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Differences between school and university

male reading a book

University is so much bigger-the sheer size of the university campus, especially at Clayton, and the large number of students attending can be overwhelming.

At secondary school you go from room to room for classes; at university you are more likely to go from building to building, or even campus to campus.

At school your class size might range from 30 students down to perhaps five or six. At university your classroom might often be a lecture theatre seating several hundred students.

You are not alone in your experience of finding things very different. Everyone-even students from the city schools- find university a bewildering place at first.

There are signs and maps around the campuses. Look for them.

There is also an enormous difference between campuses of Monash University - mainly environment and size - and maybe this should be one of the factors you take into consideration when making your choice about which campus to attend.

You may not know anyone!

Ray

Until you know the campus layout really well, always carry a map with you, and mark on it the places that you know you will have to go to often. Losing your way around a big campus is something that happens to just about everyone at some stage.

It also helps to be in plenty of time for classes when you are still finding your way around. If you find you are late for a class, still go in. Nobody is going to mind if you are a bit late at first.

Toni

At secondary school I knew all the teachers and administrative staff. At university, you have many teachers (professors, lecturers, tutors, demonstrators) whose names and locations may take you a while to learn.

Many other staff are located in various parts of the university. For example, there are community services for students, such as counselling and chaplaincy contacts, health and family care services, financial and legal aid advice, plus there are the Campus Centres where you find bookshops, cafes etc.

Mick

The big difference from secondary school is that no-one actually takes you by the hand and takes you to these services. They are there for you but you are responsible for deciding whether you should use them.

Ray

This is one reason why I like uni much better than secondary school. I've found that I really like thinking things through and making my own decisions. But it's very different at first, and you can feel overwhelmed. But you do get used to it after a while.

Toni

I nearly panicked when I first arrived at uni. There are so many people on campus. I think there are more than the total number of people in my home town!

Michelle

Expect a big change and realise that it's going to take you some time to settle in and know where everything is and what to do.

Change is never easy and apart from feeling lonely and probably very homesick at first, you'll also have to deal with the change from knowing everyone at home, to knowing practically no-one at uni.

Courage is essential!

Sonja

The big thing to realise is that you can deal with the loneliness and homesickness. It may take a while, but in working through these feelings you find yourself becoming more mature, and probably better prepared for the job you plan to take.

The big step I took was to take the courage to introduce myself to someone who looked as lonely as I did. It turned out we have a lot in common, and it's really good to have someone to talk to about things at home.

Mick

I took the courage to introduce myself to someone who looked as lonely as I did. It makes a big difference if you can see a familiar face once in a while, and there are plenty of others who feel the same as you do but are too shy to approach anyone.

My advice? Take a deep breath, take the plunge, and don't ever think that the person might not want to speak to you. I was in this huge lecture theatre, and the person next to me seemed to be alone too, so I just said 'Hi, I'm Mick', and we got talking. We signed up for the same tute group, and went to class together for the first semester.

A few hints on making friends and meeting people!

Places that will help you meet people:

  • In classes/lectures/tutorials - In the first week of uni everyone is really anxious to make friends. There's a kind of consensual relationship between all first years saying 'hello, hi, how are you, g'day'. Most people are friendly. Most people know very few people. Talk to them!
  • Study groups/prac partners - There are many other extracurricular activities to go to where you can meet people. During Orientation Week all the clubs and societies set up stalls and tents encouraging students to become members. There are sporting clubs - including footy, cricket, netball. There are chocolate clubs, political clubs, comedy clubs, faculty-based clubs. This is where you meet people with similar interests to yourself.

Have some fun!

  • Other areas - Photocopy machines, in the library, lunches on the lawn, in the cafes and restaurants, helping out the student associations on each campus when it organises campaigns, rallies, etc.

Information about community services available to students at Monash University (all campuses) is available from Health and Wellbeing.