The most valuable skills we have learned at university
|Datum:||18 november 2020|
|Auteur:||The Blog Team|
Your years at university are all about gaining knowledge, new skills and becoming a more well-rounded person. You will quickly notice that learning during your time as a student is not confined to the courses you take and the papers you write. Whether it’s living with flatmates that improves your communication skills, or balancing studies with a side job, you will challenge yourself in many new ways. In this blog, we will share some of the most valuable skills we have gained at university.
Having good time management is essential as a student. Whether you do committee work, have a job or just lead an active social life, balancing your time is a valuable skill. Before starting university, my daily life wasn’t as full of things to do as it is now. In order to meet all of my deadlines without stressing out, I plan my days in Google Calendar - using different colours for classes, independent study, work and social activities. For me, that works really well as I can instantly see what needs to be done and when I have some time off. Most degree programmes require approximately 40 hours of study per week, including your lectures and seminars. It’s good to know what works best for you - are you more of a morning person or a night owl? Plan your independent study accordingly! I study best in the morning, so I plan my study sessions before my classes, which allows me to take time off on most evenings.
Something I learned during my first year at university was that being proactive will open a lot of doors for you. If you are interested in one of your professors’ research, ask them if they need a student assistant! Do your research, talk to people and ask them to let you know if they hear of opportunities that might be interesting for you. Even in your studies, being proactive when working on group projects is really important! Group projects can be a struggle sometimes and it is often appreciated when someone takes the lead, sets up the shared documents or folders and provides some direction. You’ll have the overview of who will do what and the road to success (ie. the high grade you want) will become much more achievable.
Anyone who has studied during the coronavirus pandemic has learned valuable lessons on adaptability. The move to online classes is something that shocked us all, and forced us to find ways in which to be resourceful, overcome issues quickly, and finally - adapt. However, I believe university life taught me to be adaptable way before this! As an international student, the lessons in adaptability begin once you move to a different country. For me, it came in the form of adjusting to the Dutch grading system, to bike life in the Netherlands, and in general to a completely new culture. However, academically, it also involved learning to adapt to the different teaching styles of several professors every new course, as well as adapting to new classmates and class environments. At university, it can seem like with every passing block, everyone has new and different expectations from you, but ultimately being adaptable this is one of the most important soft skills a person can have! It teaches you to ground yourself, be resourceful, and succeed in any situation you’re presented with.
Group projects: yay, but also “nee, dankjewel”. I’ve always been a person who has enjoyed working by herself, particularly because it allows me to have creative direction in anything that I do. However, my programme is full of group assignments throughout - something that I appreciated because it taught me the benefits of collaboration, but also something that was at times demotivating. Probably everyone has had experiences with free riders and problematic teammates, and they truly suck. However, I had the opportunity to take an Effective Teamwork course during my second year, which taught me extremely valuable lessons in communication, and allowed me to approach group projects in a different way. Whether it’s through conflict resolution, communicating clear objectives, or learning to provide/receive positive criticism, I learned that group work doesn’t have to be a struggle, and can instead end up being a great experience.
Being Open to Constructive Criticism
During the course of your time at University, you will be met with criticism and there will be times when you simply mess up. Sometimes it is important to not ‘block out the haters!’ University life is all about learning, and just because you may not agree with your professor’s comments on a paper that you’ve spent months writing, doesn’t mean that you cannot learn from them. The world is full of different perspectives and ideas on what is accepted; being open to these opinions will ultimately help you round yourself as an individual. Also, making changes based on your professor’s comments will definitely lead to an increase in grades… just saying.
“Shall we eat grandma?” versus “shall we eat, grandma?” One implies that granny is going to be eaten for lunch whereas the other just invites granny to eat some food. Although this little example of the importance of a comma, it extends to University life. Student life in Groningen is really diverse, and you interact with students from all over the world. This can sometimes lead to misunderstandings, especially in group work. Coming from different backgrounds and languages affects the way we communicate with one another. It is important to recognise this, and try to be as clear as possible. Don’t be afraid to clarify things you don't understand, and vice versa, be open to those around you. In my experience everybody usually has something good to offer, and communicating clearly can help ensure that everyone is heard.
The great, but also frustrating, thing about uni is that you can always do more. You’re literally never done with learning, meaning you can always still read more for a paper, or study more for an exam. This is a blessing and a curse, as you never feel like you are truly done. One of the most valuable skills I have learned is efficiency, meaning that I have learned to know when something is good enough, and it's time to move onto the next task. This is a really important skill to have, as otherwise you might get caught up in one task and end up not having enough time for another. By learning how to be efficient in your studying and planning accordingly (like what Avital mentioned regarding time management!), you can avoid unnecessary stress.
It might seem lame, but uni really teaches you how to socialise with people who you most likely would not normally spend time with. Over the past few years I’ve mastered the type of small talk questions and topics to address when talking to people I don’t know. Between random people you might meet at a party where you only know a few people, or people who you meet in classes, there are a lot of opportunities for small talk. When I started uni I hated small talk, and was pretty awkward as soon as a conversation would fall dead, but now five years later I’ve come to learn how to avoid awkward silences and know what to say. I still don’t like small talk, but it is good to be able to do as it allows you to extend your network and it makes you come across quite friendly. It’s a great skill to acquire as later in life you’re most likely going to come across a lot more small talk with random strangers.
These are some of the valuable skills we have learned so far, what are yours? How has being at university challenged you to grow?