I learned three important things in college – to use a library, to memorize quickly and visually, to drop asleep at any time given a horizontal surface and fifteen minutes. Agnes DeMille
A couple of days ago I was talking to a group of students from my alma mater. They were all part of an entrepreneurship society which I had founded 6 years ago, a society that has since witnessed a tremendous growth in the Asia-Pacific region. During the course of the discussion an interesting question which was asked of me was, “Looking back ,what are five things you should have done more of, during university?” I found this a very interesting question and told them I would write a post about it.
My university life was not what I would call a typical student’s life. Within my first year of university I had set up a small business to facilitate printing and designing services to campus based clubs and societies. Things ramped up quickly after that and soon I had very little time to do everyday normal things. It did not help much that I was also involved in a host of extra curricular activities that ranged from toastmasters to setting up the universities first bicycling club. When I look back, the time I spent at university seems almost a blur. Everything happened so quickly and somehow in retrospect my experience seems somewhat incomplete. When I was asked the ábove question it made me think of some of the things that I feel I missed out on, and would encourage students to look into more.
1. Exchange Program: My university offered some great student exchange programs that sent students to places like Silicon Valley, Shanghai or Bio Valley to learn new cultures and be part of start-ups whilst there. Unfortunately with my heavy work schedule and commitments, going on an exchange program is an opportunity that I missed out on. My friends who did end up going on these programs had some amazing life changing experiences. Therefore I would highly encourage going on these exchange programs as it pushes you out of your comfort zone, exposes you to a new world and provides a great opportunity to meet new people and travel.
2. Discovering Hobbies: One should definitely use the time available at university to discover hobbies that could one day become driving passions. Make a pact with yourself to experience something new every semester , something you have never done before. I did a couple such as joining a salsa dancing class, learning chess and joining the toastmasters club. However ,there are many interests out there that could have been pursued. Your time at university is the best of times to discover what interests you and what you are truly passionate about. Get out of your comfort zone and go do some crazy thing and who knows you may discover something that could become a source of joy and excitement for you for the rest of your life.
3. Making Mistakes: Most individuals I knew including myself, did our level best to keep as clean a record as possible. This included not speaking up in class when things were unclear, not pursuing that wacky idea because everyone said it was stupid, not asking for help when you needed it most. To tell you the truth it is a lot easier to attempt many of the things that are deemed wacky and out there when you are at university rather than when you leave. The cost of life experiences continues to increase expotentially as we grow older and have more responsibilities. Use the time at university to make all the mistakes that you can, put yourself out there knowing that if you don’t succeed at first you would have learned a vital lesson that could translate into success in the future.
4. Networking: University is an ideal time to expand your personal network. There are many opportunities to interact with alumni, professors, business owners and seniors. I found many of my mentors through university networking sessions. I started a bit late however and would recommend that students begin building meaningful relationships as quickly as possible. I found that people were a lot more willing to help and give advice when I was a student. Apart from business networking, expand your own group of friends. Do not restrict yourself to the same group of people throughout the four years of college. Use networking sessions, hobbies and other activities to get to know as many people as possible.
5. Learn to Smell the Roses: My mother always kept telling me this when I was at university and my life was in a constant tizzy. At that time it made no sense to me whatsoever. When I look back now I realize the wisdom of this and just how important this one very simple exercise is. During our time at university there is always something that is happening and life seems to move at a blistering pace. There is always a mix of emotions that keeps us preoccupied at all times. We need to take a breather during these chaotic time and just sit back and reflect on the road that we have taken, where we are and where we want to go. Savor and enjoy the moment, life will only become a lot more complicated from here. If someone told me this when I was at university I would probably have given them a weird look. Take my advice though and set out an afternoon alone or with friends and just reflect.
I hope this post will be of some assistance to those of you who are still at university. A lot of the pointers listed above may seem trivial at first read, however I would encourage you to re-read them, then ask yourself the question “What memorable things will I cherish and take with me in life from my time at university?”. If there are not enough things coming to mind then one is not taking advantage of the opportunity at hand. Make sure that you have enough memories, good and not so good to ensure that you made the most of your time. I wish you all the very best of success in all your future endevours.