Beyond the Classroom: My First Semester at ANU

Molo Bar
21 September 2018

Being still in my first year, I do lack the knowledge to pass on the top 10 best ways to ace your finals and even the locations of the best coffee spots on campus. I do, however want to lie upon you something far more valuable: my own haphazard experience as a novice at University. For what this article lacks in the tips and tricks to success, it makes up for in honesty. And if you’re wondering what specific facilities and opportunities set ANU against the rest; this article is not for you. But if you’re interested to know how an average, albeit ambitious, generally sociable 18-year-old male managed to survive his first semester… read on.

Six months ago, on a sunny February morning, I finally awoke to the sensation that I was a University student. After 6 years of high school the final steps towards this day arrived and departed as quickly as a Canberra summer. Formal, then graduation and of course… numerous three day benders. However, much to my dismay and the lazy habits I had developed throughout that summer; University was here and high-school was over.

My first semester at ANU has been one of the most unusual times of my life to say the very least. Navigating the University campus to only find yourself walking into the wrong lecture theatre became a regular event on those autumn Canberra mornings. Brian Schmidt memes began to become over-used and ‘Turnitin’ slowly morphed into my own vindictive arch-nemesis. Oh… and let’s not forget about those Thursday student nights spent out at Mooseheads till 4am; only to remember you have a tutorial at 9am that very same day.

First semester was challenging, exciting and every other emotion that keeps a teenager up until 2am on your average Wednesday. Yet, beyond the classroom and learning about the principles of some abstract topic that I most likely immediately forgot; my first semester at ANU taught me three valuable lessons. They are as follows:

1) Unsure of what you want to do? WHO CARES!

Although a large portion of my first semester did consist of making new friends and spending the majority of my pay check at ANU bar’s happy hour; it was also a time of significant personal growth. Coming from a schooling system where your aims were generally black and white and set within a defined framework pushed by others, to an environment where you individually set the agenda was somewhat overwhelming.

In addition to this change, being surrounded by people with big goals, who herald that one day they will be a senior partner at a prestigious Sydney Law Firm, definitely made me question my own prospects. Yet, my peers who continue to seem steadfast in their future ambitions are either extremely lucky or very good liars. The reality is that for most of us we don’t know what we want to do and that’s completely OKAY! Some of the most fascinating graduates I’ve spoken to didn’t know what they wanted to do when facing their own first semester and when finishing their last; still didn’t.

2) You probably won’t be the best… or even in the top 10%.

The ANU attracts some of the best students from around Australia and the world. It’s riddled with high achievers and the bar is set unquestionably high. Don’t be surprised if half of your tutorial consists of students who received the dux of their year 12. 

At the outset expect a 10% or more fall from your previous high school grades; remember you are still figuring out the system. But then again, don’t fret over your scores too much. Acknowledge that some stress is good and necessary, while too much is destructive and counterproductive.

Appreciate that hardship and failure will define times during your Uni life… it isn’t all partying and fun. Yet, understand that it is these times which are necessary in our development towards becoming strong independent thinkers. 

3) University isn’t for everyone… but ANU is for me!

The ANU continues to rank as one of the world’s most preeminent universities. The latest result from the QS World University Rankings establishes ANU in the top 0.1 percentile of universities globally. With its research capabilities, academic institutions and world class facilities; ANU’s long-standing success is in no way surprising. These highly desirable attributes highlight ANU’s commitment to providing the best environment for its students to grow and thrive. My advice is: take advantage of the benefits provided to you… even if that just means acquiring a free medical certificate (to maybe take the week off work) or utilising the instant coffee stations found around campus – trust me, you’ll need them. The opportunities are here, they’re easily accessible and ready for the taking. However, let’s be real, university isn’t everyone’s piece of cake.

The truth is: if you’re continually going to ignore your readings, skip lectures, lack interest in the course content, fail to engage at a tertiary level and consider University generally as a chore, you might want to re-consider going or hold it off for later down the track.

University is rewarding, enjoyable and difficult; but it is not a means to an end. If you are not seeking a career in which a tertiary qualification is an absolute necessity (e.g. law and medicine), your studies are simply that – studies. 


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Updated:  21 September 2018/Responsible Officer:  CASS Marketing & Communications/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications