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10 things I should have known before I started university

With hindsight — We hereby offer 7,270 warm welcomes to all the new University of Copenhagen freshmen. There are so many new things happening when you start at uni that you can easily be overwhelmed. Here an experienced student explains what she wished she had known before she started her life as a student.

1. Save up

It costs money to begin at university. Between all the trips to IKEA, the books, and the travel cards for commuting, starting to study can end up being expensive, so it’s smart to save up a bit before you take off. There are also expenses for social activities such as introduction week, which you can easily forget on the go – and all the beers you are going to drink at the Friday bar don’t pay for themselves.

2. Learn the lingo

On campus you will hear many new and strange expressions – they are a part of the particular language code that is used on campus. The UCPH language is a distinctive  sociolect filled with absurd abbreviations and very long words that it takes time to learn. Do yourself a favour and read up on some of the university’s lingo before starting studies so you can easier follow the conversation and laugh at the right time. We have done some of the work for you on Danish university-related terminology. Find our (Danish) guide to uni-lingo here.

3. Make friends

Even though there are many things you have to keep track of, make a point of showing up at social events and Friday bars on your new study programme – even if you don’t feel in a festive mood. You can just drink a tonic without the gin, the important thing is that you spend time with your new classmates and make an effort to get to know them. This community may carry you through the really tough, troubled times of your programme of study – like having to study for a new exam in methodology.

4. Have hobbies

Extra-curricular activities can give you back the energy for your daily life. It can be anything from embroidery, to a trip to the practice room, the gym or football pitch, and this will give you significantly less of a bad conscience than a Netflix marathon, and it will make your studies easier. Not everything in your life needs to be about your new study programme, and it’s both healthy and nice to take a break and clear your head.

5. Relax

Remember to ‘check out’ every now and again, and take a break. Thousands of things happen at the start of your studies, and it’s not easy to be both social with your new reading group, and keep up old friendships, while at the same time being a good student and reading up on your entire syllabus. Give yourself breaks and breathers along the way – it’s okay. Nobody can do everything all the time – even if it looks that way on Instagram. It is, seriously, not good to end up as a stress statistic.

6. Be social

It might be a good idea to sign up for the Friday bar committee, the book club or any other campus associations. You learn to know the university in a completely different way when you commit to more than just reading the curriculum. It’s also a great opportunity to get to know people from other student cohorts and study programmes – something that might otherwise be difficult.

7. Study the right way

Now there is no right or wrong way to study. But you could easily be led to imagine that other students sit in the reading room until late into the night while they are at the same time engaged in all the different clubs and  associations of their programme, and that this must be the right way to be a university student. It is not. There are as many ways of being a student as there are students. We all tackle uni-life differently and have different priorities and preferences – and this is perfectly normal!

8. Drop the grades race

Grades in high school and at university are not the same. Your grades at university do not have the same implications, and you are also assessed on a completely different skills set. So you don’t have to worry about falling down the scale – most of us do. As long as you try to understand the material, things usually go well. In 2 years’ time (or in 2 months’ time) no one, including yourself, will remember, or care, about whether you got a ‘12’ or a ‘4’ in the first year’s exam in science theory.

9. Use the re-examinations

At university you usually have three attempts to pass an exam, and there is absolutely no shame in doing a re-examination. You can use the opportunity to redo an exam if you don’t have the opportunity to prepare yourself properly or if you have many exams on top of each other. Re-examination can be a planning tool that reduces the pressure during the exam period. It can give you more peace of mind and can be an opportunity for you to prepare better.

10. Make demands

You study at university for your own sake, and so it is legitimate for you to make demands on your fellow students and instructors. You have the right to question – or complain about – the decisions of the university, faculty or the decisions of your instructor. Every fifth exam complaint ends up being ruled in favour of the student, so even though it may seem time consuming or bureaucratic, it is not useless. Many of the guidance staff are students themselves and they are there for your sake, so do not hesitate to go to them if you need some advice.

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