Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started IS: Lelani Antar

In this series, the senior members of BAISmag reflect on their experiences in studying IS so far and provide advice for the incoming first-year students. This week, Managerial Editor Lelani Antar shares her experiences and revelations regarding the “good habits I started” of her first year at Leiden University Campus The Hague.

I have only been attending Leiden University for a year, but I can confidently say that being surrounded by other curious minds has been one of the most thrilling experiences. While some will agree and others will disagree with your view, there is always a presence of passion in the room. But I will admit, it is a bit daunting being in one place with people – that like you – are so passionate about culture, politics, language, history, and economics. It is sometimes hard to catch your breath and absorb everything. At first, being surrounded by great minds can somewhat breed a bit of insecurity. However, with time and practice, you will be able to navigate through the chaoticness within this bachelor. As a beginners guide to the adventures ahead, here are a few tips on becoming a confident, curious, and passionate learner. 

Share Notes

In university, good notes are worth more than gold, as it is one of the main tools you will use in assignments and for review before exams. Good notes not only require defining concepts but demand further interacting, connecting, and expanding on the topics you learn in the lectures and readings. To fully achieve a higher level of understanding and to feel confident in discussions and tutorials, you will need to review and add upon our notes after lectures and tutorials. 

I found this process tedious, boring and kind of pointless. To be honest, the first semester I slacked off on note taking and exam season came around, I felt like I was cramming way too much information. Taking good notes truly minimizes the exam season stress, preventing the tears and gray hairs.

The way to incentivize yourself to have good notes is to promise yourself you will share them with others. By assuming someone else will need them as a tool, you are a bit more disciplined when writing your notes, which ultimately benefits your learning. 

Besides the brownie points you will get for sharing your amazing notes, you would have created an environment that your peers will be more willing to show them their notes. What is great about the exchange of notes, is that you get to see what others deem core concepts and important details. I sometimes missed pretty crucial aspects of a lecture that my peers really highlighted in their notes.

Overall, sharing any educational tool is not only good for building confidence in a topic, but it also builds confidence in exchanging knowledge, which is one of the most important skills in university.

Plan your assignment right away

I am guilty of procrastinating on my assignments, sometimes leaving long essays to the day before. Generally speaking, procrastination derives from an insecurity that something will not come out the way you exactly want it. It is important to break out of the cycle of procrastination as soon as you can, or those all-nighters will be too common. 

The best tip to avoiding procrastination is to plan your assignments right away. When I say right away, I mean as soon as you get the assignment. When you are handed your assignment, write the couple of first ideas that come to mind. This gets rid of the “what the hell am I supposed to write about phase” that results in your procrastinating even more. While the ideas you might write down are mediocre or maybe just flat-out bad, you have already started the essay writing process. 

Once you get home and you have 20 minutes, create an outline of what you want to write. The truth is that writing 1,000 or 2,000 words isn’t the hard part, it’s knowing what you are going to write about that is the challenge. Really prioritize making a plan as soon as you can and I promise you won’t have as many all-nighters. 

It is okay to not know everything

International studies – and in general Leiden Campus the Hague – attracts so many people from so many different walks of life. Often I felt stupid because people brought up topics that I had never come across. It made me feel insecure and a bit lost, but it is important to remember that you can’t know everything. If anything, university is the place to not know everything and to learn a little from everyone you come across. 

If you ever feel a bit awkward and a bit out of place, the best thing to do is ask your peers to explain what they are talking about. There is no shame in not knowing something or even fully understanding it. I myself am still practicing this skill, but what is comforting to know is that many of my best conversations are the ones where I am asking questions. 

The best part about university is that it is a fresh start and you have the chance to start anew. But honestly, it can be a lot of pressure to get everything perfect on the first try. While you still might slack off on notes, procrastinate on assignments, or feel clueless sometimes, the most important thing to remember is to not beat yourself up. Every day is a step closer to being a more confident, curious and passionate learner. 

With lots of love, 

Lelani Antar

Managerial Editor 21/22

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Find us on Instagram @basis.baismag

Images from Unsplash

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