University life in a few words: lectures, notes, papers, exams, presentations, and more exams, all washed down with endless cups of coffee. While you’re probably stuffed to the brim with productivity-boosting techniques, study strategies, and tips for conserving your energy, have you given any thought to what happens when graduation day rolls around? How would you like to feel when you toss your cap into the air? What knowledge would you like to have acquired?
Take advantage of these ten things you have to do before your student days are over. Master them and you’ll be more than ready for life outside the campus walls.
1. Start limiting negative self-criticism
Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. You’d think we’d want the best for ourselves, but unfortunately, that little voice in our head is persistent. «You screwed up again», «Why would they give you that position?». “You are going to fail”, and so on. Learning to silence that voice – your negative self-criticism – takes a lifetime. Take your first step by doing a very simple exercise: when you notice a negative thought (about not doing as well as you thought you would on a test, not getting the practice you really wanted), admit it, accept it, and let it go. Visualize the thought as it disappears, popping like a balloon or locked away in a box. With practice, that negative self-criticism will diminish and you will have a more confident and positive attitude toward life in general.
2. Say “YES” to opportunities
Newsflash: the world is not limited to your country, city, or neighborhood. Lucky for you, it is much more complex and interesting. Cultivating curiosity about other cultures is perhaps the most important thing you can do to get to know our world. Is there a French movie or Asian food festival this weekend? Check out. Do they offer capoeira or African dance classes near your house? Sign up with a friend. Only good things can come out of these new experiences.
3. Don’t close yourself off
Doing that… it’s easy to go down the road of saying “I don’t like…” or “I’m not good at…”. But you know what? You are a work in progress. Maybe you liked chess or Vietnamese food. You may have been very good in a kickboxing class or as a part-time tutor. Whatever the situation, start ignoring the voice in your mind that tells you “no way.” Instead, give “I’ll try” a chance.
4. Take responsibility for your mistakes
Blaming others is easy. But is it effective? After pointing fingers at one another, you feel better in the short term. But wait a while and you will see that constantly blaming others is immature. Have you failed an exam? It wasn’t your noisy roommate’s fault: next time, go study in a quiet library or coffee shop. Have you hurt a friend’s feelings? Don’t ignore the situation: buy him a coffee and apologize. But also beware of the tendency to wallow in such thoughts, and don’t let it turn into the kind of negative self-criticism we discussed: admit it, decide to do better next time, and then let it go.
5. Make a wish list
What would you like to see and experience in your life? How about studying abroad? Traveling through Australia, Canada, or Brazil? Learn another language? Take a gap year to teach English, dive, or work as a babysitter? Put these ideas that are in your head on paper. Wish lists are a great way to visualize all the possibilities that await you. Remember, there is a lot of life to live after graduation. A lot.
6. Learn to depend less on your parents
While your parents will probably want to be your cheer squad and ER team until you’re 70, part of growing up is—sigh—fixing your own problems when they arise. Start learning how to manage your money: pay your bills first and save a little each month to cover emergencies. If you’re still living at home with your parents, start doing your part by doing your own laundry, contributing to the rent (if you’re working), and offering to cook a couple of nights a week (the perfect opportunity to practice your cooking skills! !).
7. Learn to cook
Learning to cook a great meal for yourself is the kickstart to your independence. Forget cooking complicated things and gourmet cuisine: there are healthy and tasty dishes that are so easy to cook like fried chicken with vegetables, omelet, cooked pasta, or stuffed roast potatoes. Look up quick healthy food recipes on cooking blogs or ask your parents and friends for ideas. Your goal? Getting to the end of the week without having to order a take-out menu or relying on mom and dad for a quick meal. The award? Being able to cook a dish well is a surefire way to impress a potential boyfriend or girlfriend.
8. Learn a foreign language
The advantages of being bilingual are numerous: improved memory, more concentration, less cognitive impairment, and better salary…, to name just a few. Also, imagine the pleasure of ordering an espresso coffee in Italian or booking a diving course in Portuguese in Brazil. If you are worried about learning a new language, do not make it your first goal to master it. Instead, go for it and go to some classes, find a tandem partner to learn the language, read books and magazines in that language, or sign up for online classes on Skype. Best of all, go on an exchange to live in the country where the language is spoken. The experience of living daily life in this new language helps to consolidate vocabulary and grammar and to use the correct expression faster. Also, it will be more fun.
9. Learn to drive
Knowing how to drive is essential on the journey to independence. Just think of how many times knowing how to drive will come in handy: a weekend getaway with friends, helping your brother move, picking up groceries, taking a friend to the airport, or carpooling to work or school. If you don’t plan to buy a car, no problem, just remember that time spent learning to drive is never wasted time.
10. Buy a plane ticket (or two)
What better way is there to celebrate the completion of your university studies than by hopping on a plane to somewhere new? Maybe you want backpacking through Southeast Asia? Live and work in Japan, Great Britain, or Australia? Going on the typical multi-stop trip through Europe or a road trip across the United States? Whatever your dream, start taking steps toward it before graduation. Take a look at flight deals, find out about visas and look for assistance networks if you need them. But do not forget the most important step: buy your plane ticket. This one small step takes your dream journey from “I’ll go someday” to “I’m leaving next week.”