If you think that university is merely a place to accumulate academic knowledge, think again.
In between all the scurrying from one lecture to another, you may find yourself faced with situations that have nothing to do with your studies or grades.
The truth is that there is so much to learn from your time at university. Here are some tough life lessons that you can expect to learn outside the classroom.
#1. Life isn’t easy
You may think that the universe is working against you when everything seems to be falling apart — you’re scoring Cs in your exams despite studying all week, your friends are distancing themselves from you for no apparent reason and you’re living on grass and water because you’ve run out of cash for the month.
To rub salt in the wound, your friends are breezing through life without a care in the world, achieving top scores without breaking a sweat while you silently suffer and slog through life.
Instead of berating that life is unfair, try asking yourself, “How can I turn this into an opportunity or a learning experience?”
For example, if you have to work part-time to support yourself while in university, think of all the experience and learning that you can gain, including the value of a dollar, time management skills and an opportunity to network with others.
#2. Your secondary school friends aren’t forever
You may have gone through a lot of ups and downs with your secondary school buddies, but you’ll often find that life has other plans for you and your gang.
Once SPM is done and dusted, your once unbreakable clique will be faced with the conundrum of what happens when everyone goes their separate ways to study. Your buddies will soon start to form friendships with different cliques whom you may not get along with, or you may even go through an irreconcilable argument with them, causing the friendship to wither.
The sad reality is, the pals you made in secondary school may not be your forever friends. Fallouts can happen, but it’s up to you to choose how to react to it. Whether you make amends and reconcile, or leave a toxic friendship, you are bound to learn something from the experience.
#3. Relationships take work
Our relationships tend to change as we grow older, which makes it important to remember that relationships, whether with your friends, family or partner, are two-way streets that need a lot of hard work to make it… well, work.
So make time for your friends and family and show that you prioritise them despite your newfound life and responsibilities in university. Failing to communicate with your old friends (or partner, if you’re doing a long-distance relationship) when they frequently try to keep in touch with you may cause them to feel hurt.
After all, all relationships are reciprocal. Just like plants, they require some TLC to flourish.
#4. Perseverance and determination is key to success
Rejection is part and parcel of life. Take J.K. Rowling for example — the first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 12 publishers before Bloomsbury made it the worldwide hit that it is today.
Even if you haven’t experienced soul-crushing rejection before, you are bound to encounter it in the future, whether when applying for jobs or even in romantic relationships.
It’s important to keep your head held high, persevere through your hardship and learn from your mistakes. Nothing can be accomplished if you wallow in self-pity or become depressed.
Be patient and remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. When asked how it was like to fail over 1,000 times when trying to invent the light bulb, Thomas Edison said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
#5. You can’t turn back time
As a student, you may have less responsibilities to shoulder compared to once you become a working adult. So make the best out of your student life by exploring and experimenting with new things and step out of your comfort zone.
After all, you can’t turn back time and do things differently once you’re in the workforce.
So apply for that scholarship. Join your college debate team despite your fear of public speaking. Take a gap year after SPM. Volunteer for causes close to your heart. You don’t want to look back at your time in college and feel a deep sense of regret for not trying new things or for failing to do more with your life.
#6. People will do bad things for money
You may have heard that people do terrible things to one another for money, and your experiences may also align with that thought.
For example, you may have friends who notoriously borrow money from you and conveniently “forget” to pay you back, or you may have read horror stories about students who applied for high-paying part-time jobs but were scammed into paying “admin fees” and did not get a job in the end.
While it may seem like money is the root of all evil, it’s important to remember that there are steps you can take to protect yourself from an unfavourable situation. Do not lend money if you can’t afford to lose it, and don’t apply for jobs that require you to bank in money as part of the application process. Trust your instincts if something feels off, or speak to a parent or counsellor if you need someone to talk to.
#7. Comparing yourself to others will affect your happiness
Once in a blue moon, you may find yourself wondering what in the world you are doing with your life. Your well-to-do friends are studying overseas, a few of your classmates are working their way to a full scholarship and some are even running a successful business.
It’s easy to feel depressed when you see the accomplishments of your friends, but it’s important not to compare yourself to others as it’s a surefire way to rob you of your happiness. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, get up and get going — no one achieved anything by waiting around.
So if you want to travel and see the world, be diligent and save up. Want to be fit and lose some weight? Don’t sit around complaining — hit the gym or your neighbourhood park for a run! Carve out your own path instead of looking at others to figure out how you’re doing in comparison. You will achieve your goals in due time. It doesn’t matter how long you take to get there, as long as you’re doing it for yourself.
#8. Some friends will break your trust
There are situations in life where your friends and acquaintances’ true colours are revealed. You may have hit rock bottom and the people who swore would be there for you (especially after you’ve helped them so many times in the past) are avoiding you like the plague and giving you excuses to worm their way out of helping you. What do you do then?
You take responsibility, persevere through your crisis and find solutions to your problems — it’s up to you to pull yourself back up from a tricky situation and emerge on the other end stronger than before.
If your so-called friends are spreading rumours about you, take ownership of your problems and confront them face-to-face. Consult a lecturer or a counsellor if you need to. Problems can be solved, you just have to seek help from the right people and act in a timely manner.
When things aren’t going the way you want them to, it’s easy to think that life is unfair and that the universe is against you. While you can’t control everything in life, you can control how you react and tackle the sticky situations it has to offer. After all, what is life without a little challenge?
As Mohandas Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow”, so take every opportunity you can to learn and grow to be a better version of who you are today.