Seven things you’ll learn at university (that have nothing to do with your degree)

That qualification’s going to be pretty smart, but it’s not the only thing you’ll get out of uni…

There’s plenty of learning to be done in the lecture halls, seminar rooms and libraries of university; but your education won’t end there. 

Going to university is a life experience. Sure, you’ll be working towards your degree, but there are also plenty of vital non-academic skills you’ll develop along the way. 

In this article we speak to two current students at the University of Leicester, Sumayyah and Lucas. They share their insights on everything they’ve discovered so far about university life, when they’re away from the books.

1. You’ll learn to budget your money

Ever had to stick to a budget? If you’re like most students, university will be your first experience of completely planning your day-to-day spending: from bills and food to clothes and socialising. It can be a bit of a wake-up call.

Lucas shares his experience. “You may have received pocket money growing up and think it is really easy to manage,” he says.

“But when you go to uni, many more costs can come into effect. You may need to pay for laundry, rent, food, and more that you may never consider. 

“University will teach you to manage money as the financial dependency will likely decrease from when you were in school.” 

It can also be very tempting to go overboard with your spending when that first student loan payment hits your bank account. Lucas advises: “Just don’t spend everything in one go once you receive it or you may be in trouble for the next month or two!”

2. You’ll realise how easy it is to make new friends

Worrying about making friends is something that concerns most new students. The thought of putting yourself out there with so many new people can be a daunting one.

Sumayyah felt exactly the same way, but it was a worry that quickly went away. “I’ve made way more friends than I thought I was going to make,” she says. 

“Before university, it was my biggest worry – how many friends will I make, how will I meet them and how will I start conversations.”

For Sumayyah, it was all about being open to chat. “As well as asking questions related to our course in lecture halls and tutorials, I was also open to making conversation with other people in, for example, the library or through societies, attending events and even my commute," she says.

“It’s all just about being friendly. Everyone else is trying to make friends too, especially in the first year, so just be friendly and smile.” 

3. You’ll find out about all kinds of different cultures

As universities attract students from all over the world, you can expect to meet people from all sorts of different places. 

“It’s nice to be able to speak to so many different people from different backgrounds – as well as try out their foods and hear about their life back home,” says Sumayyah. 

“One of my favourite things is how diverse my friendship group is. Everyone’s from a different place in the world.”

4. You’ll get miles better at managing your time

University is definitely not short on extracurricular activities, whether that’s playing a sport, volunteering, joining a society, working part-time or just hanging out with new friends. 

But with so much to do, you may find yourself juggling commitments and struggling to fit it all in – which is where your newfound prioritisation skills will come in handy. 

“There is only a set amount of time in the day to do these activities outside of your degree,” says Lucas. 

“Prioritising your enjoyment and the value of these opportunities can help you pick what to do outside of your degree. You can’t do everything, and no one's forcing you to do something if you don’t want to.” 

Sumayyah agrees that university can put you on a fast learning curve when it comes to time management. “I was terrible with it but through a combination of running events, peer mentoring, tutoring, attending classes and fitting in time with friends and family, I learned how to juggle lots of different commitments.” 

5. You’ll learn to cook more than just beans

If you’re living away from home for the first time, this could also be the first time you’re having to prepare all your meals for yourself. “They’re not going to just magically appear in the kitchen anymore!" says Sumayyah. "I used to be heavily dependent on my mum or siblings cooking and now I have to think ahead.” 

It can also be all too easy to fall into the trap of forking out for more convenient – but also expensive – options. “I was spending too much on buying food on campus or ordering food in, so I had to learn from a very pricey mistake I was making,” says Sumayyah. 

Lucas has a few tips for getting started in the kitchen. 

“This may be your first time cooking, which is perfectly fine! You can ask your university or your student union for cooking tips,” he says. 

“At the University of Leicester, the Student Union has a guide made by students on recipes and cooking tips to try for healthy eating.

“If you want other sources, then figure out what you want to make, type it on YouTube, and you will likely find several videos showing step-by-step how to make the thing you want. 

“Not only will you enjoy food more this way, but it will be cheaper, filling and much more rewarding overall.” 

6. You’ll discover how to handle new challenges

There’s so much opportunity when you’re at university. It’s the perfect time to experiment and discover just how much you’re capable of. You might end up surprising yourself. 

Sumayyah set up her own faith-based society in her second semester at university. “I learned a lot about myself from the experience, and developed event-running, budgeting and people-handling skills,” she says.

Even if things go wrong every now and then, you’ll be able to learn from your mistakes and build up your resilience – another key transferable skill for when you graduate from university. 

After all, as Lucas comments, “setbacks are natural because nobody is perfect”. 

7. You’ll build your self-confidence

All of these new experiences add up to a whole load of self-belief and confidence. If you’ve learned all of these amazing new skills in such a short period of time, there’s basically no limit to what else you could do. 

“In a very cliche way, I believe I can achieve whatever I put my mind to,” says Sumayyah. “I don’t think anything is actually impossible and feeling like I can’t do something has been removed from my vocabulary. 

“I feel sure about myself and I don’t let fear or worry prevent me from moving ahead with something. I’m able to trust myself because there have been many times I was scared about something but I still did it and it turned out well.” 

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