Q&A: What to expect when starting uni

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Even though Jessie says she was nervous when first starting uni, she says, "everyone was incredibly friendly and there were so many new and exciting opportunities that I found I quickly settled into uni life!". Now in her fourth year of a Bachelor of Arts/Law, Jessie shares how she made friends, settled into studying and made the most of her time at UNSW.

Why did you choose to study at UNSW? 

There are two main reasons I chose to study at UNSW.  

First, I was attracted to the unique teaching style of UNSW Law. In high school, I had always enjoyed English classes because of the opportunity to discuss and debate ideas. Similarly, UNSW Law lectures aren’t large lectures with over 300 people. The smaller seminar-style classes focus on class participation encourage discussions and critical thinking. I knew that this specific teaching style was best suited to my learning preferences.  

Second, I had heard wonderful things about the student culture. There was no sense of arrogance one might typically expect from law students. Instead, I heard about how friendly everyone was and many funny stories about students bonding over first-year experiences and rookie errors. The various societies and opportunities to develop my hobbies and interests outside of the classroom also definitely attracted me to UNSW.  


What’s life like at UNSW compared to high school? What’s surprised you the most? 

Compared to high school, you’ll have a lot more freedom and independence at university. I was most surprised by the control I had over my own schedule and course load, as students are given quite a lot of options for class timeslots. This allowed me to set aside time during the “normal school day” for social activities and work.

There is also a lot of freedom to decide for yourself the subjects or electives you take. There are so many options, so you truly get to explore areas that interest you. The flip side of this is that you’re expected to be more responsible for your own work at university compared to high school. However, your lecturers are still there to support you, for example, you can set up a meeting with them during consultation hours, much like in high school.  


How did you make friends at uni?  

I made most of my friends through joining the UNSW Law Society and attending their various first-year activities, such as LawPlus Mentoring and Law Camp! Joining other societies based on your hobbies and interests is also a great way to make new friends. I met some wonderful people being a part of the UNSW Cheer and Dance Society in my first year. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to people in your lectures and tutorials. One of my very good friends randomly came up to me in the library in the first week after a class we just had and asked if we could sit and study together!  


What does your schedule look like? Will I be studying all the time? 

I normally have classes two or three days a week and work as a paralegal on the other days. On the days I have class, it’s not the whole day from 8am-3pm like in high school. I often have breaks in my day, allowing me to study in the library or catch up with my friends on campus. Somedays, I might even finish before lunch and spend my afternoon doing social activities I enjoy, like playing sports or simply relaxing!

Whilst you’ll need to set aside time to study and assessment season may be particularly busy, you definitely won’t be studying all the time! I find that doing a bit of work consistently every day helps me stay on top of my studies and allows me plenty of time for other activities, including work.  


What are some of your most memorable moments at uni so far?

Some of my most memorable moments at uni so far include representing UNSW in various national and international mooting competitions. A particularly fantastic experience was spending a week in Brisbane mooting with people who have become my closest friends. I also enjoyed competing at the 2018 Nationals on the Gold Coast with the UNSW Cheer and Dance Society. Attending Law Ball with my friends and playing Arc social netball have also been standout moments!

Jessie during university