As my first year comes to an end, I thought it would be a good idea to look back at this year and give my thoughts. Then, I thought why just give my views? So instead I asked a bunch of my friends and other first years some questions, so they could give their views as well and hopefully give some advice to anyone else starting their university journey.
Question 1: How did your first year of university compare to how you imagined it?
“It was pretty much what I expected. The only difference was that the work didn’t get hard straight away; there was a smooth transition into it from stuff I’d already been taught.”
“I wasn’t really sure of what to expect at the start. It was quite hectic and full-on, but as the weeks go by things to start to settle down, you feel more at home. Everyone’s so friendly and it’s loads of fun! I’d say it’s a journey of independence both socially and educationally.”
“A lot of people, especially like parents and guardians, make university seem like a special and amazing experience like it will be life-changing. To a degree, it is because you become very independent and have to look after yourself. But it may not be as fantastic as you've built up in your head. There will be challenges that you’ll have to face that you didn’t expect, but that’s part of the university experience.”
“I honestly had a great time! I learned a lot and met loads of new people. I didn’t really have any expectations about university, but I definitely had a fantastic time this year!”
“It wasn’t how I imagined it, but it was still fun, and I had a good time.”
“I always assumed university would be scary and if you didn’t drink, you wouldn’t have fun or make friends. I was wrong. There were lots of events for people who don’t drink or have trouble making friends, such as pizza and board games, which made it easy for me to meet people and have fun while doing it.”
“The work was harder than I first thought. It’s a definite step-up from A levels. There’s also a lot more opportunities and societies than I first thought. The main thing I realised though is that all the clubs and societies want you to come to them and join in. They’re very welcoming. Living by yourself is something you just have to get used to.”
“It was pretty far from how I imagined it. The first year has a lot more under the surface that people don’t talk about when they say, “First-year will be the best year of your life!”. While it was fun and I did make a lot of amazing memories, it was a big struggle to adjust to the new life and new people. I learnt a lot more about myself and my life than I ever thought I would. It taught me a lot!”
Question 2: How helpful was the university with helping you settle in?
“There were lots of events to get you involved and meet new people which helped ease my nerves because it becomes clear that everyone is in the same boat. It was overwhelming at times because I was going out every night, then had sports trials the following morning. But, the wellbeing team helped me get through a lot of that and were very helpful throughout the year.”
“The University held the freshers' events which let you meet new people, so it was helpful with settling in. They also explain the course to you and what’s going to happen so nothing’s a surprise, which helps.”
“Freshers' week was a great way to meet my flatmates and join societies and sports teams. The University also helped by having freshers' captains check in on us and bring us pizza.”
“The University does what it can. Obviously, it’s such a unique situation; a new environment, so many different types of people. First week (for freshers) there were loads of activities going on. I remember our flat went to do some golf, we all went on a hike, which was a great way to get to know each other. They organise activities which you can do with new friends or you can meet new friends doing the activities, which is brilliant. There are drinking and non-drinking activities (freshers is known for going out, which was a BIG PART for me ), but there are also a lot of non-alcoholic activities and daytime activities.”
“Overall, I think settling in depends more on who you’re around than what the University does. Obviously, you had the freshers' fairs, the sports fairs and all these big things that people could go to join societies and meet new people, so I do think the University was very on top of it.”
“In Freshers' Week, the university ran lots of different activities from indoor golf to a toga night. All of them were fun and made sure that you socialised with other people.”
“Freshers' Week was a great way to get to know people.”
“The University was very helpful in Freshers' Week with lots of events and activities planned but as the year progressed the University gives you more opportunity to become more independent.”
Question 3: What was living with new people like?
“I really enjoyed it, living with new people is really nice because you learn a lot about yourself, and other people too. You make lifelong friends and it’s really cool. I really enjoyed it. I guess it just depends on the person, but I really, really loved it.”
“It was daunting, of course, at the start. I was quite nervous, but after a week I really got on with my flat and they became my closest friends.”
“It was actually great. I met loads of new people from different places and who study different degrees. It was really an eye-opening experience on how diverse the UK is! I’m quite a social person so honestly I never really had any issues with living with new people.”
“I was super-duper scared, to begin with, but also quite excited. It’s the first people you meet (the people you live with), so obviously it’s a big impression of what your university life is going to be like. It’s so many new people from different cultures, different backgrounds in such close proximity to you all of a sudden. But this means that you get to know each other really well and you actually learn to rely on each other. You see these people the most so it’s actually quite nice living with new people, especially if you get on with them. But honestly, even if you don’t get on with some of the people you live with, you can always move accommodations. But it’s so unlikely that’s ever going to happen I wouldn't even think about that. Living with new people is different; it’s the first time you’re living on your own, first time you’re not living with family.”
“Living with new people was fine. You’re around them so much so you get to know them really quickly.”
“It was a great experience for me. I got to see what it’s like living independently and having to cook for myself. There’s a great social aspect to it, as you all tend to chat while cooking dinner together. Some nights you can spend hours just talking and getting to know everyone. One day, me and two other flatmates were talking until 6am in the morning!”
“As it goes on, you get used to living with new people. You’ll always get on with at least a few of your flatmates really well. People came into my room a lot, so I’d recommend getting a doorstop.”
“I really enjoyed living with lots of different people! It can be hard to adjust to new people and their habits or ways of living, but to me, it was one of the best parts! It really opened my horizons and gave me a great appreciation for everyone in my life!”
Question 4: What advice would you give to a first year coming in?
“Do not spend your money on anything and everything. During freshers, you are going to spend your money on anything e.g. by the middle of the first semester you’re going to find yourself broke. Secondly, just put yourself out there, no one will judge you, everyone's in the same boat as you, you’re all trying to make new friends. Just put yourself out there, don’t be shy, don’t be scared, and you'll be fine.”
“Enjoy the first year, I'd say. Make sure you balance work with free time and get some exercise. Also, if you want to make new friends quickly, drinking with them definitely helps!”
“I would recommend being open and trying to socialise with as many people as possible and just try out loads of new stuff. Who knows, you might find your new favourite hobby.”
“I would definitely recommend joining clubs and societies. I joined football but I also wish I joined more which I’ll hopefully get to do in year two!”
“Embrace every experience, good or bad. I’d say involve yourself as much as you can in university life whether that be socially or academically (I’d strongly recommend both, to be honest!) You need to get a balance, which is difficult in the first few weeks but after that, you should be able to understand how much time you need to put into what. University is a place to find yourself, as cheesy as it sounds. Your interests, your independence. You should try and eat healthily to an extent (eating is generally always good). Sleep. You can’t do everything, so try and take a few days to relax every now and then.”
“I’d only recommend one thing. Try and socialise, even just a little bit. I spent the first day in my room and did not leave my flat for three days. As soon as I began to go to other activities, I enjoyed myself much more. I was way out of my comfort zone but I’m so glad I persevered.”
“Talk to as many people as possible. Go to as many societies and sports as you can, to check them out and make more friends. There are lots of nice places to walk around campus and walking around it is a great way to socialise.”
“The first year is exactly what you make of it! If you’re having a bad day, turn it around. Don’t like how something is going? Change it. Don’t let a bad day or bad phase get you down too much because everything comes in waves and there’s always a plan. You don’t have to have the perfect experience and you don’t have to have fifty friends in the first ten minutes! Be patient and strong and know it will turn out exactly how it’s supposed to.”