Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone in Higher Education

24th March 2020

Fiona is originally from Derbyshire, but moved to Sheffield to study Primary Education at Sheffield Hallam University. She specialised in international studies, completing a month-long placement in a township school in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She now works for Hepp as a Higher Education Engagement Assistant.

Feeling unsure about university

It’s easy to assume that everyone who goes to university already feels destined to succeed on their chosen course. They must be smart, confident, independent and know exactly what they want to do with their lives.

However, I can guarantee that’s not the case. Personally, one of the best things about university was that there were many other students just like me: quiet, scared and unsure if this was right for them.

Although I knew I wanted to go to university – my two older sisters had already been, and I wanted some of my own experiences – the idea still made me feel anxious.

Flying the nest

I am very much a ‘home-bird’. I love walking my dog, watching films with my mum, cooking, baking, making crafts and playing some badminton here and there. Starting university was bound to shake up my comfortable habits. Although I would not have thought it at the time, this was a good thing! At university, I developed my independence and gained confidence. The simplest things can have the biggest impact. I learnt to make meals, wash clothes, set a budget and manage my finances, get to places on time and maintain a good work/life balance. These life skills are essential, and laughing at my mistakes surrounded by strangers that became friends was the best! I loved every minute, despite it being a massive learning experience.

Working part time

Before university, my experience of part-time work was limited to occasional waitressing at the restaurant my sister worked at and various student mentoring roles at my secondary school. The friendly setting of university was a fantastic place to get more experience in work.

As a student I wanted to earn some extra cash but wanted flexibility without too much pressure. My halls of residence were recruiting ambassadors to show people around the accommodation at open days. As open days were few and far between, I felt this was something I could manage. Despite the role being incredibly sociable for a proud introvert, I loved it and, to my surprise, felt the role suited me. The next year I applied to be a student ambassador for my course, taking on regular work for events, interviews and open days.

Taking the leap

The confidence I gained at university allowed me to turn my dreams into reality! I leapt out of my comfort zone, travelling to New York to be a camp counsellor for the summer between my second and third year – I’m still astounded by my courage. I lived in a log cabin for the summer, lead activities such as yoga and arts and crafts and was responsible for the youngest campers!

‘I bungee jumped off the highest bungee bridge in the world.’

As part of my course I completed a placement in a township school in South Africa. There I experienced a whole new culture bartering at local markets, eating traditional cuisine, dancing and singing. That’s on top of experiencing the beautiful views from Table Mountain, going on safari and bungee jumping off the highest bungee bridge in the world.

So, although I still love a cosy night in with a cup of tea and will continue to perfect my carrot cake recipe, I will always treasure my achievements and memories of university. To anyone sitting on the fence, I recommend you take the chance. What’s the worst that could happen? Equally, how amazing are the possibilities? Better to try than to not try and always wonder.

Categories: Graduate Interns. Topics: Benefits of HE and Student Life.

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