Due to the pandemic, this university academic year will be one that will go down in history. For non-university students that are reading this article, academic years at UK universities generally start at the end of September and finish at the end of June. However, a lot has happened in this academic year outside of the pandemic, which has meant that I have learnt some important life lessons. In this article I talk about 5 key lessons that I learnt from my experiences this academic year.
Positive attitude goes a long way.
This is something I actually realised when I reflected on this academic year rather than at the time. It is inevitable that in any stage of life, challenges will come your way, some of which you couldn’t have prepared for. Sometimes you cannot control the future outcome, but what you can control is your attitude towards challenges. I must emphasise that a positive attitude is more than just hoping for the best outcome in every situation, it also includes things like accepting that a challenge exists and actively trying to deal with it. Not having a positive attitude in the face of challenges normally doesn’t solve them and usually makes things worse. This academic year was by far the most challenging year to date, but the fact that I tried my best to have a positive attitude and mindset towards things meant that dealing with my problems and challenges was made easier.
Facing challenges can be a blessing in disguise
Final year of university was very challenging, and in particular I had to balance a heavy workload, completing my dissertation, applying to graduate jobs, as well as trying to somehow maintain a good social life. Some of these challenges were a follow on from previous academic years, but the pressure was even more intense due to the fact that it was final year. I will admit now that all the difficulties and challenges I faced throughout university did take a massive toll on my mental health. However, I wouldn’t have changed my university experience for anything, and I certainly wouldn’t have swapped the challenges I faced for an easier university experience which didn’t take a toll on my mental health. This is because all the challenges I faced helped me develop and grow as a person one way or another. Even the challenges I faced with my mental health was worthwhile as it helped me develop resilience. This links well to the first point about having a positive attitude, because if you see challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than shy away from them, you are much more likely to do better in general.
You have to take a level of ownership in order to solve your problems
This is a really important point, but one which is not often talked about much. I completely agree that it is important to talk about and ask for help whenever you are facing problems, whether that it is regarding personal life, academics, mental health and so on. However, one big thing that I realised is that in the majority of cases, the ultimate responsibility lies with you to find solutions to your problems, and no one else can do that for you. For example, I struggled a lot with my final year dissertation, and I did ask my dissertation partner and supervisors for help, but I knew that at the end of the day I had to write the dissertation myself. Another example could be when someone is going through a rut for whatever reason. Having a support system is great when you are going through a rut, but you are the only person with the power to change your situation, even if that means taking the initiative to seek professional help. It may seem at first glance that taking a level of responsibility to solve your problems is frightening, but taking responsibility for your problems is actually incredibly empowering. It’s empowering because it’s a measure of your courage, your self-confidence and your mental strength, which are all vital skills in order to succeed.
Trying your best is really important, as then you can avoid the pain of regret
Life is such that there will always be things that do not go your way. This could include not getting a particular grade in an exam, not winning the competition you dreamed of winning, not getting a promotion at work, and so on. Things do not always go your way because life is not meant to be fair. However, what will end up hurting more after a while is not the outcome, but the regret faced by not giving it your best shot. You can get over a bad outcome over time, but it is harder to get over the regret of the past. This is why it is always important to always try your best, then at least you don’t have to deal with the pain of regret when an outcome doesn’t go your way. This is something that even I have had to learn the hard way, having faced the pain of regret too many times before this academic year. Now, one thing I always have in the back of my mind is the fear of regret, and this motivates me further to try my best in everything I do.
It is so easy to fall in the trap of being complacent, but complacency is a big obstacle to success.
Again, this is something that I learnt the hard way, and I will be brutally honest about this. I performed well in my degree in the first 3 years, and as a result I assumed that I would perform well in my fourth year without putting in much work. In particular, I initially thought that the dissertation would be easy as the average mark was very high for it. As a result, I was complacent in the start of the academic year, and it only took me 3 weeks to realise that I had to quickly up my game, or else things would not end well. Luckily, I realised this early on and so I was able to fix things. In general, the prospect of putting in hundreds of hours of hard work to achieve your goals does seem scary, which is why it is easy for people to sometimes get complacent and comfortable. However, complacency is the biggest obstacle to success, whether that is in personal life, academic life or your career. It was only by putting in many hours of hard work that got me to where I am today, and it will require lots of struggle and many hours of hard work for me to succeed in the working world. Therefore, falling into the trap of being complacent is something I definitely want to avoid in the future.
As I will be starting a graduate job this September, I hope the things I learnt from this academic year are things that I will take forward for when I enter the working world. I also hope that some of the things that I talk about in this article are things that you can relate to. Whilst I reflected on the past academic year, you can decide to reflect on the last few months of this pandemic or any other time period, and see what you learnt from it.