, here are some of the more unexpected lessons I have learnt from three years at Manchester University
Three years at university: What have I learnt?
Photo: Abby Chung @Pexels

Words by Hannah Leaver

Despite the financial burden and having to live with silverfish as housemates each year, my time at the University of Manchester has been some of the best years of my life. Not only have I learnt so much about others, but I have also learnt so much about myself, more than I had originally anticipated. It was my first time living away from home, as I’m sure was the case for many others, which meant big, scary responsibilities.

I don’t mean the responsibilities that involve putting a wash on or dragging yourself out of bed for a 9 am. I mean the responsibilities that involve looking after myself, my work and my mental health. I have learnt that mastering university isn’t just down to academic or social pursuits but balancing these with self-care and mental health is the real responsibility that the last three years have taught me.

Prioritising both work and your mental health go hand in hand, but it does seem sometimes that you can only have one or the other. Often students sacrifice one for the other, but something that I would love to tell both my first- and second-year self is you can have both if you manage your time. Make a schedule, develop a routine or even tell your housemate to shake you awake in the morning – by establishing fair rules with yourself, it can be done, even if you take it too far at 256 on a Tuesday night.

Which brings me to my next point, the drinking and socialising culture that exists at Manchester is certainly a regular feature of student life. Whilst it’s important to have fun and make friends, establishing boundaries with drinking can work miracles. Take this advice from someone who has taken it way too far, too many times.

Like most university students, our social experience is primarily centred around alcohol, but this doesn’t mean it has to dictate your entire experience. Establishing a healthy relationship with drinking is doable. Especially come third year when those hangovers you thought would never be a reality in first year, start to linger longer and harder, affecting productivity and hitting you like a truck. Third year brings with it the realisation that whilst the allure of nightlife and the party scene remains, the consequences of excessive drinking are even more so at large. It’s a pivotal moment for all when we start to question if a two-day, anxiety-ridden hangover is worth a night at the Vic.

But, perhaps the most pivotal and defining matter of being a final year Manchester student is realising what colour of the library you choose to sit in. You can tell a lot about a person by their choice of library section to sit in. The orange-goers have a great sense of direction and those in blue haven’t seen sunlight for several days. This is something crucial I have learnt in my three years here; your library colour defines you!

However, don’t let the nuances of library colours distract you from the bigger picture: completing your degree. Something that I wished my first- and second-year self did more of was ask for help. I think sometimes seeking assistance is seen as a sign of weakness however see it as a good thing, a sign of commitment. Emailing your professor, asking a friend or even utilising the financial support and budgeting advice from the university can work miracles to reduce stress and pressure.

The last thing I have learnt is, as cliché as it sounds, enjoy yourself. Really relish your time at university as it goes far too quickly, in the blink of an eye I have finished, and it is crazy to think that my time at Manchester University will be a memory soon rather than my life. No more wild nights out, brutal queues for the 143 or spontaneous trips to Fallowfield Sainsbury’s for milk and Smirnoff. So, enjoy it, because it’ll be over far too quickly!

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