No one ever warns you of the feeling of inadequacy that will threaten to engulf you when you enter a room that is full of bright minds and seemingly put together students. There is this aura of "I have got it together" that oozes off your classmates, while you cannot seem to be able to get through your readings.
Let me provide you some background, I did my undergraduate degree at the Namibia University of Science and Technology in Civil Engineering. I was home (Namibia), in an environment I both understood and surrounded by a language I could ease my way into. However, my undergraduate degree was my first taste of hard work, it was the first time I could not ease my way through tests without putting in the work. I recall receiving my first assessment back, and looking at a grade I have never before seen in my life. 0% stared back at me, and before you go thinking, how can anyone get 0% in an assessment, two simple words - Civil Engineering. Nonetheless, it was the eye-opener I needed to ensure that I do not find myself thinking that I am smart enough to ease my way through an undergraduate degree without putting in the work. So I did, PUT IN THE WORK.
I am currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Globalisation, Business and Development at the University of Sussex, in the UK. After having been able to walk across the graduation stage to attain an undergraduate degree, you would think that I would be both mentally and physically prepared to do a post-graduate degree. WRONG, on both counts. After having taken a three-year gap before embarking on my postgraduate degree, I was in the literal sense - not mentally prepared for the mental work it takes to show up, nor was I physically prepared for the fatigue that awaited me.
So, what do I wish I had known before stepping into UniLife?
I will take it from both my undergrad, to where I am now, trying to swim through grad school.
1. Imposter Syndrome will try to silence you
You will find yourself in a room full of bright minds, and soon start to cower within yourself wondering whether you belong. You will be met by a language you thought was English (LOL), but no one ever did warn you that everyone around you will be using terminology that you have only heard on the News and not in everyday spoken sentences. You may want to be silent, for fear of asking a "stupid question" and may want to be relegated to an observer rather than a participant.
These are very natural feelings, however you will have to push past the fear and claim the position you worked hard for. You will have to remind yourself that you are able, capable, and deserving. You will have to speak up, and ask questions - because you learn best when you are honest with yourself and ask the questions that provide clarity for where you are stuck.
2. You will encounter fatigue and learn the importance of rest
Unfortunately, being someone who pushes themselves too hard, can be daunting. You always feel like you are not doing enough, you are constantly feeling like you should be doing more, and constantly feeling like you are falling behind. You spend so much time worrying and continuously pushing yourself, that you forget the most important key to success - REST. You tell yourself, there is no time to rest. You worry about how much everyone else seems to know and want to ensure that you too are on top of your game. However, rest is important.
If you do not listen to your body, you will burnout.
A burnout is when you cannot push any further. You are unable to push past the fatigue and are in the literal sense forced to rest.
I cannot begin to stress the importance of rest and a balanced schedule. Ensure you have a schedule, and ensure that in that schedule, there is time out. To allow yourself to rejuvenate and perform at your optimum.
3. You will learn how to prioritize
While multitasking is a skill one quickly learns, you also learn that you do yourself more harm trying to tackle too many tasks at once. You find that focusing on one thing at a time is the best way to ensure that you ease through your to-do list. This quickly teaches you the importance of a to-do list. You also learn that you will have to prioritize, which means that sometimes you may want to have downtime with friends, but that time may be better split between rest and hanging out with friends. You will learn that perhaps a few glasses of wine is counterproductive because the next day you want to get in a morning run before heading to the library.
TIP: Eat the frog - learn to do the thing you want to do least, first. To ensure you get it out of the way
You too will learn that budgeting requires prioritizing too, meaning that although it would be nice to have something, that money may be better spent investing in a conference or a gadget you need for school.
4. You are your biggest cheerleader
Though we all need a bit of a pep talk to help us focus and push on, there will be a time where you will have to be your own cheerleader.
You will need to be the one to help you push past the times you cannot seem to get an assignment right, cannot seem to cover enough of the material for an assessment or feel like quitting.
The feelings will be valid, however, in the most defining times, you will have to be your own cheerleader. Your voice will matter most, which means you will have to learn the art of affirming yourself.
They say that you draw strength from your most testing times, and the truth is that your character is most tested during university life. You learn to choose your friends, you learn what your priorities are and you soon learn that you are the person who keeps YOU accountable.
I will not pretend it is an easy task to choose to read another article, instead of watch Netflix. Nor pretend it is easy to choose to go to bed early on a Friday night and get some rest, rather than go have a few more drinks with friends. These are all choices that one has to make, and most times we know what the best choice is, and have to discipline ourselves enough to do what we know is the better thing to do.
The good news is, if anything, you will learn to muster yourself and be disciplined, and you will be better because of it.
Side Note: I want to ensure that I tailor the articles I write to be suited to your needs. May I ask that you please write to me on the contact form, telling me what you want to know?
I'd appreciate that.
From one Powerhouse to another
Find me on Twitter - @mavisbraga