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From the old to the new: Our advice for your first semester at university

Written by Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of International Relations student Andie-Lee Cilliers and Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts student Maeve Moroney.

When you’re a Bondy, the first few weeks of the semester are always some of the best! If you’re just starting your uni journey, it’s most likely your first time living away from home, so you’ll be all about making new friends and soaking up the Gold Coast sun.

For us ‘oldies’, it’s spent catching up with friends after a long break… insert sarcasm here. Semester one can feel rife with opportunities to socialise, including events like the Social, the Session, Palaver, as well as catch ups with new friends and trips to the casino for a night out. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that you live on the Gold Coast for university – not a 24/7 holiday with your friends.

As the University’s Vice Chancellor Tim Brailsford likes to remind us, there are three types of time:

  1. Greenwich Mean Time
  2. The time it takes for the Stargate Odyssey to travel interstellar distances
  3. And, the fastest of all – Bond time.

Before you know it, it’s Week 10, assessments, tutorial prep and readings have piled up, and final exams are right around the corner. It feels like you’ve blinked and suddenly ten weeks have flown by. And that’s just your first semester – blink again and you’ll be in your eighth semester of uni like us! We know this feeling all too well, but throughout our time at Bond, we’ve definitely learned a few tricks of the trade that’ll help you stay on track both in terms of your study and your personal life. Here are six salient pieces of advice from a couple of Bondies who’ve gone through it all – good and bad – and lived to tell the tale.

1. Define your priorities

Our first piece of advice is to really think about what your priorities are throughout your time at uni. Yours might look totally different to the next person’s, and that’s okay – but they’re not to be overlooked, as they play an important role in shaping who you are. Once you work out your priorities, evaluate them and how easy or difficult they will be to maintain. If you have more than four or five, chances are you’ll need to do some reshuffling – realistically, you can only juggle so much, especially in your first semester of uni!

Then, think about where each priority sits on a list from most to least important. When you’re just arriving in a new environment, socialising is likely to be pretty high on the list, so might take up more time than, say, a part-time job or hobbies. On the flip side, if you’re from the Gold Coast and already have long-term friendships here, socialising might occupy a different position on the priority list. Of course, don’t forget to factor in study – it’s likely this will be close to, if not at, the top. With a better view of what’s important to you, you’ll find it easier to allocate your time and energy day to day.

Meet Maeve and Andie-Lee, experts in all things life at Bond

2. Plan out your study – and your fun

When the semester starts to get tough, you’ll be swapping beach days for library cram sessions and leisurely coffee catch ups to a triple shot on the run before 8am. Of course, things don’t have to be so hard, especially if you plan accordingly. This is something most students learn when they experience the transition from high school to uni, and chances are, you’ll have to discover what’s right for you the hard way – but if this can help you even a little, it will have been worth it.

Listen to your tutors and lecturers, and don’t leave that assignment or exam study until the last minute. Block out the time in your calendar to get started on your assignments so that you don’t get overwhelmed with last minute work. It can be very stressful to suddenly realise how much work is left to do in a short time, so prevent this as much as you can.

Over time, we’ve learned to balance our studies with fun, too. It’s just as important to make room for this in your calendar (whether it’s a physical one or just the calendar that lives in your mind). To achieve a healthy sense of balance in uni, it’s essential that you conceptualise what balance actually means to you and to prioritise and plan accordingly.

3. Give yourself downtime

What are your coping mechanisms when you’re stressed? The healthier that these are, the better you’ll feel and the easier it will be to cope with the pressures of uni life. We like to exercise, whether that’s a workout at the gym or just something fun and relaxing with friends. Here at Bond, there’s a variety of ways to exercise – from social sports to walks around the lake or yoga at the gym. Find out what works for you and go with it, and if you’re feeling a little unmotivated, the best way to get in the mood is to invite a friend. They’ll be your accountability buddy and will make your workout all the more enjoyable.

Another way to really make the most of your downtime is to socialise! Spend a day at the beach, have good conversations, go out for dinner… your options are endless. Talking with your friends is key if you’re having a hard time, whether that’s coping with study struggles, missing home or just feeling like you’re stuck in a rut. We always feel so much better after a big belly laugh with friends.

Andie (second from right) and Maeve (third from right) say that socialising is their favourite way to use their downtime, and to foster new relationships with friends

4. Take accountability

Sometimes you’ll find that even if you’re focusing all of your efforts on university, it won’t be reflected in the grades you receive – the transition from school to uni is no joke! Adjusting to this new academic setting takes time, and there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of if your grades dip or you find it tough to learn new study habits.

The expectations in university are higher, and now that you’re out on your own as an adult, the responsibility falls on you. Take accountability and work on creating positive habits wherever you can. You’ll find that your teachers are incredibly supportive if you ask for help and can probably load you up with tips to guide you through this difficult transitional time.

5. Go easy on yourself

Where it’s important to learn positive habits and how to take responsibility for your setbacks (and successes!) early on, it’s just as important to go easy on yourself. As we’ve said, this time is complicated and difficult, and most of us struggle when we go from guided schooling to having full ownership over our lives – academic and otherwise. See setbacks as an opportunity to grow, rather than failures. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t getting straight HDs, making Dean’s lists or topping subjects – and, if you are, don’t take it for granted. University is a journey, and there will be highs and lows throughout, so focus on creating good habits and strive for equilibrium rather than burning yourself out.

6. Stay rested

One of the most important things you can do for yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed is to focus on getting enough sleep – and more importantly, ensuring that sleep is quality. According to the National Sleep Foundation, young adults aged 18-24 should get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. If you live on campus, you might quickly realise that there are lots of distractions to sleep, whether that’s your mates keeping you awake chatting, or just that ever-growing TikTok addiction. But, to function properly, sleep is a non-negotiable, so make it a priority! Do a face mask, play your favourite music and zen out at least 30 minutes before bed. If you can, try to stay off social media and screens at least 15 minutes before bed to let yourself wind down mentally.

With those six pieces of advice in mind, you’ll be ready to tackle your first semester or year here at Bond. Above all, though, our biggest tip is to make the most of your experience – say yes, try things, make new friends, and prioritise your physical and mental health wherever possible. Studying and working hard at university are, of course, very important, but it’s just as crucial to take care of yourself.

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