Thursday, 15 August 2013

Surviving Freshers

Today is the big day for many of you - A-Level results day! Many of you will have had the news by now and be celebrating your move to a different city for university in September.

At the end of next month it will be FOUR years since I was a fresher - that is terrifying! Where has the time gone?! 

My three years at university absolutely flew by, as has my first year as a graduate so my message to you guys just about to start as freshers - MAKE THE MOST OF IT. Your first and second year are the time for having fun, meeting new people and enjoying yourself; obviously you can still do this in final year but you should be knuckling down a little more.

I remember the day I moved to Sheffield; I was a nervous, wrapped-in-cotton-wool 18 year old who couldn't even put a duvet cover on (I still struggle!), let alone use a washing machine. I was about to embark on a life away from my parents, living with three strangers in a city I'd only ever visited once on an open day. I was lucky enough to have Luka with me and living in the same halls which I both think we saw as a bit of a safety net...

As we pulled up at Victoria Halls I remember seeing masses of cars being unloaded by parents with their children, some excited and some looking apprehensive about leaving home. We pulled up outside my block, unloaded a few boxes and carried them up to my second floor flat. I remember opening the door to room 3, which would be my home for the next year and thinking 'where am I meant to put all of my things?!', bearing in mind I'd already had to leave some bits at home to be fetched at a later date. I was the first there and one by one, the others arrived. Despite the nerves, we chatted away straight away and I could already tell that living with these three for a year wouldn't be difficult - as the year went on, I found this to be even more true; I was one of very few that was lucky enough to have tidy, friendly flatmates - two outgoing, one not so but that didn't matter as we still got along.

I think the reason for this is that we all came across as friendly, excited and approachable straight away and this is definitely something I would recommend - even if you're nervous or a little homesick; don't lock yourself away - get out there and get talking!

This is my freshers tip number 1 - get to know your flatmates. At the end of the day, these are the people you will be living with for the next year, and maybe at times, the people you'll be able to rely on. The one thing to bear in mind - everybody is in the same boat - you're all moving away from home, going it alone and living somewhere unfamiliar. Prop your door open while you're unpacking so you can make conversation. 

2. say 'yes' - within reason of course but embrace meeting new people, going out and accept those invites to parties/nights out/post-lecture food and drinks. You'll be absolutely shattered but it really is worth making the effort.  Even go and knock on the doors of the other flats in your block with your new flatmate to introduce yourself or even suggest going out somewhere that night.

3. Get some sleep - sleep is key. Freshers week is renowned for being a bit chaotic - you spend most nights out embracing the events put on by your new town/city. 

4. Lectures - I'll be honest, I don't know many people that went to lectures during freshers week. 9 times out of 10, you're not missing a great deal but try you best to go as it'll allow you to meet who's on your course, find out any important information for your course and get an idea of the level of work to expect. Lecturers expect you to be hungover during that week so they won't bite, they'll get the lecture over and done with as quickly as possible.

5. Act outgoing, even when you don't feel like it - even if you're missing your family, your dog, your room at home - you WILL settle in. It's a big deal moving away from home, it definitely was for me but you don't want to be the fresher that sits in their room crying on skype about how much you miss your pet goldfish. It's normal to be homesick, but don't let it consume your freshers fun!

6. Drinking - The Brits are big on binge drinking and although I don't advise it, being so drunk you don't know who you are or where you are isn't smart. Try not to mix your drinks - you'll be grateful in the morning. Just remember, you're in a new place, very likely to be with people you have only just met - be smart and be sensible. Unfortunately, not everybody is as nice as they may appear so have your wits about you and make sure you are in a fit state to make clear judgement and be able to get home.

7. Get those numbers - I'm not saying approach random guys/girls and ask for their numbers, you don't want to come across as needy, but if you're chatting to a new coursemate, friend of a friend or somebody you've met in halls - exchange numbers. It's always good to be able to contact these new people to arrange nights out or for help on assignments and lesson prep.

8. Money - it sounds silly, but try and budget for that first week. One of my flatmates spent about £300 of his student loan in the first week and struggled for the rest of the month. Now, we all do this and spend a little too much, but don't do anything outlandish. I went to an ATM during the days and withdrew money for the evening - this allowed me to stay on top of my spending.

9. Cooking - suggest to your flatmates about cooking together - it'll save you money and allow you to get to know each other. I'm not saying do this every single night, but once or twice a week will mean you see plenty of each other - now, you won't necessarily get on with everybody that you live with but if you put in the effort, the chances are it'll make your living arrangements much easier.

10. Be safe - Dad look away if you're reading this - you're bound to have wild nights during freshers with a lot of alcohol and one thing could lead to another - but make sure to be safe. Carry condoms with you, just incase. You don't want to be turning up at the clinic, a little red faced because of a randomer you met in a bar. 

11. Take loads of pictures - you want to remember freshers week; it's one of the most fun weeks you'll experience. It's a busy, alcohol-fuelled week - you want to be able to try and remember some of it, even if it's through pictures!

12. Go to freshers/sports fairs - sign up for societies and get stuck in! Sports societies are a brilliant way to make new friends and to discover something you may enjoy that you'd never thought about before! 

13. When freshers has calmed down - get organised. Make sure you have enough time to do your work, go to lectures and seminars, attend your new club nights out/practice sessions etc. 

14. And most importantly - HAVE FUN! I had the time of my life at University and all though final year was stressful and I just wanted it to be over, I miss it SO much now. Make new friends, go out, embrace your new town/city - you only get one chance, make the most of it!

Good luck to all of you heading off to Uni this month; I'm very jealous!

N xo

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