Balancing Life and Study at University

How to Balancing Study and Life at University

Every year, thousands of students head across the skies from Thailand to the UK, excited and slightly scared about this strange new world they’re heading to. 

Certainly, everyone has their own reasons for pursuing further education, but regardless of the reasons, each and every one of you knows one thing: This is a big opportunity, it’s expensive, it’s potentially life-changing, and the one thing you must not do is mess it up. And so, when you go to university, you’ll go to classes, you’ll work hard, and you’ll stay in your room the rest of your time, with your head buried in books. This way, you can’t fail! 

But wait! Let’s think for a minute. Is this the right way to approach university life? 

Just what is this ‘big opportunity’ you are facing? Is the opportunity only about studying and learning, from books and in the classroom? 

Surely the reason you are going halfway around the world is far more than just study. 

It’s about broadening your horizons; learning that people and places are not the same everywhere. It’s about developing a global outlook, with knowledge, skills and abilities that future employers want. It’s about building up a network of people who will support your career for life. 

You can only do this by getting out, meeting people, and doing things outside the classroom. If all you do is stay in your room, you’ll be missing out on so much that makes up this amazing opportunity. 

So, how do you build up the confidence to get out and explore everything available to you, and still make sure you get the balance right, and keep on top of your studies? 

Building the confidence to get out of your room 

It can be incredibly intimidating arriving in a new city, a new country even, surrounded by things that are new and different. When you don’t know anyone, it makes things even harder. 

So here are a few tips. 

Remember that everyone is in the same situation 

Whether they’ve flown 1,000s of kilometres like you have, or have travelled just a few kilometres, every student will be feeling the same nerves as you. So, when you meet people, just smile and say ‘hi’. They will probably be as relieved as you just to talk to someone! 

Find someone like you through Clubs and Societies 

The obvious way to find someone like you is to seek out other Thais, maybe through a Thai Society or through an International Students’ Society. This is a great starting point, but remember, your nationality is not the only thing that defines you. In fact, to make the most of your time at university you really want to seek out people who are not Thais! 

So, you can find people with shared interests through a whole load of other clubs and societies, from gaming to campaigning, from entrepreneurship to faith groups, from media to performance, and of course a wide range of sports. 

You are not limited to things you already do; university is a great time to explore and find new interests. 

Just head to the Societies’ Fair in your first couple of weeks and have a look at what is available. 

Expand your horizons through volunteering opportunities 

There are few things as rewarding as spending time helping other people who need it. Your Students’ Union or your Careers Service will likely have a stack of ways that you can use your skills and abilities to help others. These could be working with children, the homeless, those with disabilities or illness, or supporting environmental projects. 

Volunteering can give real meaning to your time at university and help you develop invaluable skills for your future. Just check your visa first, to check for any restrictions you may have. 

Getting the balance right 

Once you start to get involved in lots of other things, you might even find you have too much going on, and you might worry that your academic work could suffer. In that case, how do you get the balance right? 

On this, I have just one clear rule; one piece of advice that every student should consider. And it’s this: 

A university degree is, essentially, a full-time job, which takes around 40 hours per week.  

A typical course will have somewhere between 12 and 25 hours of classes, but every course will require you to do extra reading, extra preparation for classes, and of course assignments and essays. You’ll need 35 to 40 hours a week to attend your classes AND do all the other self-study. 

This will vary; some courses will need more time, while some could be done with less. The load will be different depending on the time of year, and the year of study. And there will be times when you might struggle and will need to spend more time on a topic you find challenging. 

But if you are regularly spending 40 hours per week on your studies, trust me, you are almost certainly doing enough. If you are using your time effectively, your grades will reflect this and you will do well. 

So, if you are studying 40 hours a week, you need to take a break. You need to apply your mind and body to other things and take your mind off the academics.  

40 hours a week leaves loads of time to make friends, join clubs and societies, to enjoy yourself and to fully make the most of this amazing opportunity you have. 

To sum up… 

Remember, going away to university is so much more than just studying. It’s about building skills, gaining cultural experiences, broadening your horizons and growing a network of contacts. 

It takes a little confidence to get out, meet people, and try new things. But remember, everyone feels the same, and there are loads of opportunities to meet like-minded people through clubs, societies, sports and volunteering. 

To get the balance right, just treat your academic studies like a full time job, and you’ll have plenty of time to take advantage of every opportunity that is available. ✈️

📝 Jonathan Tinnacher has over 25 years of experience working in UK university recruitment and admissions. You can check out his weekly newsletter and podcast over at  

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