You have made it into ANU, a variable rabbit hole of twists and turns that will be your life for the next few years as you tumble around, not exactly knowing what to expect at first. But, fear not, I am here to tell you what second year students wished we knew when we were you- a bright eyed, enthusiastic and excited first year student. We thought though that instead of giving you a sugar-coated picture of what university is like, I’m going to give you a range of brutally true and sobering insights into what to expect.
Firstly, the degree you start won’t necessarily be the degree you finish- particularly with your majors. A point in example was my own experience; I started the infamous vertical double major in international relations. Now I’m doing Earth Science and Geography majors. That’s not to say that everybody will change degrees or majors, but as they say, the mind is like a parachute: it doesn’t work if it’s not open. Don’t trust your 18, or even 17, year old self to have necessarily made the right choice that will dictate the rest of your life or your degree. Don’t hit the pavement, keep your mind open and accept that you will very likely pick up a new major or even a hobby which will determine how your degree is planned out. But most importantly, make sure you see the ANU Careers centre ASAP! We do not always know what the next step after university is. So, if you’re going to be bouncing around majors or degrees, you will need to know that there is a potentially suitable job for you at the end of it.
Secondly, I am sure you promised your parents that you would behave yourself and not drink too much. I am sure your parents had noble intentions, but believe it or not, alcohol has an amazing social effect that often pushes you in the right direction. Like Herodotus said, the ancient Persians used to make decisions when they were sober, and then get drunk to reconsider decisions again – if the idea was just as good sober as it was drunk, then they were set.
There is also a common misconception that first year doesn’t really matter. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth if you care about actually getting a job after you graduate. First year subjects are much easier to score well on than later year subjects, but they count just as much to your GPA. Take advantage of that! Do not waste first year like it doesn’t matter. Use it to get an exaggeratedly high GPA and then let yourself drag it down later with harder third year subjects.
Also accept that you have no idea what tomorrow brings, but get involved and don’t say no to anything.
But finally, embrace these chaotic years of your life. There’s no other time in your life when you can stay up until 4AM, sleep until 2PM, miss all of your obligations, dress in an unwashed onesie, go days without showering, drink excessively, and adopt terrible diet/exercise habits without any negative repercussions or any sense that the people around you are judging you! But, as a final point which most later year students know, the social groups you make in first semester often fragment or fall apart. So embrace the fact that university life is mysterious, chaotic, fun, and most importantly life changing.