Two months after finishing second year and just over a month until I begin third year I have been thinking about the various ways these past two years have impacted my life and how the next two years and beyond will shape my future. If you believe what the papers say then we're all doomed to work in minimum wage jobs and never get a graduate job, regardless of how good your degree is. This is why I think it is so important to make sure you get the most out of your time at university. Of course the main reason people go to university is to get a degree but it is so much more than those hours you spend in lectures and the library. This past year I really put myself out there and got involved with stuff I am interested in, my attitude was that it wouldn't hurt to go out into the world and meet new people.
Every post written about university emphasises how great societies and I couldn't recommend joining one enough. In first year I didn't make the effort to go to many events but this year I attended meetings every week and even joined a committee! My best advice would be to go to events and join societies that you are genuinely interested in. There is nothing more boring than going along to events that you don't care about with people who don't interest you, purely because the society looks good on your cv. Sometimes committees and societies are super cliquey and intimidating but who wants to be part of that anyway?
Although you shouldn't join random societies because it looks good on your cv, university is such a good time to build your experiences and thus your resume. I've started writing for a human rights magazine which allows me to improve my writing skills whilst writing about issues important to me. I've volunteered at and helped organise events for different issues, gaining more experience each time, and enjoying myself raising awareness for various causes. Join LinkedIn and put all your experience in your profile, nothing is too small or invaluable! Go to workshops on ancient and medieval coins because you think it's interesting, buy tickets for a feminism in Islam conference because you want to learn about something new, hold a last minute bake sale and stand for ten hours selling baked goods - why not?
Friendships blossom throughout university but they also die, it's just part of life. I lived with eleven people in first year and eight of us became fast friends, fast forward a year and our group is down a person. Initially I was sad, I had made an effort with this person and put myself out there, yet there was nothing in return. But now I realise that if the respect and effort isn't reciprocal then it is not a friendship that I want in my life. Life is too short to continue with friendships that aren't good for you, cull your friends on facebook and enjoy a more peaceful life.
Get to know your tutors and lecturers, make an effort with them and that effort will pay off. Simply saying hello or good morning really does make a world of difference. In the years to come they might be your dissertation supervisor, your colleague or the one person who helps you get into a PhD scheme! Don't be scared or worried about annoying them with your questions and queries, one answer can help you go up a grade or mark.
Looking after yourself is hard, especially when deadlines and commitments are overwhelming, Speaking from too much experience university can be really bad for your mental health, but it can also be revolutionary. Take full advantage of any mental health sessions or counselling sessions offered by your university, talking to someone neutral to your situation helps you see it from a new perspective.
Take a day off from worrying about that essay, grade or scary future. Go for a walk, buy yourself flowers, have a well deserved nap. In the grand scheme of things one day is nothing, so go outside and relax.