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Book Review : The Uni-Verse

Elizabeth Walsh takes a look at Jack Edward's new survival guide covering all aspects of university life

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Image Credit: HarperCollins Publishers, 2020

Moving out from your family home where you’ve lived for the last 18 years and into university halls can be a daunting experience.

If there’s one thing I wish I had tucked away in one of the million bags I brought with me, it would have to be a book about what to expect at university. Something to help me navigate the seemingly new world of adulthood independence. If you're a fresher this year then you’re in luck. YouTuber and recent Durham University English graduate Jack Edwards has got you covered. Released this August, The Uni-Verse compiled in Jack’s final year details everything you need to know from simplifying new university terminology to the all important six ways to cook eggs. This is your student bible, so keep it with you!

Jack is renowned for his cheesy one liners, which crop up throughout the book providing some light-hearted comedy.

Transitioning from A-Levels to university is certainly a big jump, despite narrowing down the subjects you’re studying from four to one or two. The chapter ‘Understanding the university grading system’ is invaluable, as it homes in on something that will inevitably take time to get used to. The new system certainly comes as a culture shock. Forget the days of achieving 90 per cent on your essays, anything above 60 is seen as really good at university. It will take some adjusting but your tutors and lecturers will be happy to talk to you. They’re only ever an email away.

As well as covering academic ground, Jack also looks at the other, just as important, skills you need to survive.  Arguably, the most pertinent and student-prone pages are concerned with how to cook and avoid giving yourself food poisoning. His straightforward strategies are really useful and will serve you well. I particularly liked the ingenious pasta solution which will forever be a portion size saviour (this is definitely the hardest part about cooking for one) . His top tip suggests pouring the pasta into the bowl you’ll be eating from and then into the pan so you don’t make too much. This is something I will definitely have to try.

Aside from studying and staying fed and watered, engaging with societies and activities outside of your degree is vital for your wellbeing. Chapter five focuses on clubs and societies opening with a great piece of advice: “don’t let your degree get in the way of your education”. Yes, getting a degree is sort of the point of you being here but it’s not the be all and end all. One of the first things I was told, by those who had been to university before, was to get involved from day one. Whether you carry on with a sport you’ve played since you were five or take up something new you won’t regret it. If anything, you’ll regret not trying something new while you had the chance.

As part of your wellbeing, mental health is not to be overlooked. Jack expresses the importance of mental health by likening it to skin, “Just like skin, everyone has mental health”. The only difference is we can’t “see” mental health as easily as a physical wound in the form of a cut or bruise. But, that is not to say that mental isn't as, if not more, important. He provides some useful coping strategies such as venting everything onto a piece of paper if you don’t feel like talking. However, if you do want to talk there are plenty of people more than willing to listen including friends and Togetherall here at York which is available 24/7.  Jack concludes with a letter to his pre-fresher self, finishing with, “power on... you’ve got this. And it’ll all be worth it.”

You’ve got this and the people around you have got your back.

The penultimate chapter ‘Diversity at university’ covers both a needed and welcomed subject. Especially with the recent reports on the lack of diversity at top institutions. Jack lays out his own shortfalls recognising that he can only represent the student population so far. He calls on the help of friends Renee and Ehis to discuss their experiences of university as black students coming from underrepresented backgrounds .

When asked about their feelings surrounding a lack of diversity, especially at top universities, Ehis takes the view that failure to be inclusive stems right from the campus itself. He notes everything from the stereotypical pictures of the rugby team to largely eurocentric modules that fail to represent everyone's interests. These things need to change. Going to university should be an exciting and inclusive experience for everyone and this is yet to be wholly achieved.

Although the recipes and ‘how to’s' are insightful, the most valuable parts of the book for me are Jack’s personal insights. His experience of being a student and the knowledge he has then been able to pass on. If, like me, you're the oldest sibling or you are the first to go to university in your family, Jack’s words are those of the older sibling you wish you had. This book is a great fountain of knowledge that will be useful to refer back to throughout your degree, especially if you ever find yourself in a moment of doubt or uncertainty. I’d like to finish by saying make sure to just be you.

This is your experience and nobody else’s, so make the most of it.

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