It’s that time of year again: the leaves are changing, it’s getting a bit chilly, and freshers’ week is in full swing.
Thousands of students across the UK (and the world, for that matter) have been either heading off to university for the first time as freshers, or going back to complete another year.
I remember it all very well. In fact, the end of September marks 5 whole years since I myself headed off to uni with so much to learn and experience. It really is a time for discovering who you really are.
To commemorate, I thought I’d share my top tips to surviving your first year of university. You have so much ahead of you so make sure you enjoy every second!
You can have some of my nostalgia in the mean time…! So here’s some advice from someone who’s been and done it (twice, in fact):
Speak to as many people as possible.
At the start of university, you’ll be confronted by tonnes of new people, most of whom will be just as lost as you are. Chances are, you won’t be friends with most of them a semester down the line. But it’s so important to get chatting and to get yourself out there! Never underestimate the power of a familiar face when you’re lost around campus or on your own in the library cafe. This was a piece of advice given to me before I went away to uni, and it really was valuable.
Leave your room door open.
Obviously not all the time – naturally you don’t really want the maintenance man to walk in whilst you’re dancing round in your underwear. But generally, whilst you’re studying or just watching TV, it makes you seem much more approachable and can help you to bond with others. An open door is an open heart!
Bring tea and biscuits.
On the one hand, you’ll probably spend the vast majority of your first two weeks feeling pretty hungover, and a cuppa will be invaluable during those rough times of need – particularly when you have lectures to wake up for. On the other, tea and biccies will become your best friends. Perfect for offering round to those flatmates you’re trying to get to know (a perfect icebreaker for the first day!), you’re also bound to have times in the first few weeks where you feel down and a little homesick. Same goes for your friends. So this match made in heaven can assist you and your new friends whilst you bond. One of the best things I took with me!
Don’t get too stressed.
The prospect of learning material you’ve never heard of, deadlines, and referencing can be very overwhelming. Not to mention working your way around the library’s complicated directory, learning to do your own washing, cooking, and fitting in a social schedule. But take it all in your stride! First year is there for a reason – to enable you to make mistakes, and most importantly, to learn. You’re allowed to have down time too. So try to relax and don’t stress out too much about uni work that you get ill – at the end of the day, it isn’t worth it and as long as you’re doing your best, that’s all you can do.
Practice makes perfect.
You’re going to get things wrong. Take cooking, for example – I’m pretty sure I concocted some very strange combinations during my uni days. And when it came to washing, I definitely came away with a few grey bits of clothing that were once white. But you’ll learn! Ultimately, university is about making you a rounder, richer person who has experienced what life has to offer. A little practice at home beforehand won’t go amiss either – I’m sure your Mum will be more than delighted to show you how to operate the washing machine and dryer, mine certainly was!
Ignore the promoters.
As much as they say that these are the last tickets, or that you won’t find them cheaper anywhere else, they’re probably lying! And usually there will always be more tickets, often these guys are purely working on commission and are trying to rip you off. Particularly in Freshers Week. So don’t stress too much – as long as your friends are with you, you’ll have a great time wherever you end up!
It’s easy to get carried away in the madness of freshers, but do make sure you call mum and dad – they’ll be delighted to hear from you and to find out what you’ve been up to. Make sure it’s not just to ask for money too! The same goes for all your friends at home. You’ll need each other throughout the beginning, and it’s always nice to hear a familiar voice. You’ll be meeting lots of new people too, but don’t forget about those left at home. It’s a long time until Christmas when you’ll see them again, so try to make time to catch up with them whenever you can.
Grab it by the balls.
This means really getting yourself out there. Sign up to as many societies and clubs that interest you as possible. They’re great for networking and you’ll get to hang out with lots of new people you’d never have bumped into otherwise. Unis offer so many societies now too – aside from all the sports teams, I’m pretty sure I remember tea clubs, the university newspaper, baking societies, and even a fetish society for those who walk on the kinky side of life. It’s great just for meeting those with similar interests. And then there’s the socials!
Don’t take everything with you.
You hear a lot about how you absolutely must take a kettle, microwave, industrial sized packets of pasta, and everything else with you. The reality of the situation, however, is pretty different. You’ll end up with around 6 kettles and more cutlery than you thought possible. So it’s actually good to leave it until you get there. It also gives you a great opportunity to get to know those around you by going on a shopping trip for bits and bobs you need, and you can also decorate your rooms and flat – prime bonding time!
Be prepared for freshers’ flu.
Absolutely everybody I know suffered from this. It’s inevitable really. Long days and nights socialising, crazy partying, drinking, and very little sleep generally do make you feel a bit ill. I remember we couldn’t hear for all the coughing during the first few weeks of lectures. Feeling ill will also probably make you feel a little homesick as you might not have anyone to look after you like you would at home. So take some paracetamol, lots and water, and snuggle up in bed for an early night – it really will sort you out! And I guarantee you won’t be the only one!
Don’t get too involved with anyone too soon.
In this excitement of freshers’ week, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and date people in your flat. Try to avoid it! I’ve seen this end in tears too many times! It also wastes time that could be better spent getting to know people who could really be your friends. If they really are special, they’ll appreciate you waiting a little longer. Plus, in a month’s time, you probably won’t feel the same!
Work as hard as you can.
You only really get one shot at university. Thanks to the mountainous fees and lack of resits available at uni, you must try your hardest. If you don’t and choose to go to every single party that week, you’ll probably regret it later in life. Ultimately, you only get what you deserve. So take it in your stride. I’m not saying work every night, but try your best and do enjoy university too. It’s all about getting the right work:life balance. I used to be a terrible procrastinator, but soon I learnt that if you worked in the day to get everything done, I could enjoy the evenings a lot more without the thought of deadlines hanging over me.
This is probably the first time in your life where you’ll have so much responsibility. You’ll have to do your own shopping, cooking, washing, cleaning, and not to mention the mountain of deadlines and books you have to read. Often uni provides you with a student planner which is great for keeping track of all you have to do, and it enables you to take a quick glance over what you have to do and when you’re free for all the socials you’ll have. I bought this Filofax which was great for recording stuff in style. Keeping organised really will pay off, and will take off a lot of the stress.
Make the most of every moment.
You’ll look back at your uni days one day with the nostalgia that I have now. You’ll have endless conversations with your uni friends, laughing over your antics and those times when you really didn’t think you’d survive that dissertation deadline. So make sure you enjoy every bit. Yes it’s stressful, yes it’s hard, yes it’s soul-destroying at times when you have deadlines coming out of your ears – but try to make light of every situation. At the end of the day, if it wasn’t hard work, it wouldn’t be worth it. Oh and make the most of all those student discounts! It’s painful when they are taken away from you, believe me!
What are your tips for university freshers?
Share them below!