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Published: 17 May 2022

My first semester at Surrey – the last stretch!

Final-year Sociology student, Rachael, takes time out to let us know how her last year at Surrey is going.

From challenging to fulfilling, my first semester at University of Surrey has been one of personal growth: academically, mentally, spiritually, and relationally.

"We are no longer the first-year students who didn’t know what to expect from university, but we are now full-grown adults with a lot of aspirations in life"

There is this conscious acknowledgement that looms in the air as a final year student that most things you are experiencing will be the last. We are no longer the first-year students who didn’t know what to expect from university, but we are now full-grown adults with a lot of aspirations in life. My first semester reminded me that this is the last stretch of my university journey and I really wanted to make the most out of it. Here are a few things I sought to do before Semester 1 ended and how they actually turned out.

Goal 1: “This semester, make sure you work smart and hard”

I am sure we have all heard of the popular and well used productivity motto: ‘Work smarter, not harder’…? Well, I am not really the biggest fan of it. I understand the fundamentals of using wisdom to prioritise and strategise your workload, and that we do not need to burn out in order to be effective. I totally agree with that element of the motto; however, why can’t working smart and working hard exist cohesively? In my world, I am convinced that it can and should. So, Semester 1 was all about making that my reality.

"Finding a balance between being a smart and hard worker was the cherry on top of my first semester cake as it helped me stay ahead with all my modules and deadlines"

Using ‘Notion’ (I would highly recommend this app for all students), I started to plan my days in more detail, using a to-do list format and habit-trackers to keep me focused and consistent. That part was my working smarter, but in order to achieve the weekly tasks I set for myself, I had to work hard which meant minimising social media usage, going to the library more often and keeping myself accountable for my deadlines. Finding a balance between being a smart and hard worker was the cherry on top of my first semester cake as it helped me stay ahead with all my modules and deadlines.

Goal 2:Romanticise your life, take yourself out and look after your mind”

One of my favourite things to say to myself is ‘life is for the living’! As simple as this sounds, as a student I sometimes find it hard to actually live life outside of studying and having my head in a book. Knowing this, I promised myself that in this new semester, I would romanticise my life!

For me these looked like solo dates, decorating my university room, having three meals a day, resting, and most importantly building a community around me. I will admit, this hasn’t always been the easiest goal for me to achieve and it is still a work in progress, but this mindset shift really helped me find peace within the storm of deadlines and academic pressure in first semester.

"my first semester was the start of the final stretch for me, one that had its challenges but also one that has helped me form habits that will allow me to leap happily to the finish line of my degree"

To round up, my first semester was the start of the final stretch for me, one that had its challenges but also one that has helped me form habits that will allow me to leap happily to the finish line of my degree.

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