My name is Jasmine Tam and I’m currently a first-year student doing a Veterinary Medicine and Surgery degree at the University of Edinburgh. I’m now one semester in and am very much enjoying my studies here in Scotland, with no regrets (yet) about my decision to enroll in this course.
However, the transition from high school to university has not been without its challenges. One of the things I had to manage my expectations about was realizing that I couldn’t possibly know and understand and remember everything due to the sheer amount of content that was being taught. At university, there is much more independent work and not as much personal guidance; having lectures and bigger classes also makes asking questions in class quite daunting. The pace of content being delivered is much quicker and there’s less time in between and during classes to digest information, which can make it difficult to keep up at times. I also had to constantly change and adapt my methods of revision, as the methods I’d used throughout high school weren’t as effective at university. Time management was another challenge I faced; taking care of ‘life things’ on top of school like buying groceries, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc. without a parent nagging or reminding me to do so was harder than expected. Fortunately, I soon learned to use these tasks as an excuse to procrastinate or take breaks from studying.
I think one of the biggest challenges I faced upon arrival was not having a solid support system to rely on in this unfamiliar place. I found starting afresh on my own to be quite lonely and difficult at times, but everyone was generally quite kind, so they were very willing to help if I needed it. Probably one of the worst parts about not having my parents around in the first couple of weeks was that when I was sick every other week from freshers’ flu, I had to keep myself alive whilst staying on top of work no matter how tired I was. In order to establish a support system here, I met loads of new people during the first couple of weeks, but when people are enrolled in different courses or campuses with the majority of classes being delivered online, it can be hard at first to find a sense of belonging at university. That being said, meeting all these people from all over the world and learning about their cultures, mindsets and being able to see the world from their perspective has also been one of the coolest experiences I’ve had here. It’s one of the big reasons why I wanted to study overseas. I’ve since had many eye-opening and thought-provoking conversations with people from all sorts of backgrounds and introducing my own culture to others is always an interesting experience.
In terms of advice for applications and making HE plans, I would say to definitely keep an open mind. It can be good to be absolutely set on a career path, but it can also be beneficial to speak to people from different fields to see if there might be anything you may unexpectedly be interested in. If not, then it’ll just make you feel more confident about the decisions you’re about to make. If you’re stuck thinking about what courses to enroll in, figuring out what you enjoy / don’t absolutely hate studying is one way to narrow down your choices. A degree takes a good couple of years to complete and it’s easy to lose motivation and interest in the subject if the work (or style of work) isn’t something you think you’d enjoy. Looking into how different universities work can also help with your planning; some allow you to be more flexible so you can always continue exploring different subjects even during uni. Try not to compare yourself to other students in terms of what stage they’re at in their applications. Taking a bit longer than your peers to decide what you should do or where you should go for the next couple of years is not a problem, just don’t miss your deadlines! Make sure there’s time to edit personal statement drafts and to get help if you need it – things can easily go wrong, which just leads to a lot of panic and stress. When preparing for interviews, practise with friends and teachers and read around the subject as well as about the specific university. Having a casual chat with other people about why you want to study a particular subject and what your interests are can also help you feel more at ease during interviews. If the interview seems to be going horrifically, smile at the interviewer(s) and pray they don’t notice you panicking. Buy some time to think and refocus by politely asking them to repeat or clarify the question. It helps a lot to end with a good impression, so all is not lost even if the interview starts off badly. Also, you’re usually doing better than you think, so don’t be too put off by the one or two questions you think you may not have answered well enough. Things usually work out somehow in the end so just take it one step at a time; if your application gets rejected then look for other options or paths to get where you need to be (try to have a back-up plan in mind). Anyways, I’m sure you’ll all be fine so all the best for HE planning, applications and exams, don’t forget to ask if you have any questions!