Chances are, aside from a few holidays with your friends, this will be the first time you’ve ever lived away from home for an extended period of time. Going to university as a fresher and branching out away from your parents is a hugely exciting (and terrifying) prospect. It’s a cliché, but you’ll find things out about yourself you never knew before, there will be an adjustment period while you settle into your surroundings. Never fear – The SPG is here to guide you through your first weeks as a fresher.
The big one, first and foremost. Your university degree is not like anything you will have ever experienced before in your educational life. Up until now, you have been spoon fed everything. Look at college as a stepping stone – this is a step up.
• No parents to motivate you/drag you out of bed. It’s a bit of a shock to the system when you find out that no one is going to write a letter to your parents if you don’t show up for class. It’s empowering, but beware, you’re finally getting treated like an adult, but you’re also expected to act like one. Miss too many classes and you’ll be getting familiar with terms such as disciplinary hearings and module expulsion!
• Research. In college you are told what to read as part of your secondary reading, where to find the research and what to do with it. This is not the case in university. With some degrees you’ll find you have less contact hours – this is great because you have fewer classes but it also means that you need to be disciplined with your self-study time. You do your own research, decide on your own topics to cover and which references of your research you’re going to use. There’s a reason first year doesn’t count – it’s so that you can adjust to the demands of your degree!
• You’ll be expected to work on your own initiative – there are no teachers chasing you up to tell you to do the work. If your time management skills are dire then this is the time for them to improve.
You’ll be living in halls of residence or uni accommodation, away from home. You may find you’ll have the greatest flat ever – the group will instantly click, find things in common, and generally have an outstanding time. However, most commonly, these things take time. Don’t panic, don’t be shy, and do be patient. Make sure you try to make friends outside of your flat-mates through the societies you join, but also make sure that you get the right balance and don’t end up neglecting your flat-mates. Be considerate and respectful of other people’s beliefs and property – every flat usually has a nightmare flat-mate – just make sure it’s not you.
• Some of the best nights you can have as a fresher are with your flatmates. Whether it’s a corridor sleepover, a group takeaway or a movie night, you’re living with these people for at least a year – and you may choose to carry on living with some of them for the next few years. Some of the best friends you’ll make will be through university – treat them how you’d like to be treated.
• Clean up after yourself! Again, there are no parents to nag you to wash up after you’ve cooked. It may be the case that in your flat you’ll all get together once a fortnight to blitz the mountain of dirty plates but if the general consensus seems to be wash up after you’ve cooked, make sure you do it. Otherwise, you can be sure a flatmate will start nagging you: you’ll end up resenting them for harassing you, and they’ll end up resenting you for having to chase you up on it.
No more freebies from your personal chef (aka Mum), I’m afraid. You’ll need to learn a few simple recipes for the sake of your sanity and the sake of your diet – ready meals can only take you so far. In the weeks leading up to your departure you should try and cook for your family once a week for practice – it’ll be appreciated, even if the feedback isn’t! It’s a good idea to invest in a couple of cheap cookbooks for students to keep your cooking varied and low-budget – that way you won’t get bored so quickly of the same old stir-fry.
It may be the case that you’ve never received such a large lump sum as the first instalment of your loan – the temptation is there to go and spend the majority of it on luxuries rather than necessities (been there, done that). Budgeting is such an essential thing to do, get used to it, because you’re going to have to do it for the next three years. Set yourself a weekly spending limit and withdraw it out in cash – it’s all too easy to walk up to the payment counter with your card and your overdraft, and it’s all too easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. (Last three transactions: McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds. Been there, done that too). Be realistic with your budgeting and allow yourself some more money for freshers’ week. Don’t be overambitious and allocate yourself a tenner for food for the week and forty for booze – you’ll never stick to it if all you’ve got in the cupboard is pasta and tuna and you’ve got a serious case of the beer munchies.
Your social life:
Unless you’re Justin Bieber your social life is going to take a dramatic upturn in freshers’ week. You’ll be meeting new people and forgetting their names about five to ten times a day. It’ll be amazing – but remember to keep a cool head and be you. It’s all well and good getting absolutely smashed to calm the nerves and lower the inhibitions, but you don’t want to be gaining an unfavourable reputation in your first few weeks. Just be wary about overdoing it.
• It’s completely natural to be feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of living and talking with complete strangers. Even the most confident, outgoing people find themselves outside their comfort zone during their first weeks of university. There is no right or wrong way to break the ice: it comes naturally. Everybody is in the same boat as you, no matter how at ease they seem.
• Tickets for events: Most freshers do one of two things: they panic and buy all of the tickets for every single event because they don’t want to miss out on anything, or they’re so disorganised they don’t buy anything and every event sells out. Don’t worry too much about buying every single ticket – if you commit to every night you may find you’re so knackered from the night before, the last thing you want to do is go out again, especially if it’s an event you weren’t keen on in the first place. To make matters worse, your flatmates are all staying in for drinks and a takeaway. It’s a good idea to get in touch with your future flatmates over Facebook, if possible, to see what tickets they’ve bought.