With university kicking off for this academic year and the final year of my degree commencing, I thought I’d reflect on what I wish I’d known in my first year in the hope of helping any freshers out there.
University is a crazy experience. I’m extremely grateful and aware of the privilege that I have to be able to gain this level of education, and I’ve learned a lot not only on my course, but during the hours that I’m not in lectures.
I’ve just started the third year of a three year course which, as you can imagine, triggers a range of emotions. Looking back at this time two years ago, I’m worlds away from who I was and where I was. Moving to Birmingham from a small town I had a lot to learn about the big city. As cliche as it sounds, it’s extremely true.
So, whether my suggestions are obvious or profound in your eyes, I really hope you find at least one of them useful in pointing you in the right direction to make the most of your university experience!
At the start of your first year, the people you meet are not going to be 100% themselves. For many it’s not intentional, but it’s important to remind yourself that for the vast majority of students it’s their first time living away from home. This comes with a whole host of nerves, excitement and everything in between. With that, it’s normal for each of them to find themselves either over-exaggerating or totally hiding their personality and who they are. Give people time, and you might end up clicking with them two terms in or quickly finding that they’re not who you thought they were. This realisation is important and natural.
For example, at the start of my degree there was a boy in my seminar who was constantly correcting other people and trying to be one-up on everyone. I thought he was a bit of a knob, but looking back he was extremely nervous and desperate to gain respect from his new peers by proving his intelligence. He’s now one of my good mates and he’s absolutely lovely – his nerves just got the better of him for a term or two!
Basically, don’t let first impressions form your opinion.
Don’t get in a ‘private hire’ taxi waiting outside a club at 2AM if you didn’t book it.
Uber is going to become your best friend, but remember that even though it’s cheap, a couple of trips a week definitely adds up.
The people you become friends with during your first week/term of university are likely not going to be your friends by the end of your first year, and that’s okay. It’s not personal, because unless you’re meant to be best mates you’ll all find your people along the way. Drifting is normal and only shows that you’re growing and finding yourselves.
Get a 16-25 railcard. You save a third on all train fares which , for me, means more day trips to London – a huge win!
It’s okay if university isn’t for you, and it takes being at university for days, weeks, or months to realise that.
It’s also okay if the particular university or city that you chose isn’t for you either.
Don’t let other people’s negativity about your accommodation, course or peers get to you. Stand firmly behind your own opinions, because it’s the only way you’ll build your confidence and understanding of who you are and what you want.
There are a lot of people desperate for a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner. These people might try to get with you, but it’s important to distinguish when someone likes you or they like the idea of a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner and you’ll just fill the role for them.
Poundland is the place to be for kitchenware. Get yourself a £1 lasagne dish and you’re sorted for the rest of your degree.
You don’t need to buy the books on your reading list; they’re all in the library.
Take regular study breaks. Try an hour’s work and twenty minutes’ break. Experiment with timings and figure out what works for you.
RuPaul’s ‘If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?’ is extremely true. You need to have a good understanding of who you are before you enter a relationship with someone else – otherwise you risk another person forming an aspect of your identity.
Flying Tiger is great for cheap cushions, plant pots and photo frames.
Get an NUS card, because you will make incredible savings on everything from clothing to restaurants!
Student loans are great, but the financial independence that getting a job gives you is an awesome feeling.
Use the option on Uber that lets your friends track your journey. It’s no extra money or effort, and you might as well for the sake of safety and reassurance.
House plants will make a massive difference to the atmosphere, cosiness and homeliness of your university room.
If you’re not happy in your accommodation or flat, don’t be scared to ask to move. It’s worth the short-term awkwardness for long-term comfort!
Chat to people who are from the city you’re studying in. They’ll know which areas, clubs and streets to avoid, and they’ll also be able to show you the city’s hidden gems.
Supermarket cards are worth it. Make those savings!
Primark Home has great bed sheets and blankets, both price-wise and quality-wise.
You’re going to make mistakes in your degree and your life outside the lecture hall, and in retrospect you’ll be glad you made them, because they’re going to teach you a lot.