De minimis non curat lex

By Nathan Hammond There was a young fellow named Rex, With a very small organ of sex. When arraigned for exposure He maintained with composure “De minimis non curat lex!”

There is a somewhat famous legal maxim— de minimis non curat lex, a Latin phrase meaning “the law does not concern itself with trifles”. Well, the law (arguably) does not concern itself with trifles—that is, insignificant things—and neither should you.

When you start uni there a lot of things you could be worrying about. But for most people, most of those things end up seeming pretty de minimis in hindsight. And no, I’m not sure that de minimis is actually the part of the maxim that translates to “insignificant”.

As you may have guessed, I am a law graduate. I started out my five year double degree in Arts/Law way back in 2008. By the time you are reading this, I should have also finished my Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. With any luck I will finally be admitted as a Solicitor any day now!

Which brings me to my second attempted piece of advice: try to keep in mind what you want to do at the end of your degree (the big picture). I’m not saying that you have to know exactly what you want to do. But I do think that time spent contemplating what you might achieve with your degree both assists you to take helpful steps and motivates you to push through those low moments that all of us have.

Personally, I know that my possibly somewhat naïve goal of being a human rights lawyer (for all the fame, fortune, and women, of course…) led me to embrace opportunities to complete relevant units, leadership and extracurricular activities. For example: doing charity work with the Armidale Dumaresq Leos Club (youth version of Lions); volunteering in the Duval, Drummond and Smith Kayaking Club which raised money for the Arrow Bone Marrow Foundation; and becoming both a college Academic Mentor and Resident Fellow. While at the time of writing I am not yet a human rights lawyer, I am working as a legal clerk at a human rights-based legal firm as part of my Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. One of the human rights lawyers at my firm is another UNE law grad who was only a few years ahead of me.

Now, back to those trifles again.

Some of you may be concerned that you came to UNE not knowing anybody, and that you may have trouble making friends. For most people this concern will be gone pretty soon, especially if you are in one of the colleges. Keep in mind that most other people come to uni knowing few, if any people either, so they are just as keen to make new friends as you are. I know that I was.

I suggest you make the most of all the orientation programs and events—they really are the perfect opportunities to make friends. Post-orientation-period activities such as joining clubs and playing sports are another safe bet. For example, volunteering at Tune!FM, the student radio station, is a great idea for any music lovers.

Another concern some of you may have is whether or not you are actually cut out for uni. Or, if you don’t worry about this right now, you may when you end up having four two-thousand-word assignments due in the same week; or, when exam time comes around and you try going back through your notes (or lack thereof). Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and planning in this regard. One of the best pieces of advice I think I ever gave as an Academic Mentor was to GET A WALL PLANNER! If you put all your assessment due dates on it, look at how much time you have to prepare and complete each, and use that time wisely, you can’t go wrong. (They hand out free wall planners from Services UNE, particularly during the first few days of O-Week.)

If you do become concerned about how you are going, remember there are plenty of resources at your disposal. For example, there are academic skills sessions intermittently throughout orientation week and the rest of the year. You can also talk to your lecturer, go to the UNE Academic Skills Office (where they have heaaaaaps of resources), your Academic Mentor (if at college), and don’t forget the other people in your course!

If you happen to be an arts or planning student, I cannot recommend strongly enough a unit called ENCO100—The Craft of Academic Writing.

My final piece of advice, which I shall now exemplify for you, is that, when you have reached the word or time limit, then it is time to finish waffling and just get the rest of the important content in:

- Tutorials are really helpful, particularly in law. Let’s just say that Admiral Ackbar would advise against missing them.

- If you do miss a lecture, which will happen, remember you can usually listen to the podcast online.

- Embrace the opportunities that uni gives you. Three (and even five) years goes way faster than you think.

- If someone happens to vomit on carpet, do not try cleaning it with hot water. That will only make it worse.

Photo credit: UNE and Diana Crowie

Want more survival tips to become a succesful and stress-free fresher? Lucy Napthali has those tips! Right here!

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