You recently finished high school. The diploma in your hands, you’re ready to tackle your next academic challenge. Or you just came back from your jaw-dropping, horizon-widening volunteering experience in South America. Either way, a new chapter starts. Friends and family are full of well-meant advice on how to make the most of your university experience. Like, eating healthy and joining clubs but not too many because you’d elsewise over-load yourself, and study but not too much, because you also want to make friends and…. I guess you get the idea.
My well-meant advice – a product of the wisdom I acquired the last three years – is to simply do things yourself. You might have just rolled your eyes. Of course, you will now do things yourself, you live alone (or at least without your parents). You cannot avoid it, right? Wrong. Looking around my peers, I can assure you that the list of people who changed a lightbulb on their own is shorter than the one of those who did not. The same with those, who tried to change a tire of their bike. And there are those people who are still not registered at the municipality. After three years. Let it sink in. Or those who proudly announce, that they have not learnt to cook in those three years. Probably they have spent the money worth a fairly decent car by eating out instead, because it was apparently too much to learn some basic meal planning and prepping. Maybe something in your flat will break, but you never really have to deal with it because you have this one (probably Dutch) housemate who always takes care of stuff. You get in the habit of running to this housemate when the water boiler breaks. I’ve been there, don’t do it. Whenever something comes up and you want to rely on others, try to figure it out yourself first. You can still ask for help afterwards.
This aspect of “university life” is not the sexy, free and wild version that Buzzfeed videos sell you in their “10 things you have to do in college”-lists. But thinking back on my university experience, the most lasting and versatile skill you (should) learn in university – from academia to house work – is to figure out how to do stuff yourself. And once you master that, you’re ready to kick-start your almost-adult-life.
Asena Baykal, alumna European Studies