So, you’re getting ready to go off to university. You got your grades (despite the government doing their best to stop you), you’ve accepted your offer: you’re in. You have a flat, your mum has bought you your pots and pans and you feel well equipped to go.
I thought that too! Physically I was ready to start this next chapter in my life. Armed with scented candles and a pair of silicone tongs, I moved into a new city thinking I could take on the world. I could not.
My experience comes from both my time as a first year first generation university student (first generation means I am the first in my family to study a degree), and talking with my friends about their time volunteering with what’s known as ‘Freshers Crew’, which is basically the student volunteers who are peppered around the city to help new students, organise events and help them settle in.
My first piece of advice is to try to avoid older students in freshers week. I get it, you’ve just moved out, you’re drunk in a club on a student night and an older student is trying to convince you to go back to their flat and hook up. Try to avoid this, especially during that first week. Many groups of people in older years will go out on Freshers Week to specifically try and attract vulnerable new students. This is sometimes called ‘sharking’. Try to avoid this situation, particularly if you are on the lookout for a more long term relationship or something serious. People who go out ‘sharking’ don’t want this, they want a one night stand.
My next piece of advice is to GET INVOLVED. I know that you’re probably sick of hearing about societies and events and socials and nights out but seriously, there is something for everyone at university. Take me for example, I don’t drink. I hate nightclubs and would much prefer to stay at home playing video games or watching a new TV show. I thought for the whole of first year that nights out and drinking were the only ways to go out and socialise outside of my course, and I was so wrong!
There were a lot of activities for an introvert like me, such as writing for my university newspaper online, or joining a gaming society where we talked and played games together from the comfort (or discomfort) of our uni bedrooms. You just have to look for these things. If I can promise you anything in this article, it’s that you will regret not getting involved in some way. Plus, joining a society in your first year gives you time to decide whether you want to run for an executive position (helping to run the society).
My next piece of advice/myth busting is that reading lists are a lie. Whoever told students that they need to buy every book on a reading list for each module on their course is a liar and a cheat. Some books, particularly for STEM students and humanities students, can reach heights of hundreds of pounds, only for you to use them once or twice for a couple quotes?
Your university shouldn’t recommend you anything that isn’t in the library, so as soon as you get your reading lists, get to the library, borrow those books and take photographs of the chapters you need for each seminar, or scan them if you have access to a scanner. That way, you have the chapters for each seminar, and you don’t have to be ‘that guy’ who hoards all of the essential texts for months on end.
If texts aren’t in the library, visit your library anyway and talk to the librarians. More often than not, another university will have the book or journal, and they can get hold of it for you. Some libraries will even buy the text for the library at request, so make sure you try every avenue. Also, make sure you do your seminar readings! They’ll help you not feel so lost in seminars and lectures, and you’ll feel great when you’re the only one who read the text and can answer the questions.
I hope these nuggets of advice help, and I wish you the best of luck in your university journey!
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.