The baby of my family is off to Leeds University next week, and, as the responsible older sister I feel it's only my duty to pack him off with some pearls of wisdom.
I didn't really get much advice when I ambled off to Cardiff in 2007, fresh out of school and no idea of how to budget, how much drink I could handle and that it was OK to feel lonely sometimes.
Starting university is a pretty intimidating experience, and one which we seem to be expected to automatically know how to do without any actual guidelines. At times I found it overwhelming and lonely, while everyone else around me seemed to be having the time of their lives.
So for my little brother and everyone else out there starting university with not a clue what to expect, here's your survival guide.
1. Please don't ever refer to yourself as a "lad".
Or use the phrase "lads on tour". At least, *try* to avoid it. Please?
2. You don't have to sleep around to be cool. Yes, people might be bragging about the girl/guy they shagged last night but:
a) they're most probably exaggerating about how good it was
b) they had to do the walk of shame afterwards
and c) they missed out on the best dirty food ever from a dodgy kebab shop
3. Despite your best intentions, you will probably live off chips and turkey drummers. Don't worry, it's the only time you're allowed to do it without feeling bad. Also, take advantage of being able to eat dirty food (that's chips, cheesy chips, gravy and chips, basically anything deep fried) without being judged. It is most definitely the best way to end your night.
4. Saying that, if you are going to cook, then cook in bulk and freeze it. Honestly, it seems like a lot of effort but it is SO cheap to do. (And screw cooking with your housemates, it's way too much effort and money.) Also re. food: acquaint yourself with the reduced aisle. Trust me, a leg of lamb for 89p is the best thing ever.
5. Speaking of housemates... don't worry if you hate them. I lived with a bunch of interesting people in my first year and I have never ever spoken to them since. There are so many people at university, so make friends with the ones you actually like.
6. Also, don't worry if you don't find your "best friend" in the first week. You'll find amazing people, it just might take a little longer.
7. Push yourself to meet new people. It's hard, and it can be intimidating, but you won't regret it. You'll meet the best people in the weirdest situations (probably involving alcohol).
8. Please be nice to women. Remember, your mum's one, and so are your sisters. Don't be a twat - even if everyone else is acting like one.
9. Join a society. Sports, music, drama, custard wrestling, whatever floats your boat. I can tell you it is one THE best way to meet people, and you will have such a fun time.
9. Stay away from Topshop/Topman. Your NUS card giving you 10% does not justify you spending £70 on piece of clothing. It is the devil and it will eat your bank account.
10. Get a part-time job. You'll drink your money away/spend it in Topshop and you'll be left living off pasta mixed with Tesco economy ketchup (don't try it, it's grim). It's also a good way to meet new people, and to stop yourself from spending all your money on drink. If you can get a job in a hotel/restaurant then you get free food. I repeat: FREE FOOD.
11. Call Mum and Dad. They'll be worrying about you and yeah, I know it's a pain but they'll be bugging me otherwise asking if I've heard from you. Also, they have more money than you so keep on their good side.
12. Don't do anything that the Daily Mail would print. That includes peeing on memorials, writing stupid things on your Carnage t-shirt ... you get the idea.
13. Try as much as you can. (Within the law, please.) You might not ever get another chance to join a Harry Potter appreciation society.
14. Make sure you look after yourself. It can get pretty lonely, and stressful. Don't worry if you're not enjoying it as much as you feel you should, or if everyone looks like they're having a better time than you - they're probably worrying about exactly the same things.
15. Just be yourself. Don't try to pretend to be anyone else just to fit in. I did and it wasn't fun. If people have a problem with you? Just give me a call. I'll give 'em a good talking to.