Letter to Recent Graduates
22 August, 2018
I am writing this letter to wish you well as you prepare to move to your university. Congratulations and good luck with this next step in your education journey, you totally earned it! I know this letter is long and I appreciate that some of the wording will take time for you to fully digest, but please take the quiet time needed to really think about what I am talking to you about; what is contained in this letter is designed to save you time and help you (and others), nothing more!
Firstly, I would like to remind you all about the letter you wrote to yourself this time last year as you prepared for your final year of school and the challenge of completing your diploma. As you may remember, there was a lot of anxiety about the amount of work to get through and many comments about whether you would be accepted by (any) university! Now, remember how successful you are and think of all the good habits you developed to complete your Diploma and prepare you for heading to the university of your choice.
Before I give you some practical advice to help you settle into your new life at university, I want you to think about the steps you took to complete your diploma and jot them down/draw them on a piece of paper. Picture the good study habits you honed (especially recognizing and giving examples of the times when you needed to take more responsibility yourself and when you asked, or should have asked for help). The research and revision skills you became more disciplined with despite the (sometimes) seemingly overwhelming amount of work that needed to be handed in on time!
When we met as a year 12 group each week, we reminded each other that the journey can sometimes feel that you are “Alone”; especially when sitting an exam, staying up to complete a task before an important deadline and recognizing the strength of character it takes to complete things on your own. We also remembered that we were together as a year group and a school community; you always had someone to share your thoughts with and to support you (especially each other) before feeling completely overwhelmed. For many of you this was about keeping perspective and recognizing that usually there were just one or two things that had grown so big in your mind that everything else seemed too difficult. We used many visualization techniques to help us understand what was happening (remember the “What’s rippling your pond” technique?).
You cannot help but notice that I have included a picture that I know you will all never forget (try those power poses out! Check out Amy Cuddy on TED talks if you like!). I am writing to you because I know you will remember the journey you had here and how we tried to help prepare you for whatever may come. Some of you may well be missing the secure and supportive environment you were part of here (and I want to remind you that this is a normal feeling as we talked about change and transitions many times). Remember that YOU developed the skills and will continue to grow as a person at university, we just pointed you in the right direction sometimes! Here is my item for this week’s “the week ahead” and remember “Once a Cobra, always a Cobra”.
Welcome back to all our students. It is such an exciting time of the year as everyone catches up about their summer and settles into the rhythm of getting totally immersed in school and study. The week ahead will really be focusing on getting back into good habits and routines for school.
It is always strange to come back after summer and expect to see some familiar faces, only to realise that they have graduated and moved on. Our alumni are now preparing themselves for life at many of the world’s top universities; some close to home (Hong Kong) and some a long way away (USA, Canada and Holland). We wish them all happiness, success and to remember that “Once a Cobra, Always a Cobra!”
The main thing we make sure of at our school is doing all we can to prepare our students to be successful in their life (whether they choose to continue their studies close to home or anywhere in the world!).
Now, take a rest at this point and write yourself a letter (just like you did at the beginning of year 12). It may be helpful for you to start by writing about the reasons why you chose the university and course you are going to. Be clear about what you are excited about and what you are worried about. What do you want to achieve in the short, medium and long term (up to the first year only at this point would be enough)? When you have complete this task, you may read on!
So, how are you going to make this happen? The rest of the letter gives proven tips and advice to help you achieve these goals .So, here we are, a list of tips, advice and thoughts about how to get started, settled and successful in your first year at university!
• Do the basics well! Take responsibility for yourself and get into the good habits and routines that served you so well through the diploma as soon as you can. It is totally normal and ok to accept that you will be outside of your comfort zone at times, but you have proved to yourself on many occasions that you are independent and interdependent. You can look after yourself first and foremost as well as being able to work with and help others. Make a checklist of simple things that you will need to do each day. Do you know where to buy food? Where to go if you need medical help? How to set up your bank account? Where to go to do your washing? Etc… When you find out about each one, celebrate your successes, however small they may seem!
•Plan your work and work your plan! Find out about the first few weeks of university life. Universities work hard to make sure you have lots of opportunities to settle; there will be many activities and workshops for freshmen (new students) and specifically for international students. Put all the information into your calendar, take a deep breath and go to everything on the schedule that you are able to. By doing so, you will paint a really clear picture of everything the university can provide and expects from you. At the same time as attending these events and workshops, you will be familiarizing yourself with your surroundings and meeting lots of people. Remember, all first year students will be feeling many of the same feelings as you are; you are together!
• Go to the international student office. By taking this simple step, you will easily be able to familiarize yourself with the numerous support services offered. Find out the name of the staff there and introduce yourself; they understand how you are feeling and will be a great source of help for you.
• Talk to people! One of the things we talked about a lot last year was being prepared to use the English you have worked so hard to improve. It is so tempting to go straight to the first person who speaks your own language, and before you know it there will probably be a group of you happily discussing everything you need to talk about in your own language. As much as this will give you comfort (and is certainly helpful), remember to meet students from different backgrounds and cultures; this is one of the major things you wanted from studying in an international environment. You are already brilliant communicators, risk takers (healthy!) and courageous. Be roommates with a native English speaker, get a job on campus to help you use your English and meet more people!
• Get involved! One of the most impressive things I have seen you all do is commit yourself to action and service. There will be so many more opportunities for you to get involved in activities, clubs and teams. Sign up as soon as you can.
• Find Balance. You all found the healthy balance (after some searching plus trial and error!) between study, exercise and relaxation. Getting into the routine of going to lectures, making the most of the library spaces, group sessions, tutor support and making friends will take time and energy. Remember the marathon v sprint training we talked about. Be patient but committed to making small improvements each day; remember to focus on the process of improvement and your outcomes get better.
• Ask for help when you need itWe know that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness! There is no way you will know where everything is and how to do everything as soon as you arrive. Accept that everyone starting is going to need help and that no question will sound too silly to any member of staff; they understand how you will be feeling and want to help. Make sure you know where the international student support office is, meet and talk to your teachers/lecturers and advisors. They will be excited to meet you and want to know that you are settling in. We have discussed human nature a lot and know that feeling safe and secure is the most important thing. It may take a bit of time, but whenever you feel yourself pausing and asking yourself a question that you can’t answer, go and find someone who can help you, that is their job!
And finally! Be kind to yourself and stay in touch! If you are taking the steps above (it is far from an exhaustive list, but I think you may have enough to get you started!), you will see progress (however small it may feel) each day.
The alumni connection is a network you have helped to create and knowing you are able to call on your friends and peers who are now experiencing the same feelings as you are will be of great benefit to you all (you are not alone!).
I have already met the year twelve group and many of the hopes and fears you all expressed last year have been talked about by this year’s group! Please, please, take the time to join the Facebook and Linked in groups and stay in touch with us (you can scan the QR codes below). What you have learned already will be a huge help to the graduates to be this year and will also make you realise how much you have grown as learners and people.
With respect and best wishes
Could you please also e-mail me with your:
There will be a major alumni event at UISG on 22ndSeptember and as part of this, we are looking to showcase some alumni. If you are able to make a very short video of yourself telling us:
When you attended UISZ?
Where and what you are studying/have studied. What job you do now.
The best lesson you learned at UISZ?
The best piece of advice you can give to students currently studying the IB.
My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org