It is September again and another year of new university students. Freshers week, fresh faces, fresh pencils – everything is new and, believe me, it will be quite a shock going from the comfort of your parents house to suddenly being left to fend for yourself! But there is no need to worry I was in your shoes only last year and I have coped. I was thinking about what advice I would give to myself looking back to make this year easier. Here is what I came up with:
1. Do not get too drunk on the first night
I didn’t get too drunk on my first night (honest!) but a friend I lived with in halls last year did! It is the first time you’re alone with loads of new, scary, cool, posh people (drink). You are desperate to impress or show them you are the cool one (drink). You want everyone to be your best friend (drink). Before you know it you have passed out naked with your head in a toilet – not exactly the look you were going for! In my experience, I drank a bit too much and started sobbing and crying my heart out to a new friend I am no longer even close to! As you can imagine, all these events are very embarrassing. Perhaps this wouldn’t be too bad if you were with your friends from home but these people don’t know you and this will be their impression – no pressure! I would just advise taking it easy, get tipsy but don’t lose control.
2. The people you are close to at the start may not be the same people in the end
throughout a lot of my life I have made friends easily and the first people I have chosen to be my friends have been the same people for years and years to come. Not at uni. Yes, I made lots of friends and you will too but everyone is nervous and different at the start and it could take some time to settle in and find out who you really click with. For example, in the first few months I became best friends with someone called Sam (not real name).Sam and I did EVERYTHING together. Literally! We ate together and went to events together and just stuck to each other through the wary times. But, very quickly it became quite annoying and we both realised we needed some personal space. It seemed like all of a sudden, we hardly spoke at all and drifted apart. Shortest friendship ever! Don’t think you have found your friends instantly, it is okay if you take some time to figure out who is right for you. I still don’t really know who I am closest with and I am a year in!
3. Don’t feel obliged to go out all the time
I think there is an idea around university that it is all party, party, party. This is definitely not true, I heard stories of people who went out every night but I think these are just stories. No one has the money or the energy to drink and dance every single night, surely. I found that if you say no to a night out, you’re not missing out at all. All the nights are very similar and it can get pretty boring. Whenever I went out I ended up going home early just because I was so bored and I didn’t like the music, atmosphere or people in there. You might find a club night you love and go to every week but don’t force yourself to go if you don’t want to, it’s a waste of everything. Many of my housemates actually preferred a movie night-in or chatting in the kitchen with hot chocolate rather than raging parties. We did have flat parties and they were fun but if they happened all the time I think they would grow very tiresome.
4. Don’t study all the time
You need to find a balance of work and other activities, even if this is watching online TV. I feel like I did a lot of work last year and despite this, I got pretty disappointing results, which got me down. Whereas many other people worked less and got better results or the same. It didn’t seem fair and you will realise that getting a good mark at university is nothing like school, it is so much harder. By all means, do the work but in your first year don’t over-work yourself. I got in from my lectures and I would sit and work until I went to bed. I don’t think this is healthy, try and get into a routine of doing a certain amount of work and when you have finished that, do something else for a bit. Watch a programme or chill with your friends or anything, just don’t work solid! One girl I lived with would go to the library in exam season for 8 hours solid, she only slept in naps and stayed up all night. This was so bad, she was so stressed, down and crying all the time. I just don’t think anything should put you in that position.Just be careful with your workload.
5. Don’t sit and do nothing
You get a lot of free time at university. The most amount I have ever had. For some people this is great as they can chill out but for me, I think that the amount of free time I had contributed to my development of depression. I had about 6 – 8 hours a week of lectures and seminars (and it looks like less this year) and then I had the rest of the time off. I had 3 days off a week. When I was at school I obviously did Monday to Friday and then I worked both days at the weekend so this was quite a drastic change. It led to me thinking a lot at first which doesn’t sound too bad but I started to over think and the same thoughts started going round my head for weeks and I ended up believing quite unrealistic things about myself and the people around me. What I would advise is do not spend more than 20 minutes doing nothing, go somewhere or do something or you could get into a similar cycle and, honestly, it was the worst when I was alone doing nothing.
6. Try to leave your room every day
You will probably be given a tiny room in halls, well I was, and it was very easy to lock myself away for days at a time. This is very unhealthy and became kind of like a prison cell which made me so sad. Just try and get out, even if it is raining. Just go for a walk or shopping or something to give you a break from the same place all the time.
7. Decorate your room
Even though you should not make your room the only place you go, you are in there for a year and it is where you will sleep. I would advise decorating it to give it your individual style. It needs to become your sanctuary. I filled mine with Katy Perry posters and pictures from home and you will find a lot of the other students will have pictures from home too. Photographs of people you love are nice to have to look at but a lot of the time they made me pretty sad so instead try having pretty pictures you like or interesting drawings or anything rather than photos. Of course, have a few but maybe don’t go overboard. This is from personal experience but everyone is different with how they like to decorate. If you want loads of photos, try it, and if you get sad looking at them just take them down.
8. Don’t spend your money on expensive books
Lots of my friends bought textbooks starting at £25 going all the way up to £140. This is so ridiculous!!! I think spending £6.99 on a fiction book is too much so there was no way I was going to buy them. I found that you can pick up similar but older textbooks for £2 in a charity shop or even borrow them for free from the library! They have the same information, some of it might be outdated but it gives you an idea whilst also counting as wider reading. I do Law so up to date information is crucial but any information you need that is not in any books you have you can search for online. Don’t waste your money on books, you’re already spending enough on your degree!
9. Wash your pants in the sink
It saves you a lot of money because the launderette is so expensive. And it makes your room smell like washing powder!
I hope this advice helps anyone who is starting university and is not sure or quite nervous about it. I hope you love it and don’t have the same first year university experience as me as there are a lot of things to love about going to uni! Enjoy it and good luck!
Let me know how you get on or how you are feeling. If anyone wants to talk about going personally, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help you out with this exciting but scary time.