Five things I wish I knew as an undergrad
Having spent some of my time out in the wild wastelands of reality, coming back to uni as a postgrad student has felt like a fresh start. In every way possible it feels completely different, yet the changes have nothing to do with the grounds or new fancy technology (although I must admit cloud saving certainly wasn't a thing back in my day). Instead, it's all me. But since I've done my time and can now look back on my fresher days with the benefit of retrospect, here are five things I wish I knew as an undergrad that I can only recognise now.
Living on a student budget is good for you
Your bank account is almost empty and your lunch is leftovers from dinner two nights ago, but you’re really craving a beer, a coffee, or something that tastes like food instead of plastic. Ultimately you’ve got to choose just one of these luxuries... what are you going to regret buying this week?
It's good to be 'poor' for a while. It teaches you how to budget, what and when to spend, and exercises that primitive part of your brain that needs to ration those precious berries for winter (so to speak). Most importantly, you learn to really savour and enjoy the little things - you haven't tasted a real cinnamon bun ‘til you've got steady cash flow. And once you can afford regular indulgences again, you might start to take them for granted pretty damn quickly.
You'll make friends for life
Once you're hitting the nine to five, the time you can spend with your friends is going to go down - way down. If you don't like your workmates, well... let's just say that the Ninth Layer has a lot of cubicles. Making friends at uni is great - they’re going through the same shenanigans you are and have to take identical tests and assignments, and you can all empathise with each other over a beer at the uni bar. Debate, argue, drink, agree – there is nothing as precious as friendship, and you don't really appreciate its value until it becomes a distant memory.
Concession cards are gold
Appreciate those student discounts while you can. Every time I swipe my Opal card I don't hear a beep. Instead I hear the happy sound of dollars being saved, singing their hearts out in gladness that we’re not being torn apart just yet. Then there's savings on food, drinks, entertainment... remember, you don't get concession again until you're one and a half feet into the grave.
It's a world of opportunity
Your campus is an explosion of potential. On a daily basis you’re surrounded by people in your field, people with connections and future leaders of industry. This is your time to network, find like-minded people and make plans for the future. Hell, this is a time in your life when you can do an internship without people shooting you funny looks. I won't lie: unpaid work of any kind sucks, but this is a time in your life when you afford it. Don't like it? Walk out! Try something new and go somewhere different. Can you afford to do some kind of study overseas? Then get the hell out of here! Whatever you want to do, there's a way to do it while you’re at uni.
Ps really do just get degrees
Like me, a lot of you are probably going to uni just to grab your degree and get into the world of careers and regular pay checks. But don't let the end goal distract you from the journey. After all, you're at a place that houses the ultimate accumulation of mankind's knowledge. This isn't just Google or Wiki - you have access to the works of the best minds, who are doing some of the most complex and intricate studies into every conceivable topic.
Don't be like me, counting down the days and putting in minimal effort until you're awarded a certificate. Without gaining knowledge, without enjoying learning, and without the love of new and evolving ideas, all you'll be handed is a piece of paper - and little else.
Mark 'The Viking Gamer' Ankucic is a no holds barred gaming journalist. Whether he's pursuing the intellectual depths of Mario or learning how to beat Al on a medium setting, Mark brings the passion and force of a Viking to all of his articles. He tweets at @VikingGamer.