First of all – MASSIVE congratulations for all of you who are heading to university this September. The difficulties of A levels are not to be underestimated (why are people always saying they’re getting easier?!) but now the real fun starts. Uni is where you can taste a life of independence and enjoy a life pretty much free of responsibility.
Amongst the excitement of choosing cutlery sets and persuading my mother that scatter cushions are essentials, I spent a lot of the time between results day and moving into uni reading advice for upcoming freshers. The problems was, however, that these advice guides were totally unrealistic – advising you ‘recreate’ yourself and become a new person ready for freshers week, and break all ties with anyone from home. Big fat no from me.
So now in my old age, from my rocking chair, emerging out the rear end of Freshers with only minor bumps and scrapes, I bring you my own little nuggets of advice, tried and tested.
1. Do not get spiked. This may seem obvious but I cannot tell you the number of times I see my friends leaving their drinks on a table whilst they go for a quick boogie or to the toilet, or pick up a full drink from another table. Just don’t do it. Don’t accept drinks unless you’ve seen it made at the bar, don’t come back to a drink you’ve left, be mindful when dancing near strangers if you’ve got a big cup in your hand… just watch out. I learnt the hard way and really don’t want anyone to suffer the way I did. It tainted my whole freshers year and is just not worth the slip up.
2. Be money smart. Instead of having the lump sum of your student loan chilling in your bank account, put the bulk of it in a different account you can’t touch and have it come into your bank on a monthly or weekly basis – this helps with budgeting and gives you a more realistic idea of how much money you have. I know far too many people who got over excited at the four figure balance on loan day then sunk deep into their overdraft within a couple of months.
3. Steer clear of your overdraft – you never know when you’ll need it (and no, that night out does not fall into the ‘compulsory’ category.. save it for house deposits etc)
4. Don’t rush into who you’re going to live with and where you’re going to live for second year.. we decided in November and all think we rushed into it too much and aren’t living in our ideal location and would rather be living with more people. People will put you under pressure claiming ‘all the houses will go!!!’ but there will always be houses on the market, they come available all the time – where do you think the current final years’ houses are? Be patient, and think carefully about who you choose to live with – consider conflicting personalities, transport costs (are you dedicated enough to get up at 7am to ensure you can walk through the cold to your 9am lecture?) etc.
5. Don’t spend too much on crockery for your first year – I arrived with two big plates, two bowls, a large pasta bowl, two side plates. I’m left with only the plate bowl (which is actually one I had to buy halfway through the year as my first one went walkies.) student accommodation is no place for nice things. It will get broken, stolen or otherwise AWOL.
6. Online shopping for food is your best bet, with either asda or tesco (but both have a minimum spend of £25). I did mine every two-three weeks and it worked out cheaper than doing everything weekly. It also stops you from buying all those naughty temptations like crisps and chocolate.
7. Be realistic when food shopping – you will want one or two naughty things, and you definitely won’t only eat salad every day. Save yourself the millions of expensive trips to the corner shop and buy realistically. I can’t get on with meal planners as I’m fairly contrary with what I fancy for dinner every day, however they may be good for you. Work out what you’ll eat each week (or at least what kinds of things) and buy the ingredients accordingly. You don’t have to stick to the plan religiously but it’ll give you an idea what to buy and you won’t be floundering at dinner every day with nothing to eat.
8. Try to find your nearest market – to get your fruit/veg/meat instead of the supermarket. It may mean walking further but you’ll save a ton of money! Newcastle’s Grainger Market is an absolute gem bursting with everything you need. Sure, if you’re after a ready meal this may not be the place to go but for all your raw ingredients it’s perfect and a quarter of the price of any supermarkets.
9. Don’t be afraid to say no. It’s known by everyone that freshers are expected to party constantly, drink themselves into the grave and get very little sleep. However, I am not that kinda gal. Sure, I enjoy a night out, having a few drinks and dancing with the girls, but I’m no big partier. Especially since I was spiked I’ve just not felt the same about nights out, and at first I found it almost impossible to say no to my flatmates when they were all going out. Eventually I just started saying ‘no, I don’t feel like it’ and had some ‘me-time’ instead, cooking a nice dinner, getting into my jammies and watching some crap tv. Or going to the gym and having an early night. It’s perfectly fine to not be in the mood for a night out. You probably won’t miss out on much and you’ll be being much kinder to yourself and your purse. We all need a day off sometimes, even if it is a day off partying!
10. It’s fine to try hard. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to do things half heartedly, so even during my first year I was wanting to go to every lecture and seminar, work hard and do well. You’ll find everyone’s trying to tell you not to take it so seriously, “first year doesn’t count”, and whilst this all may be true, if you feel that you’ll be disappointed in yourself if you don’t do well then there’s no harm in working hard. Not only that, it’ll set you up well for second and third year – you don’t learn this stuff for nothing. And you’ll also be doing yourself a favour when it comes to exam period and you’re casually revising, as opposed to seeing your friends do allnighters in the library catching up with all the lectures they slept through.
12. Relationships. I read in countless places before I went to uni that I should break up with my boyfriend because no relationship will survive freshers year. And what a load of absolute rubbish that was. Relationships at university may not work for everyone, but try it and see! Don’t break up with your significant other before you’ve tried it – whether it’s a long distance relationship or you’re at university together it can work as long as you both put in the time and effort – like any other relationship. I also read that you shouldn’t get into a relationship with someone you’ve met at university.. once again it’s a load of rubbish, why should uni be different to anywhere else?! If you like someone you like them, go for it. I’ve found being in a relationship throughout freshers year was probably my saving grace, I know I’d have struggled a lot more if I’d followed the advice and broken up with my boyfriend first. It’s all personal preference, do what you think is right for you, but don’t try to preempt failure.
13. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you don’t make as many friends as hoped, or get homesick, or can’t handle the workload, or don’t like your course, be nice to yourself about it. These things happen, and if you really think there’s no way around the situation, be proactive. Change your course, move accommodation, or postpone for a year, or leave and look for a job. University isn’t for everybody, student accommodation isn’t for everybody, and who knows whether you’ll enjoy your course or not?! There’s things you can do, don’t suffer in silence and certainly don’t give up.
You’ll be amazing, just do what you think is best for you and find some sensibility amongst the madness. But most of all, have fun and throw yourself out there, don’t take anything too seriously!
(Disclaimer: Obviously these nuggets of advice aren’t rules to live by and you may find absolutely none of them apply to you, but they’re just things I learnt over the course of the year and wanted to pass on to others as I wish someone had told them to me this time last year! Also none of these photos are my own, all credit goes to the owners)