New beginnings (and how to be a good ship)

What a whirlwind of a year. Whether you’ve just started university, or whether you’ve been at the University of Malta for quite some time, it’s bound to be true that the past year has been full of challenges, testing situations, and the odd moments of euphoric glee. That’s certainly accurate in my case.

After four years in the law course, I decided to take a gap year to follow my heart. This involved upping and leaving the country to move to Durham, in the United Kingdom, where I’m currently reading for an MA in Modern History. Quite a turnaround, I know.

Upon taking this huge decision, I felt a certain reinvigoration which had been lacking in the previous four years. I finally stopped feeling tied down and uninspired, and instead could truly enjoy my studies and projects. I felt my priorities shifting, and as the months passed, I could feel my future opening up before me, with all its uncertainty, newness and scariness. It sounds cliché, but I felt alive.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this quotation by a fascinating lady called Grace Murray Hopper: “A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.”

Forcing ourselves to get out of our comfort zones is what shapes us as human beings and it’s what living is really all about. You don’t necessarily have to be drastic, but you can implement little changes to your lifestyle and mindset which will create a cacophony of colour and change the way you look at things forever. Simply strive to push the boundaries of your everyday routine and mix things up; whether it’s in the way you dress, where you go, or how you deal with things.

It’s going to be an exhilarating year, and I can’t wait to share the best bits with you, the lovely readers of The Insiter. Hold on tightly, it’s going to be a bit of a bumpy ride. But for now, a few tips for the uninitiated at the UoM, which might even prove to be useful for the more seasoned student:

  • Get enough of sleep and remember to eat breakfast so you can start your UoM career on the right foot. You’ll feel less overwhelmed if you’re rested and have some fuel in your belly.

  • Lists and plans are your friend. From your very first lecture, you’re going to be bombarded with information, so get yourself a little notebook or prepare a text file on your laptop to be able to take it all down as soon as possible. Also, if you’ve barely ever been on campus before, I highly recommend you carry a little campus map to make life easier.

  • Get involved. There is a pleasant abundance of student organisations at university, so you’re bound to find the perfect one for you, and if you don’t, set up your own.

  • Ask for help. Yes, it might be scary and nerve-wracking, but when you’re feeling lost or confused, ask for guidance from fellow classmates, lecturers, older students, the library staff, or even the lovely people at the Counselling Unit.

  • Tackle student stress from Day 1. Being a full-time student is not always a walk in the park. Work hard and play hard. Make sure you eat healthily, get yourself organised, find time for exercise and at least one extra-curricular activity, and jot down a few goals and aims to give you perspective throughout the year.

With the right frame of mind, it’s easy to have a great year. I’m sure there will be quite a few difficult moments along the way, but they’ll pass, making way for happier times. I’m definitely excited. Let’s do this!

(This article originally appeared in the first edition of The Insiter, Vol. 12.)

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