Fun-dergraduate: Looking back on my early university years

Elli Miller considers what made his undergraduate years fun

I don’t know where all the time’s gone. It didn’t feel so long ago that I remember going to my first O-Week and my first transition day, back in 2015… Apparently[ER1] , that was five years ago, and I’m already on my sixth year of uni, but please correct me I don’t want to be right.  

On principle I have no regrets in life. Everything I have done and everything that has happened to me has shaped me into the person I am today. So on the topic of ‘Rewind’, I should have nothing to say. Well turns out I have a bunch of things to say because if you’ve been following up with my articles you’d know I am the antithesis of succinct. But to keep editors happy and readers reading, here’s five things I’d revisit in my undergrad.

 University is something new and there’s honestly no better time to dive headfirst into the world of twice monthly meetings and free BBQs

1 – Join all the clubs

This is something I actually did, but it’s stock standard advice so I always give it. In my first year I was a member of the Disney Society, the Actuary Society (I was not an actuarial student), the Biomed Society (I was a Biomed student), the Harry Potter club (partook in some quidditch practice here and there), the Greek Club (I am not Greek), the Italian Club (I am not Italian), the Jewish Club (lol), and probably a bunch more. University is something new and there’s honestly no better time to dive headfirst into the world of twice monthly meetings and free BBQs. You’ll come to release that everything changes once the fire nation attac – I mean, when you hit second year.

Oh and go on as many camps as you can! Because when else in life can you openly drink on a bus without being arrested?

2 – Being friendly

This is something I also did, but more out of necessity than anything. In first year, you don’t know anyone, but guess what? Neither does anyone else! So as soon as you go to transition day, or camp, or any introductory classes or tutes you have, just be friendly. You never know if the person sitting next to you will end up being a close friend for life. It doesn’t hurt to smile, ask someone how their day was, offer them some Neptune’s chips (if you know you know), and maybe comment on their Dr. Who shirt.

3 – Have a good work-life balance

One of my strengths in high school was time-management. I made myself a timetable which had when my classes were, when and what I’d study, transportation times, and even when I’d socialise (hot tip, I’d never study on a Friday night or Saturday night). But that’s a lot easier in high school when you had a fair idea of what you needed to be doing and when – university is different.

For my first year I studied, revised, worked on assignments, saw friends, worked – but there was no structure. It was a night of chaos to the day of order. And to tell you the truth it was a precarious balance between genuine stress and genuine fun. Especially when your friends would convince you to come out to a party on a Thursday night at the Hawthorn.

But in the end, my chaos caught up with me and my grades slipped when I needed them to be solid. I didn’t study as consistently as I could have so I had to cram last minute and I was S T R E S S E D.

For me having a good work-life balance would have made my life academically and socially far better. Consider a break a weekly breakdown  including:

1. Your classes and labs (i.e. when you need to come in and study)

2. Your roster times for work

3. Any other extra-curriculars you have on: sport, music, acting, etc.

4. Times during the week to revise class and tutorial material before and after attending them so you look super smart

5. Setting an hour each night to work on assignments (if it’s a non-work night)

6. Setting a few hours over the weekend (let’s say three hours one day and three hours on the other) to make revision notes, work on assignments, and another hour after that reviewing the notes you made from the past weeks. Can you tell I wasn’t an Arts student?

7. Literally giving every other minute you have in the week to yourself and your friends (whatever floats your boat)

If your degree allows it, and if you can make it work, fit in as many electives which foster your interests outside of your degree as you can

4 – Taking outlandish electives

I couldn’t have changed this even if I wanted to, but my undergrad was spent trying to get into postgraduate medicine. That’s why I took developmental biology, pharmacology, neuroscience, and even a couple of research projects, because I thought that’s what would put me ahead. But in my first year my electives were academic writing and astrophysics!

To be fair I did academic writing because I thought it would help to write better essays (it didn’t), and I did astrophysics because I loved the idea of learning about how the Earth and the stars formed, and if aliens exist. That was so cool, but left other areas of interest like creative writing, history, and economics neglected like a wizard boy under the stairs. If your degree allows it, and if you can make it work, fit in as many electives which foster your interests outside of your degree as you can. But if you can’t, don’t let that be an excuse. I only explored my other interests ‘later in life’ (I say in my wizened age of 23), where I learnt more astrophysics from Neil deGrasse Tyson, creative writing from Neil Gaiman, and history from a bunch of podcasts (especially revolutions and the History of Rome, thanks Mike Duncan!).  

5 – Going on more adventures

I did a lot of fun and interesting activities with my uni friends during my undergrad. There were so many outings and really odd and amusing stories, especially from university balls. But I wish we’d done more. There’s always some excuse – EXCEPT FOR CORONAVIRUS THAT’S HELLA VALID – not to go play sport, visit a gallery, hit up a festival or head to the pub, but you’re literally in the prime of your life. In 5 years’ time are you going to remember that one night studying,  or will you remember you and your friends in dressed in cocktail outfits belting out karaoke and walking around the streets at midnight confessing your love for one another? Despite the amount of illicit substances consumed, I can guarantee you’ll remember the second much more fondly than the first.

Well there you have it. Them be my thoughts. In uni I was very social, I left with a very strong academic performance, and really nothing but good memories, despite all the bad which happened. I’m now in my sixth year of university and I don’t have any regrets. But you already know that. I feel sorry for the first years who’ve come into university with COVID on. But as soon as you get the chance, do all the things that you can. #getonthebeers.

Elli (he/him/his) is currently a fourth year postgraduate medical student at Monash University, who likes to stay in and read, and is feeling very grateful that now he is being encouraged to do so #thankscoronacrisis

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