On the Precipice of Hard Work: Taboo Challenges of University Life

University lifestyle is outwardly and undeniably demanding. There is a requirement for rigorous diligence, the ability to absorb a wealth of content and detail, opportunities for international study, life-long friendships and fantastic career prospects. But beyond this, students must come to terms with several harsh, brutal truths; some of which are far more prevalent and concerning for undergrads. I believe my familiarity with various personal challenges may elucidate some of these realities.

Perhaps the most prevalent psychological encounter for students is adjusting to the life of a university student. Even for those who appear to smoothly transition, several difficult obstacles must be addressed. Indeed, there is an essential need to balance – students can often be suddenly confronted with endless time, and little plan for what to do with such time. For me, this incited a hollowness to my daily routine.

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“Many shy away from communication and transparency, due to fear of appearing weak, spineless or soft.”

Simultaneously, fitting in also becomes an immediate preoccupation. You can assume a new identity, entertain new experiences, excel, fail; there is potential for each of these possibilities at university. It’s something that people may or may not have mastered in high school, or even from early primary school.

But it’s so materially different at university.

I lived at Mannix College for my first academic year, in 2017. I – subject to my perception of my circumstances at the time – struggled, daily and significantly. At college, you are indeed, to quote William Henley, the master of your fate and you are awarded full autonomy in all your duties. I loved my time at Mannix College and I hold fond memories and friendships that were founded in those halls. But, for those who have never spent a night in a boarding house, the college routine can be very overwhelming. Sure, I maintained a 4.0 GPA; sure, I received awards for my grades; sure, I stood out in my classes. But did I focus on building relationships? Was I content with my social outreach? Were “heck yeah!” or “sure!” my usual responses to social invites? No. I lived in a textbook and I – therefore – became one.

Having reflected upon that, where do we go from here? My open and immediate advice is to talk to people. Many shy away from communication and transparency, due to fear of appearing weak, spineless or soft.

“For males particularly, there is a familiar historical convention to leave personal psychological matters unsaid, to, rather, bury these issues deep down away. I urge nobody to do this, unless you are prepared for a life of internal anxiety that can envelope your later life.”

Talk to someone. Call your parents. Meet with a friend. Write it down. Tangibly project your emotions out into the world with no fear of inviting social labels and intention to be heard. Because more than we realise and often contrary to our perception, somebody is usually listening and willing help.

Every student faces different circumstances; everyone is perceptually separate, even only slightly. And if there was a universal remedy to these issues, it would be identified by now. Take time to understand yourself and don’t be afraid to go slowly. Perhaps, even only for a few, it’s a matter of private perspective.

Look within – be patient – remember that there are greater forces behind you in this life.


Patrick Stratmann (Guest Contribution)

Patrick Stratmann is a 2nd year Bachelor of Law’s (Hons)/Bachelor of Arts student, presently working as a paralegal at Youthlaw. He is currently developing a freelance documentary, ‘Exploits of a Freshman’, that explores the mental health challenges of first year students directly transitioning from Year 12. Find him on Instagram @patstrat30

The 5 Most Common Questions of a First-Year Law student

Have you ever had questions you wanted to ask but were too scared to post on the Monash Law page or ask literally anyone out of fear of looking like another JAFFY? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here are a list of 5 questions and answers we have accumulated from our own experiences in first year law.


Are 8am lectures a good idea?

Unless you already are a morning person, my short answer is no. At the beginning of a semester, it’s  very easy to say, “This is the semester! I’m going to motivate myself to wake up earlier by setting myself these 8am lectures and get all HD’s.” While admirable, this mindset and motivation tends to drop throughout the semester, and physically making it to these lectures can become draining and a real hardship. It is very important to pace yourself and know when your own optimal learning times are.

Where is the best place to buy textbooks?

As we all know, textbooks are VERY expensive. Why not save when we can. The Monash Law facebook page is the place to go. At the end of a semester, people are often trying to sell their textbooks, and sometimes you can find multiple textbooks sold together for a bundle price. StudentVIP is another place to look. All you need to do is type in the textbook you need and VOILA, many sellers will appear and you can use the money you save to buy (yet another) coffee.

Should I do the moot/ negotiations/ client interview?

YES! Why not?! These competitions are all in a safe space, and they’re actually really fun! Well… besides the moot. BUT if your goal is to become a barrister, the moot is the place to start. The first year moot, as the name indicates, is only for first years so it’s the best opportunity to go up against teams that are equally confused and unsure as you are. Negotiations and the client interview need very limited preparation, so that’s chill!

What do I do if I fail?

Don’t worry, if it was only a borderline fail, you will have the chance to resit the exam, however the maximum score you can achieve is a P. (still better than an N!) At the same time, you can appeal for the exam to be remarked. If for reasons you still do not end up passing, you will need to repeat the whole unit. At the time, it may feel like the end of the world, but if you think about it, it’s just another obstacle we experience in life.  Every obstacle you experience will one day be part of your success story.

How do we address lecturers?

Coming out of high school, we are used to calling our teachers Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms. Uni is different! You can address lecturers by their first names, whether it is in emails or in person. That’s not to say some lecturers still prefer to be addressed with their title, so do still double check with your lecturer. It’s not a strange question to ask!

Written by Dian Liu (Co-founder)

Beating the First-Year Blues

Everyone feels down and out sometimes.

This is just a natural part of life, and first year law students are no exception to this. Whether it be in your first few weeks of classes, halfway through the semester or even as you are leaving to go on Christmas break, pretty much all first years will at some point question what they are doing, why they are doing it, and who they are doing it for.

Chances are, you’re reading this and thinking ‘yeah this is me right now!’ Well you’re definitely not alone and lucky for you we’re here to help you out! Here are some tried and tested ideas that may prove helpful in overcoming this first-year slump. Give them a go!


Change it up

From experience, change really is as good as a holiday. If you’re feeling like you’re just going through the same motions every day, chances are you need to spice things up in your life! Break your routine and give a new sport a try, get in touch with a Monash club or try meeting new people. There’s plenty to do if you go looking!

Set yourself a challenge

One of the best ways to beat the first-year blues is to concentrate on a specific and realistic goal. Not only will you feel accomplished when its achieved, but you can also reward yourself! An example of a realistic goal is trying to do all of the readings for the week. A bad goal however, would be trying to get 100% on your assignment.

See a careers adviser

If you’re really feeling off track and questioning if law really is the right course for you, don’t hesitate to drop in and visit Career Connect at Monash. They provide free course and career advise which can be really handy to point you in the right direction.

Think about your long-term goals

Sometimes when you’re feeling down, the best thing to do is to think about the future. We all go through hard times but sometimes you just have to remember the incredibly cliché saying ‘there’s no sunshine without the rain’. Try to think about how your law degree is going to benefit you in the future and all of the opportunities it provides, rather than how much study you are drowning in study – remember this is only temporary.

Talk to someone

Often we feel much better after we have vented all of our worries and concerns to somebody. A good rant may just be what you need. Find somebody you trust, whether that be a family member, a good friend or somebody independent of your personal life such as a counsellor. Sit down and talk with them about how you are feeling. You might not have figured things out by the end of it, but they may offer you the direction or reassurance you need.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you are really struggling to stay afloat, or you feel as though your mental health is collapsing, please please please don’t be afraid to ask for help! Monash has plenty of support practices in place to help you get through this. Whether it be seeking special consideration for your upcoming assignment, or going to visit Monash counselling services, these services are all there for you to utilise free of charge and it is all very accessible.

Hopefully these tips have provided you with some idea of what you can do to smash these first-year blues out of the park! Below we have a list of valuable resources and contacts that may prove helpful in moving forward.

 

Resources

Monash Careers Connect

For all things careers, Careers Connect is your way to go!

Either pop in to see them on the bottom floor of Campus Centre or call 9905 3151

Monash University Counselling Services

Open 8am-5pm every weekday

Drop in at 21 Chancellors Walk, Campus Centre (Clayton Campus) or call 9905 3020 to book in a free appointment.

Headspace

If you would like to chat to somebody outside of uni grounds headspace is a great resource designed specifically for youths struggling with mental health.

The best way to get in touch is by calling 1800 650 890

Written by Claudia Opie

So you’ve got into Monash Law: A Dos and Don’ts list for First Years

Firstly, congratulations!

If you are reading this, you have been accepted into Monash Law; one of the most prestigious and well renowned law courses in the country! Welcome to the beginning of one of the most incredible, wild and exciting periods of your life. So now that you’re in, you’re probably staring down the barrel of a 5-6 year degree wondering what the hell you are doing? Well, the good news is you are not alone!

At some stage in our lives we have all been first years and although it is probably the most daunting year of your university life, it is unarguably the most exciting and rewarding. A lot of choices and decisions you make in first year can in fact shape your future years. So take our advice, the more you put in now, the more you will get out of your degree later down the track. It’s worth it!

In order to help you navigate yourself through your first few weeks at Monash Law, we have developed a dos and don’ts list that we would have liked to read during our first years. In saying this, it is not an exhaustive list, and of course, prioritise what lecturers and tutors say when it comes to work related points! At the end of the day, they are the ones with more experience.

Dos

  1. Go to your FOL lectures
  2. Make an effort – go to first year activities
  3. Try to form a study group early
  4. Engage in university life beyond law, find something you are passionate about i.e a sports team or orchestra
  5. Reach out if you are struggling with mental health – we have a section on this website devoted to ways you can do this
  6. Do your notes lecture by lecture – try and form a systematic way of collecting notes and saving them
  7. Law school is hard, accept this and be OK with the fact that your marks may not always be perfect
  8. Contact lecturers and tutors if you need help, although you might not know them like your high school teachers, they will always respond to your emails
  9. Get involved in all that Monash Law has to offer, why not try the moot, client interview, negotiations? First year dinner? hell yeah!

Don’ts

  1. Isolate yourself
  2. Sit by yourself in lectures- everyone else is new too
  3. Do all the readings 😉 – this is an important one. Some of us may be superman and manage to read and digest every single relevant case to a topic before the lecture, but most us are not! At best, revise some pages of the textbook to get a broad understanding of an issue or point of law. Otherwise, the lecturers will almost always summarise relevant cases for you in lectures
  4. Stress out if your not happy with your marks, first year is about finding what works for you and this may not always be successful
  5. Don’t think you’ll be super motivated and set all your classes at 8am… chances are you will probably end up ditching all of them
  6. Don’t cram… law is a subject that requires practise and thorough understanding

Speaking from experience, we all wish we could go back to our first year, not only to reset our GPA’s but so that we could relive the find and exciting times it provides. So our advice is not to take yourself too seriously and enjoy the journey.

Our Recommended Activities 

First-year activities you should get involved in:

  • First Year Dinner – this is a night just for you! It’s a great way to get together with all of your Law buddies and make some new ones!

  • Peer Mentor Program – this is a great way to get free academic support whilst building up a social network (could even lead to the creation of a study group yay)

  • LSS events – the LSS (Law Student Society) organise a range of activities great for first-years. These activities range from free barbeques to running groups.

  • Law Ball – when the year is coming to an end Law Ball is a great opportunity to have fun with your friends. Get all dressed up and enjoy the night with friends and make new friends!

Written by Claudia Opie & Dian Liu (Co-founders)