As Christmas draws ever closer, so does the end of semester one. It’s crazy that we’ve now done a big chunk of first year, but also crazy to think that I only moved into my accommodation 9 weeks ago today. So much has happened; our ‘pull’, ‘chunder’ and quote charts on the wall have becoming increasingly full and it’s strange how much has happened in less than 3 months. Looking back, here are things that I’ve learned, and which I think are very useful insights for prospective students.
1: Start working long before your deadline
Okay, this is the same instruction you’ve been receiving since your GCSE days. I’m actually good at this, which my friends often hate. I am that person who starts the work the day it’s set. I even had the embarrassment twice this term of being the first to submit assignments, and even worse attempting to submit something before the submission page had even been made. It’s not that I work particularly well, I just like to get it done. I like to do stuff when it’s fresh in my mind, and after seeing my friends attempting all nighters and stress crying the day before a deadline throughout sixth form (and to a lesser extent this term) I just haven’t wanted the stress! Try and do a little bit of work for each deadline once a day or every few days, and it’s much less stressful the night before when you can relax without feeling guilty.
2: Frozen food is your friend
I was very worried about cooking at uni and thought that I’d get bored and start eating pot noodles for every meal. Whilst there are a few lurking in the flat kitchen everyone has been cooking pretty inventive (and sometimes weird) meals, and I just want to stress that frozen food is your friend. Frozen peas?! Peng. Add them to anything and it’s basically a meal. Before uni I had no idea you could buy frozen sliced peppers (perfect for fajitas) or frozen chopped onions (perfect for basically everything). It makes cooking a meal from scratch sooo much easier- I can whip up a veggie Bolognese or some fajitas in a matter of minutes without the hassle of a chopping board or the rush to use vegetables before they go mouldy (honestly the stress is real). And ice cream is also frozen and an excellent food so overall 10/10 would recommend (though I’m using way too many freezer shelves so maybe don’t go to the extreme like me).
3: Move as much as you can
Being on campus has made my view of walking very warped. I went to visit a friend in London a few weeks into term and was shocked at the prospect of a half hour walk, before realising that’s a distance I walk regularly back home. It’s crazy, because on campus everything’s within about 7 minutes of you. I describe going to big Fresh as a ‘bit of a trek’, when in reality I can’t image having a shop that close to me at home. So I try to move as much as I can to compensate. I’ll admit I’m doing less exercise than I do at home, and combined with less walking and more comfort eating this could quickly get out of hand. So my flatmates and I regularly go for night walks around campus (the stars are beautiful!) and also utilise the free Zumba classes and free Olympic sized swimming pool. At the weekends I like to do a 5k morning run around the lake. The campus is so pretty that it doesn’t feel like a chore, and all of the endorphins are great!
4: Uni isn’t for everyone
There’s a statistic that says something like 5% of first year students drop outof university, and on my corridor of about 25 we’ve had 2 people leave. I was really surprised, although they both had their own reasons. Having a gap year definitely helped me to know I was ready to come to university, but I had also been considering it for a very long time. It’s a big step, a change to your home environment, but everyone’s in the same boat as you which makes it much less scary. If you’re having doubts try and think what’s causing them. I was very apprehensive because I didn’t think I’d make friends, now 9 weeks in I can’t imagine my life without them. The workload may seem daunting, but I swear I’m doing less than I did at A Level... which is probably very, very wrong.
5: Get involved with as much as you can
Just do everything. I really haven’t followed my own advice here; I stopped going to one society I joined and never found the room where the meetings for the other was. Which is sad. But I do this in different ways. You might join 10 clubs, start learning a new language and start a new sport. And that’s so great, and the perfect time to do it. But I get involved with everything my flat do, always try and attend any group activity we plan or arrange one myself. I go to Zumba classes which I never would at home, and I chat to people in the lift which I would always have previously avoided. Uni is a great opportunity to start over.
6: Do your washing up
Honestly. I cannot stress this enough. Be a good flatmate. Be tidy, be thoughtful. Don’t be too loud if you know people are trying to sleep, and please, just do your washing up. It’s so grim seeing piles of dirty dishes in your kitchen where you need to cook, and you’re all in it together. If you want to be gross you can even put your dirty plates in your cupboard (honestly way too many people do this) but just wash up after you cook. It’s really not that difficult. Please!
7: Start planning who you want to live with
It’s crazy how early you have to start picking, but in reality when you’ve lived with people 24/7 for a couple of months you know them soooo well it’s actually not too daunting to commit to living with them. You might find that you want to live with your flat mates, some people from your course, or even a combination of the two. But start planning early. We’re looking for a house for 6 (fingers crossed we’ve got one now) and they go so quickly; to start with every time we arranged a viewing we would get a call to say it had been rented before we even had a chance to look which is annoying. But be persistent, and the earlier you start looking the more choice you will have.
I try and avoid looking at my account balance as much as possible because it’s just too depressing. To start with I did a lot of retail therapy and ended up having to send a lot of it back because I just didn’t have the funds. Now I avoid even looking on the clothes shop websites (this was particularly difficult on Black Friday).
The first semester is expensive (see my previous blog post on life on a student budget) and Christmas has not helped, but I’ve had to start holding back… I mean, I definitely bought smoked salmon and avocado last week, but let’s overlook that. My original budget was £50 a week and I thought I’d spend way under, but that just hasn’t happened. I need to stop buying so much food and sooo many coffees really! But after my £25 on food each week (when I say my freezer is well stocked I mean I could feed the entire block for several weeks using its content alone), one night out ish (£5 club entry+£2.50 return bus fare+ an embarrassing amount on drinks and drunk food), multiple coffees, Christmas presents and then just random things like laundry, it’s not looking good. I have started to refrain a bit, and I’ll extend this in the second semester. If you can refrain from buying rounds, and try to come up with a feasible amount to spend each week, it makes life much easier.
9: Chat to people on your course
This is another case of not really taking my own advice, but after making good friends in my flat I kind of didn’t bother chatting to people on my course. It wasn’t until I went to lecture without the other two girls doing psychology on my floor that I realised I didn’t really know anyone else on my course. Luckily group work has helped this and I’ve met some lovely people through that, but it wasn’t until our first course social that I properly initiated interaction. And everyone is great! I felt a bit stupid not bothering sooner, but I now have friends in both my flat and on my course which is nice. We have a group chat for the whole of the psychology course which is also great when everyone’s panicking over a deadline. Safety in numbers right?
10: Don’t go home too much
To start with the temptation is real. I missed roast dinners, beach walks and baths sooo much during the first few weeks. And a few of my flatmates did go home for the weekend really early on, but I just wouldn’t recommend it. The first few weeks are pretty poignant; you’re still getting to know each other and I just think these initial nights out and socialising are crucial. It helps you work out who you’ll probably be friends with and is just a great opportunity to make memories with people. You can’t laugh as hard at a story of a night out if you weren’t there to see it. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t go home at all; I went home after 4 weeks in an attempt to recover from freshers’ flu and it worked. But I could see how it could definitely make people homesick, and if you’re feeling a bit like that I think it’s best to stick it out. Chat to your flatmates, join a new club, get involved with stuff. You’re not missing anything at home, not really, and with uni being around 30 weeks a year you’ll still be back there a lot!
So those are my top ten tips! I’ve honestly loved my first semester despite my initial fear that I’d hate it, and I can’t wait to come back after Christmas and to live in a house with my friends next year! So if you’re feeling a little apprehensive don’t worry, and hopefully these tips will help!