Deciding to do a postgraduate degree is a big decision. There's the financial cost, the social cost of going back into education, the time and the stress. However in today's world you can never have enough education. You go to school to go to university to go to another university to get the internship to get the work placement and then hopefully get the job. This is of course a gross exaggeration but a process that many young people in the UK and abroad are finding themselves in.
So you've decided the university, the course, packed your bags, bought the bus or plane ticket and ready to get going on what should be a year of intense study, self-exploration and to ultimately get the degree you need to do what you really want to do.
Unfortunately things are never that simple, gone potentially are the days where you knew every face on campus, had teaching staff that you'd built years of rapport with and often that vital social support network of close friends you'd cultivated over the years.
Instead you can find yourself in a situation, especially if you're heading straight into post-grad life, where everyone is older, wiser, more professional due to having worked and less invested in getting to know people. These are not necessarily bad things. You can be blessed with class mates who have worked for foreign governments and big companies etc. that provide you with invaluable insights and contacts. However you'll also find people who are just there to get the degree and are all too aware of the financial and career impact their post grad experience is having on their lives. This is especially the case at the more international universities where there can be an uneasy sense of absolute competition that you'd successfully gotten over and shielded yourself from with your close friends during your undergrad years. Even students heading to post grad directly can be very calculated and so you can easily experience situations where time is suddenly now an investment. If you haven't already, you quickly realise that time is the most valuable commodity you have. This isn't even mentioning lazy professors and complicated university bureaucracy.
So here are a few recommendations I'd like to make in order to ensure your post graduate life goes as smoothly and stress free as possible, some are obvious, some less so (I'm also assuming here that you've learnt the language of the country your studying in):
1) Invest your time in people who will invest their time in you. Obvious right? Wrong, just like the first day of school it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to be friends with everyone. Be cordial but remember don't waste time on people who don't make the effort.
2) Join a society. Honestly the best experiences that I and many others like me have had have been through joining societies. You meet similar minded people and make some great friends. It's a no brainer.
3) Make friends with undergrads, especially if you're going to work in that city after graduating. Undergrads stick around for longer than postgrads and so are more willing to emotionally invest in people plus when you graduate you'll know quite a few people already in your respective city.
4) Remember you're paying an inordinate amount for that year so get your money's worth when it comes to office hours and professors. They might care more about their research than they do you; but don't be discouraged annoy them until they have no choice but to help you with your thesis.
5) Explore. This one should be obvious if you're studying in a different area but many students simply spend all their time studying. Each to their own but it helps once in a while to get out of the confines of the ivory tower. There is life outside of academia. It's definitely healthier than staying at home and watching reruns of 'the office' or getting jealous of your friends Facebook statuses.
Everyone has different university experiences but students are often united in mutual annoyance a lot of the time on many of the same issues. Hopefully this helps any potential postgrad applicants, remember if you play your cards right it could be one of the best years of your life.