University life in a nutshell: lectures, study notes, assignments, exams, presentations, and then more exams – all fuelled by endless cups of coffee. Although you’re probably up to your elbows in productivity hacks, studying strategies, and tips for keeping your energy up, have you thought about what happens when graduation day comes? How would you like to feel as you throw your cap into the air? What skills would you like to have learned?
Give yourself a head start with these ten things to do before your student days are over. Master them and you’ll be more than ready for life outside campus walls.
1. Start limiting negative self-talk
We can sometimes be our own worst enemies. You’d think we’d want the best for ourselves, but unfortunately that little voice in our mind holds on tight. “Look, you messed up again,” “Why would they give you that position?” “You’re going to fail,” and so on. Learning to quiet that voice – your negative self-talk – is a life’s journey. Take your first step by doing a simple exercise: when you notice a negative thought (about not doing as well as you thought you would in an exam, not getting the internship you really wanted), recognize it, accept it and let it go. Visualize the thought disappearing, popping like a balloon, or being locked away in a box. With practice, your negative self-talk will diminish and you’ll feel much more confident and positive about life overall.
2. Say “yes” to opportunities
Newsflash: the world is not just your country, city, or neighborhood. Luckily for you, it’s far more complex and interesting than that! Cultivating a curiosity about other cultures is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to learn about our world. Is there a French film or Asian food festival on this weekend? Check it out. Seen capoeira or African dance classes near you? Sign up with a friend. Only good things can come of these new experiences.
3. Don’t box yourself in
And following from that… It’s easy to get into the habit of saying “I don’t like…,” or “I’m not good at…” But you know what? You’re a work in progress. Maybe you’d love chess or Vietnamese food. Perhaps you’d be incredible in a kick-boxing class or as a part-time tutor. Whatever the situation is, start to ignore the voice in your mind that says “no way.” Instead, give “I’ll try” a go.
4. Take responsibility for your mistakes
Blaming others is easy. But is it effective? After pointing the finger at someone else, in the short term you feel better. But wait a while and you’ll see that constantly blaming others is immature. Failed an exam? It wasn’t your noisy housemate’s fault: next time, go study at a library or quiet café. Hurt a friend’s feelings? Don’t ignore the situation: invite them over for coffee and apologize. But also watch out for the tendency to wallow in these thoughts and don’t let it become the kind of negative self-talk we just discussed in point on: Acknowledge it, decide to do better next time and then let go.
5. Make a bucket list
What would you like to see and experience in your one great life? How about studying abroad? Traveling through Spain, Canada, or Brazil? Learning another language? Taking a gap year to teach English, scuba-diving, or work as a nanny? Get these ideas out of your head and onto paper. Bucket lists are a great way to visualize all the possibilities that await you. Remember, there’s a lot of life to live after graduation. A lot.
6. Learn to depend less on your parents
While your parents will likely want to be your cheer squad and emergency rescue team until your 70th birthday, part of being a grown-up is – *sigh* – pulling yourself out of trouble when it comes knocking. Begin by learning to how manage your money: Pay your bills first and put away a little each month to cover emergencies. If you still live at home, start to pull your weight by washing your own clothes, contributing rent (if you’re working), and offering to cook a couple of nights a week (again, a great opportunity to practice those cooking skills!).
7. Learn to cook
Learning to cook great food for yourself kick starts your independence. Forget complex cookery and gourmet cuisine: Healthful, tasty meals can be as easy as stir-fried chicken and veggies, an omelet, baked pasta, or stuffed jacket potatoes. Look for quick, healthy meals on food blogs or ask your parents and friends for a few ideas. Your goal? To get through the week without reaching for a takeout menu or relying on mom and dad for a quick feed. The bonus? Being able to cook a nice meal is a surefire way to impress a potential girlfriend/boyfriend.
8. Learn a foreign language
The benefits of being bilingual are numerous: improved memory, better focus and slowed cognitive decline, a better salary – just to name a few. Besides, just imagine the pleasure of ordering your espresso in Italian or booking a Brazilian diving course in Portuguese! If you’re nervous about learning a new language, don’t make attaining fluency a rigid first goal. Instead, dive right in and take some classes, team up with a language “tandem” partner, read books and magazine in that language or grab online tuition over Skype. Best of all, go on an exchange and go live in the country where the language is spoken. The experience of going about daily life in that new language helps solidify vocabulary, grammar, and correct phrase use far faster. Plus it’ll be more fun.
9. Learn to drive
Knowing how to drive is an essential skill on the road to independence. Just think of how often being able to drive will save you: A weekend away with friends, helping your brother move out of home, picking up the shopping, taking a friend to the airport, or carpooling to work or school. If you don’t plan on buying a car – no problem – just remember that time spent learning how to drive is never wasted.
10. Buy a plane ticket (or two)
What better way to celebrate finishing university than hopping on a plane to somewhere new? Maybe you want to backpack cheaply in South East Asia? Live and work in Japan, Great Britain, or Australia? Go on a classic, multi-stop European holiday or road trip through the US? Whatever your dream, start making steps towards it before graduation: Check out flight deals, research visas, and find support networks if you need it. But don’t forget the most important step: buying your plane ticket. This little step takes your dream trip from “I might go one day” to “I’m leaving next week!”