Written by: Mia Whelan
Design by: Aimee Lee
Starting University can undoubtedly be one of the most daunting experiences of your adult life; moving cities coupled with leaving home for the first time (in most instances) is reason enough to induce serious anxiety for many young adults. Despite having cousins and siblings who have gone through the same process as me, I never felt anyone could relate to the struggles I faced during Freshers week. This article is aimed at incoming freshers, but can also be informative to those dreading the return to University, or simply wanting to take a fresh approach to the new academic year. Of course, with club nights being closed and events being suspended you may think the opportunities to find your feet during this initial week are lost but fear not! There are many things I wish I had done before lectures and seminars took over my daily and weekly routines, so read on for 8 ways to start your year off right…
- Make use of your accommodation’s communal areas. I am regretful that I didn’t take advantage of my kitchen and living area for many reasons. Firstly, it’s right on your floor and gives you a chance to get outside of your room and get to know your flatmates better. Secondly, social situations can sometimes be extremely nerve-racking, therefore getting to know your fellow roomies over a cup of tea and some biscuits in your shared spaces is far more relaxed and less pressurized. Lastly, it can give a feeling of home comfort that is often sorely missed!
- Do NOT feel rushed to sign a house with the first three people you meet. I fell into this trap and nearly missed out on the opportunity to live with some of my now best friends. All too often people feel pressured to sign a house at the first chance they get and end up resenting their decision when they discover their flat mates don’t have anything in common with them. It is totally normal to become misled into doing this, but I strongly advise against it!
Remain patient and put yourself out there, if your fellow first year roomies don’t float your boat, go and join a society whereby you can meet like-minded people and the rest will fall into place. I backed out of a tenancy last minute, not only was this unfair on the other people within the group as they had to search for houses from scratch, it was also unfair on myself as I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed my second year because of it. Instead, I waited till late January to sign with two people I knew well, four I didn’t, and the one’s I didn’t know are now my closest and dearest friends. Everything happens for a reason and University is no exception!
- Locate the library closest to your school. I cannot stress enough the importance of using different spaces when working. Your dorm is where you will spend a lot of time and I came to associate this space with leisure not work. It meant I gave my days structure whereby I went into University to work, even on days with no contact hours, and as soon as I came back to my halls I could relax and watch Netflix gultfree. Separating spaces into certain activities definitely helped me switch off better and create a more calming oasis when feeling homesick or struggling in the first few months.
- Plan your meals. If you’re catered note down your mealtimes and align these with your timetable, if you think you might miss a meal speak to your halls about getting a takeaway dinner on evenings your schedule might overlap. If you’re un-catered, plan ahead! Meal prep your lunches to save money and stay healthy and write your weekly menu ahead of your food shop to reduce waste.
- Make your room feel like home. This was without a doubt the most impactful step I made during first year. It may seem pointless but bringing trinkets from your own bedroom at home can help you feel at ease straight away. Spending time and a small amount of money on making sure your room reflects your personality and is comfortable and cosy unquestionably helps with homesickness. Having a space you look forward to returning to, even on those dreary winter months, is a real benefit.
- Plan your weekly / monthly budget. Another seriously important lesson that University teaches you and something that’ll prove invaluable upon graduating. Plan your spending for the weeks, allocating money for food shopping, socialising etc. depending on your budget from student finance or other allowances. I was responsible for funding my time at University and got a job at my Student Union which was perfect as they were flexible with changing shifts dependent on deadlines and I met some lovely people along the way. There is nothing worse than missing an opportunity due to a lack of financial organisation, so keep on top of it and don’t fool yourself into thinking the odd £3 coffee won’t impact your economic freedom elsewhere.
- Get involved with clubs and societies. This is something every graduate tells incoming freshers, but it really is sound advice that I didn’t take seriously enough and have come to regret. Clubs and societies are not only a chance to further your passions and interests whilst meeting new people, but they also pay off when coming to write cover letters and job applications in the future. Do your research before the society fair and attend as many introductory sessions as you can possibly handle!
- Prepare for the three years to fly by. Simply put, it feels like only yesterday my parents were dropping me off at halls. I urge you to make the most of your three years and embrace this once in a lifetime opportunity by throwing yourself into University life. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, be yourself and get stuck in. I wish those of you reading this the most wonderful three years, I am envious you have it all to come.