Own your first year at Imperial

“Hi, I’m Franz. What’s your name?”
29/09/15

“Which lecture room do we have today?”
12/10/15

“Here’s your first summative assignment.”
03/11/15

“1st term’s over! Merry Christmas and a happy new year!”
18/12/15

“Welcome back. How were your holidays?”
11/01/16

“This term’s tough. More assignments and labs!”
15/02/16

“Yeah, I’m going home for Easter.”
23/03/16

“How are exam preparations coming along?”
25/04/16

“The first exam actually went pretty well.”
29/04/16

“I’m really glad they’re over.”
01/06/16

“Congratulations on passing the year. See you in the 2nd.”
19/07/16


I finished my 1st year at Imperial several months ago, and it truly went by too fast. Maybe it’s because as I’m getting older, every other year is a lesser fraction of my life, but who knows in fact.

Besides that, I tried to make the most of it, and in some aspects, I did. That makes me really happy, but there are other things that I wanted to try out or accomplish (like rock-climbing or a more regular club attendance), but did not in the end.

Of my first year at least.

So, from all my highs and lows over this past, eventful and simply wonderful year at Imperial, here are 11 tips for you to own your 1st year.

1.Be the one to say “hi” first

At Imperial, you will come to meet lots of new people from many different places, and make some pretty good friends. I say, be the one to muster up the courage to walk up to the cool guy or pretty girl you have your eyes on, and simply introduce yourself without expecting anything in return.

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Be as glamorous as you need to be.

You may end up as friends, or you may not click with that person. Anyway, you will come to develop your courage and conversational skills. Soon enough, you’ll learn how to approach different people and how to start and lead a conversation.

2.Try as many new things as humanly possible

If you’re moving to a large city like I did, then there will probably be many more activities or opportunities available to you as a university student. This may include activities like calligraphy, pole-dancing, kendo, photography, skydiving, or even archery.

021
Your No. 1 mission is to go to ALL the stalls at the Freshers Fair on October 4th.

In a bigger city, there are also many charitable causes to volunteer for, and many opportunities for a part time job, like bartending or tutoring.

The point of trying lots of new things is to genuinely learn what you’re into and not, rather than saying “I don’t think I’ll like it.”

3.Learn how to learn

The lecture starts, and you pull out your paper and pen, but you see your classmate across the room with a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with his stylus ready to jot notes down on MS Word.

We all have our learning styles – these are whichever helps us learn more effectively. See what things you have available to aid your learning, apply them and evaluate how helpful they are, in order to find out your most effective learning method.

03
And I mean whichever method aids your learning. (Taken during our Halloween dress-up)

Personally, writing things down helps my learning a lot. I vary from using pen and paper to a laptop depending on the pace at which the lecturer speaks. If lecture notes are already provided, then I would print them or work on an iPad or other device to edit the .pdf file.

4.Not everything is a competition

If you’re sportive, you may understand the competitiveness of a race – from start to finish, your efforts are invested into the steps you need to take in order to win. But at university, I don’t believe there should be competition where your academic performance is to be compared to those of your classmates. Sure, you may want to get good/great grades, but don’t seek to get the best grades.

When I started my 1st year, I felt I had get (one of) the highest grades in my year group. I did for our first summative (graded) assignment. Afterwards, however, I felt unnecessarily stressed in trying to maintain that standard. Instead, I felt I was not performing as well as I knew I could. Took me a while to realize and accept this as I am within a group of students who normally perform academically excellent.

5.Figure out what you want out of your time at uni

You may be starting your studies at university because you want to become a doctor and open up a hospital, or you want to contribute to the development of bionic prosthetic devices (this one’s mine). If your goals are crystal clear to you, and advancing your education at university is the next step, then figure out the following steps you need to take to get to your goal at whatever pace you want.

However, you may not be 100% sure about what you want. And that’s fine. Your first step is not to worry too much about it. Then spend some time exploring the many opportunities available to you. One of them must resonate at your frequency. When you’ve got it, take massive action on those first steps and accelerate towards your goal.

6.Keep a budget and track your expenses

As you’re moving out of your home, leaving your parent(s) or guardian(s), you will need to be on top of your finances if you want to survive.

Just kidding, you will definitely survive! However, knowing exactly where you’re spending your money allows you to cut back on the unnecessary costs and save up for what really matters to you.

Want to purchase a new computer/camera? Then start saving up a couple pounds a day by, for example, making your own food rather than buying food at the cafeteria.

7.Don’t be afraid of disappointing anyone

07
Give it your honest, best shot. You’ll realize you’re more capable than you think.

In your years ahead at university, you will come to face great challenges that will test your will. These may be mostly academic, but they may also involve another person, group, business/company, etc. Whatever the case, lose the fear of what anyone will think about you if you don’t get that job, or fail the test, or not end up as the top student, or simply lose.

Honestly, it’s a toxic feeling that will eventually break your will, no matter how try you hard to fight it. I experienced it during my exams. As I was afraid of disappointing one particular person, I did not perform as well as I really could on two exams. I’m glad I still passed both, but I learned my lesson the hard way.

But I didn’t lose. No. Battles are only lost if you learn nothing from them. But I definitely did.

You may be asking yourself how. I asked myself that so many times. It all boils down to accepting yourself as you are at any moment, and simply focusing on the task at hand and nothing else. Sounds easier said that done; it is, but it also becomes easier with practice.

8.Be encouraged, rather than discouraged

Here at Imperial, you will come to meet people who have a deep passion about what they do – whether that is their degree course, a sport, or even an art – and they’re really good at it.

But instead of “comparing your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20” (Yahya Bakkar) and feeling discouraged, talk to that person about their passion and learn from them. Ask them what makes them passionate, and how they’ve been able to keep at it for however long.

So if you share an activity as a mutual interest with someone else, learn from that person instead of distancing yourself from the activity altogether. Trust me, I understand that it could be quite scary being honest, but if you truly want to grow in that area, then have faith it will all be alright, because it will.

9.Cherish your time at university

09
Make friends and spend valuable time with them.

I was once hiking through the Seven Sisters Country Park toward Eastbourne, and I came to meet a UCL graduate. Curious to know what advice she had for a fresher like me, she told me this: Cherish your time at university.

She helped me to remember the position I am in, that after 3 years I may start working for a company and may no longer get to experience the spontaneity and liveliness of a university campus. I have come to know that I greatly enjoy it, and I will dearly miss it.

So I give you the same advice as you’re about to start uni. From start to finish, spend every second doing something significant to you, be happy and appreciate what you’ve got.

10. Do more than the expected minimum

While being around London, I once met an Imperial alumnus who studied Physics and later on went to do a PhD at Oxford in Physics as well. At such encounters, I always try to ask for advice a new student like me could use. He told me that though I receive a minimum amount of work in my course, which is expected of me to complete/do, to go beyond that and seek further knowledge.

This means that, for example, though your lecturers will assign problem sheets for the next session, do not only complete those, but also seek extra problems from the list of supplementary books. And more! Your lectures will probably be a collection of specific details from different sources, like mines were, but do search for those reading materials and read up on extra details, which may help you understand the whole subject!

Remember to never do less, but more.

11.Love and develop yourself

102
I am beautiful no matter what I wear, do or have.

You are a body, mind and soul, and you can develop all of these three with appropriate training.

Body: As a university student, gym memberships are normally cheaper, so set up a routine, go with a more-experienced friend, or whatever else may work out for you and build the beautiful temple that is your physical body.

Mind: Here you will come to learn new things that will challenge all that you’ve learned previously, which you also may find truly interesting. If so, invest the necessary amount of time to expand your knowledge and understanding of your degree course or anything else that may interest you.

Soul: As for your soul, happiness is key. Carefully pick the activities you take part in, the people you spend time with, the places you visit, and how you spend your time in general. Make sure that whatever you’re doing, you are genuinely happy or know that you will be happy after having finished/overcome something.

Note that I am not an expert in any of the three. I am still learning of ways to develop myself in these aspects, and I’ve come to realize that there is also no deadline. Anyway, for further inspiration I would suggest meeting those that are experienced in person, or following them online.


As I post this, it’s September 30th and the final batch of freshers arrive at the halls tomorrow. For my 2nd year at Imperial, I chose to be a hall senior and have worked with the other hall seniors, sub-wardens and wardens of the Woodward Buildings (and the Costume Store this year!) to organize a fortnight of daily events that we’re sure our freshers will enjoy.

This year, I aim to be much more consistent with my studies and extracurricular activities, which also includes blogging. Though my 1-year term as an Imperial blogger is coming to and end, and I am uncertain that I will get the opportunity to continue. Though for the length that this blog is up, I’ll try to promote it as much as I can. If I could help to spread some advice to at least 1 fresher, I’ll be more than happy! 😀

If you have found any of these tips useful in any way, please let me know in the comments! I like comments. 😀 It lets me know people actually read this stuff (because I have no way to track views) and appreciate it enough to say it or ask a question.

Have you commented yet? 🙂

(The featured image was taken by the Imperial College Bioengineering Society. Check them out for more photos of awesome times!)

4 comments for “Own your first year at Imperial

  1. Vaisamoa Tokauea says:

    On behalf of me, and i would like to greet you all in my own mother tongue “Kam na bane ni mauri” Hello.
    I am very happy to read all the personal advice and i would eager to do it because in our country here in Kiribati and the most important in our culture is to say hello and also to obey our elders order for example a teacher. I will do my best to follow this advice. No matter what happen but i will obey your advice.
    Thank you very much
    Vaisamoa Tokauea

    1. Franz Tapia Chaca says:

      ¡Muchísimas gracias, Vaisamoa! (Spanish is my mother tongue 🙂 )
      Though please accept my apologies for replying back so late! It’s almost the end of the year, and my first term of year 2 was unbelievably busy. Nonetheless, it was a meaningful term and learned lots of interesting and useful concepts for what I want to do! 😀
      I have also briefly looked up Kiribati, and now it’s definitely on my bucket list as a place to visit! I’m sure it must be very lovely there, with lots of interesting animals (I come from the Caribbean myself, but your island seems much more exotic!)
      That is indeed a beautiful culture. I hope to experience it one day. Though for now, if you have applied or plan to apply to Imperial, I wish you the best of luck, as well as a merry christmas, and a happy and prosperous new year! 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    I really appreciate the tips as well as the time you took to write all of them. It’s a really really good read. I applied for Computing for the 2017 intake and currently waiting for my decision. Hope to see you there if I get offered a place! 🙂

    1. Franz Tapia Chaca says:

      Thank you Vijay! (I hope that is correct)
      I wish you the best of luck with obtaining your offer. For now, merry Christmas and I hope you have a happy and prosperous new year 🙂

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