Hi everyone, so this is something a bit different for this blog. Another University academic year has begun and I thought I’d offer some guidance to Freshers about to undertake the scary yet exciting new experience that is Uni. I graduated in July so Uni is still very fresh in my mind (pun unintended.) I hope the following advice is helpful to any Freshers, and if anyone has any questions please don’t hesitate to ask! 🙂
– Firstly – socialise!
This is an obvious one, but very important. Obviously in Freshers week you will have no lectures so you can get drunk every night if you want to and it won’t matter, so get out there and meet people! I was very shy at first in my flat – there were about 20 other people because of the bunk rooms, and I was feeling quite daunted by it all. I also wasn’t very into boozing when I first started Uni, and I actually forgot my I.D and didn’t have it until near the end of Fresher’s week, so I didn’t actually go out to the Student Union until the last Friday of Fresher’s week. What a difference two years make because in my third year I went out loads in Fresher’s week.
It’s particularly crucial to socialise with the people in your flat, after all you will be living with them for the next 9 months. Some people form their closest friendships at Uni with people from their first year flat. Keep your door open with a door stop and don’t be shy! I remember feeling so shy about talking to the people in my first year flat who were going out that first night, that I didn’t come out of my room until they’d gone! I then went to the kitchen, made tea and got chatting to another girl who was feeling the same way.
On boozing – If you’re not able to down your drink now, you probably will be before long! Without meaning to sound like a buzzkill, I actually sometimes found the whole downing thing a bit annoying sometimes because 1. It puts pressure on you as people watch you and sing ‘We like to drink with…’ and I wasn’t actually very good at downing my drink! 2. If you’re skint and are trying to spend less money on your nights out then it means you have to buy another drink sooner. However, it is a big part of the drinking culture especially in first year, and for now you should have plenty of money with your student loan, so the second gripe will hopefully not be relevant for a while. There will probably be drinking games aplenty, especially at socials, so you’ll soon be *ahem*, ‘getting to know’ your friends a bit more from games like ‘Never Have I Ever’. 😉
What if I’m not into boozing?
This doesn’t mean you can’t socialise. Obviously boozing is a big part of fresher’s week but you can still go out with your flatmates (and laugh when they get drunk) If you’re not into nightclubs, this also doesn’t mean your social life will suffer. You can still do things together as a flat – cook, go shopping, go to Fresher’s events.
What if I don’t get on with my flatmates?
How you can deal with this I think depends on how badly you’re getting on with them. If it’s so bad that it’s making you miserable and antisocial then you could go to the Accommodation Office and ask about moving rooms. But if it’s only minor stuff, then you could stick it out – maybe that flatmate who always makes a mess when they cook is actually a really nice person, or maybe that person who seems moody and always complains is actually just stressed because of starting Uni. Try and avoid getting involved in arguments. And don’t do anything annoying yourself that causes tension in Uni flats – stealing food, being untidy, leaving passive aggressive notes for example. You want to avoid that sort of ugly behaviour in student flats as much as possible, and life will be easier for everyone. When your flat inspection dates come round, try and work together to make sure you pass – you don’t want to get fined.
What if I’m shy/lacking in confidence?
Sounds like first year me…I basically dealt with this by forcing myself to socialise, even when I felt a bit uncomfortable (in large groups for example). After that first night, it did gradually become easier. Your flatmates may well introduce themselves to you. (Speaking of introductions, in Fresher’s week you will be asked your name, your course, and where you’re from when you meet people. People who live in a village or little known place like me may find it easier to just say your nearest town or city. Of course even then some people didn’t know where Stafford is!). Conversation usually flows naturally as you get to know each other, but don’t talk less to people in your flat just because you think you don’t have anything in common with them. I remember being in the kitchen with just this guy who I thought I had absolutely nothing in common with, the conversation being a little awkward at first, but then we became really good friends and laughed when we looked back on that awkward first meeting!
– Join a Society. If you go to the Societies’ Fair you may find yourself expressing interest in several societies and signing up for them via your name and email. (But don’t sign up for too many, as the emails might get annoying) I would recommend properly joining at least one society and going out to their first social, which will probably be during Fresher’s week. You’ll meet loads of new people and see whether you’d like to come to more socials. I was a member of the English and Creative Writing society and the Tickled Pink society, but I was more involved with the latter. (As a side note – any Aber freshers reading this: join Tickled Pink! Everyone is lovely and you have a lot of fun fundraising as well as getting drunk at socials.) Freshers are always made to feel welcome and you will always be looked after by the Committee members, so there’s nothing to worry about! There are often themed socials so great if you enjoy fancy dress, if you’re a bit shyer about fancy dress (like me) don’t feel pressured or like you shouldn’t go if you don’t have something to wear – no one will mind 🙂
– Don’t forget to do *some* work
I know that (at least with my course) the first year marks did not count towards the final grade, so all I had to do was pass first year with at least 40% overall – but if it’s the same with you, it doesn’t mean you can slack off completely! By all means have lots of fun socialising but do remember that you’re at University for a reason. I would really recommend familiarising yourself with the Department Style Guide for how to format footnotes and references, etc. Always include a Bibliography (you instantly lose marks if you don’t) and work from any feedback you get from your first assignments. If you get confused about anything you can always go and see your personal tutor or one of your seminar tutors. Also familiarise yourself with how to use the Library; this is all best practised and learnt in your first year, while you have plenty of time to settle in and learn ‘How to Uni’. (I kind of sort of maybe didn’t start getting footnote formatting etc right until second year…)
If you’re an English student for example, please actually do your reading! You may find it a bit of a shock how you are kind of expected to read a whole book in a week, but that’s because you’re an English student, and you’re supposed to love reading, so it shouldn’t be too much of a chore, right? 😉 If you’re a creative writer and get some free time during the holidays where you don’t need to catch up on any work/reading for your course, then just read something anyway. A good writer is a good reader as well, and you may find it comes in handy when it comes to writing your portfolio. I won’t go into portfolio’s too much now but one thing I will say is that for me as well as a lot of my fellow students, writing a good commentary has sometimes been difficult – so again, use your first year to get to grips with this as much as possible. Ask your creative writing seminar tutor/s, look at advice on Blackboard, and try not to leave your assignments to the last minute! (Believe me I know, this is easier said than done.)
4. Learn to Cook
Going to Uni helps us to learn to live independently away from our parents for the first time – however some of you might have little experience of cooking their own food. You will probably already know how to make something basic like pasta, so try and expand on it and try cooking Spaghetti Bolognese for example. If someone in your flat seems to be great at cooking maybe they can teach you – I learnt how to do a Chicken Stir Fry from a housemate in second year. Or if opportunities come up to cook together, like doing a roast together, take advantage of it – in second year we occasionally did a roast together which is also good for bonding and getting to know each other.
5. Don’t forget to sort housing for next year
In Aberystwyth this is particularly important because there’s a lot of competition, and you really don’t want to be stuck somewhere grotty yet expensive. I would recommend looking into it in about November time and viewing houses and thinking about who you want to live with next year. It may well be people from your current flat, or possibly people you’ve met on your course. However also don’t feel pressured into rushing into securing a house because it might not turn out to be right for you. On viewings find out what the bills situation is like. You might be lucky enough to find a place where all or most of your bills are included in the rent. Also keep in mind what you can afford – houses that are £100+ a week are probably too expensive unless that includes bills.
6. Keep your future in mind
Obviously you don’t really need to worry too much about your career until you get to your third year, but I would still really recommend occasionally thinking about what you want from your degree and how you aim to achieve whatever your dream job is. University is not just one of the best times of your life, it’s also all about finding who you are and what you want. If you don’t know what your dream job is, you still have plenty of time to think it over.
If you realise you want to be a Journalist for example, get involved with the student newspaper; maybe even have a go at securing an internship with a magazine or newspaper in the summer holidays. You get about three months off in the summer so it’s also plenty of time to have a temporary/seasonal job (in the summer after my first year I worked as a waitress back home) Or, you might realise you want a job for while you’re at Uni (presumably to fund your spending habits or maybe save up for a holiday, since your student loan should cover your basic costs of living – if it doesn’t, you can always apply for a grant from the University) if that’s the case, look and apply for jobs the earlier the better – the vacancies of the usual student part time jobs will be advertised probably because of the fact that the third year students who had them last term have now left Uni.
And if you don’t like Uni at first, and consider dropping out, well, a lot of your friends and family will probably try and convince you not to. And whilst I would always encourage people to persevere in tough times (because it *will* get better!) I would also say that you shouldn’t stay at Uni if you’re only going to regret it and be unhappy for the next three years. So if you realise it’s definitely not for you, don’t worry – there are still plenty of other options and it’s never too late to rethink your career and go down a different path.
And finally – have fun!