Surviving University 101: A Humble Guide

I am a few weeks away from completing my second year in uni, and about a year and a half away from graduating. By then, I hope to have secured my first full-time job as a journalist, but there are still many hurdles to overcome, one of the biggest being actually having to graduate first. I have thus compiled a list of ways to survive university life. Working adults will probably scowl and me and tell me that university is nothing compared to what lies ahead, but no one can deny that university life is tedious. Not particularly very difficult for me since I live at home, but tedious nonetheless, especially if you have to balance studying, completing assignments and assuming leadership roles in clubs, or in my case, the university’s online news portal.

1.   Work towards a goal

Workloads don’t seem as heavy when you have identified the purpose of it all. Set a goal and work towards it, and never lose sight of what you want to achieve. Someone once asked me how I managed to keep my grades up. Truth be told, I’m no smarter than everyone else in my class. I’m just not afraid of a little hard work. Never fear the challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead. Elected as an editor? Do not be afraid, it just requires a little bit more of your time. Deadlines pushed ahead? Pull an all-nighter. One or two in a semester won’t hurt. Finals approaching? Start studying early. Uncooperative group members? Be proactive. There is always a solution to everything, and if there isn’t, then it is nothing that can be helped.

Personally, the few goals that I have managed to keep at the forefront of my mind include graduating with a CGPA of at least 3.5 (or first-class honours, if I’m lucky), and writing for a living in the future. This is why I willingly take up writing gigs, regardless of the genre. So far I have been given the opportunity to write in Happenings in Sarawak magazine, and contribute and edit news for the campus newspaper and online news, Madah Samarahan, and I will not shy away should I be offered more opportunities like that in the future. All this, paired with the academic demands that come with being a student give me little time for leisure, but like I always tell myself, an academic semester is only 14 weeks long. I should be able to get serious for 28 weeks in a year, and maybe a few more during exams. I have the rest of the year to have fun, and I won’t squander whatever I have to work with.


Ad: Download the latest copy of Happenings in Sarawak magazine at and see my face, name, article and byline (sorry for the shameless self-promotion)

2.   Pick up a hobby

With all that being said, it is also important that you do not zombify yourself during the academic year. Pick up a hobby, regardless of what it is. It could be browsing Reddit for funny posts, reading, tweeting, or even going on a food hunt in wonderful Kuching. As for me, I love baking, and sometimes even cooking. There have been too many times when I have gotten so frustrated with the workload I have been given, that all I want to do is bake for hours on end. I do just that. As a result of all that stress, I have learned how to bake cakes, cookies, brownies and muffins. See, stress can lead to good things, only if you allow it to.

2015-05-02 21.46.38 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Chocolatey treats which I normally crave for during the peak of my semester. Why buy when you can bake them?

3.   Travel

Now, I know that this may not be an option for everyone because it is not the most economical, but I truly believe that every 20-something should save up for a trip at least once a year. This, coming from the girl whose first overseas trip was only less than a year ago, but trust me, the lessons you learn from being outside your comfort zone are invaluable. Even if you are on a tight budget, take a bus to the next town. Drive to Siniawan. Fly to Kuala Lumpur. It doesn’t matter where you go, there is always something to learn in a new environment.

The very first trip I made overseas, as mentioned, was in December 2014 to Hong Kong with my family. Prior to this, I always opined that travelling was tiring and a waste of money, but once I saw what the world had to offer, I changed my mind completely. Yes, reading books and watching movies can take you to see and hear about the places you’ve never been before, but being there and experiencing cultures firsthand is an indescribable feeling. Good or bad, there are always lessons that can be derived from being in a foreign land.

Just a few weeks ago, I made my inaugural solo journey from Kuching-KL, and KL-Shanghai. The 5-hour red eye flight was one thing, but when I was in Shanghai, there were so many things I learned. Not everything about my holiday was rosy, but I still came back joyous because it was an experience I wouldn’t have traded any material possessions with. (I digress, but look forward to my next post about my trip!)

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Beautiful China

4.   Eat shamelessly

Stressed = desserts, they all say. And yes, this rule holds true in times of distress. Of course, like everything else, there is a limit to it. My go-to is always cakes and ice-cream, but my healthy addiction is tea.

2015-04-15 15.27.05

Chinese green tea, fresh from the harvest

5.   Surround yourself with family and friends

This, I find, is the most important and effective survival tip. This may not be entirely feasible for those studying far away from home, but friends are the closest you’ll get to family when you’re in an unfamiliar place. I am blessed to have both, because I’m studying 20 minutes away from home, and I count my blessings every single day. There is nothing like coming home to a house full of people you love, and being able to go out on weekends with the friends you love, doing the things you love most.

2015-04-24 12.31.24 2015-05-02 19.25.49 2015-04-27 13.32.13

Funny how all the things I love doing involve food.

There you go, my humble guide on how to survive uni. I’m still trying to survive it as each day passes, so maybe I’ll come up with an updated (but not exhaustive) list after I graduate. Que sera, sera, and thank you for reading 🙂

Author: Natalie Ha

I remember being enthralled with the written word ever since my parents started reading fairytales to me at a young age. Seeing the power it has to influence behaviours and mindsets, I have learned, over the years, to translate my thoughts onto paper, in an attempt to positively disrupt the lives of others. Having my written works published in various forms of media has empowered me to weave stories that people can resonate with. I look forward to the life-long process of perfecting this craft, and hope to see my work touch the hearts of many in the future. This blog attempts to do just that - and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy penning it down.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s