24/09/2015 05:41 BST | Updated 23/09/2016 06:12 BST

Nine Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Uni Nine Years Ago

This week I received a Whatsapp message that made me feel depressingly old: "Happy 9th anniversary."

It wasn't sent by a loving, long-term partner, but a close friend. She was paying homage to our almost decade-long friendship, after we met during our university Freshers' Week in September 2006. (Yikes.)

Like many graduates, my friends and I are attempting to ignore the fact that yet another Freshers' week is taking place - marking not only one year older, but one year further away from our time at university.

Looking back, at just 18, I didn't have a clue what I was letting myself in for and, like most students, just figured things out as I went along.

In hindsight, I wish I'd had the wisdom and knowledge I had now. So without further ado, here are 9 things I wish I'd known as a fresher.

Never, ever do a sambuca challenge

Spending a full minute alternating between gargling and swishing sambuca around your mouth is only going to end in tears or terrible dance moves. And it'll ruin the taste of aniseed for the rest of your life.

You don't have to eat chips, cheese and gravy after every night out

Why? It's gross, unhealthy and will make you fat.

You have more free time than you think

Whether it's getting a part-time job, joining a sports team or spending a little longer in the library, make the most of your time - you'll never realise how much you had until you're working full time and moaning about how lazy students are.

Plan for the future

Although your final exams may seem like the be-all and end-all, remember there is life after uni. So unless you want to spend your first few years as a graduate in an unfulfilling job, I'd be proactive about what you want out of life.

Pay attention to your mental health and look after yourself

Feeling constantly on edge and irritable? Are your feeling panicked about the future and situations out of your control? Congratulations, you have anxiety. And guess what, it's very different to 'just worrying'. Don't be embarrassed, get help.

Don't be afraid of being a feminist

You don't have to try to fit into 'lad culture', it's not funny and it's not you. Be brave enough to stand up for what your believe in - especially when you or your friends get sexually assaulted in clubs, which will happen more than once.

Homesickness will pass

At first it might seem like home is a million miles away. Your friends and family are only a phone call away, but remember to live in the moment and make the most of the new people and experiences you are going to have.

Make sure your course works for you

You're paying a lot of money for it so if your lecturers or course administrators try to assign you to modules you don't want to do, resist them. And if you don't like your course full stop, you can always change. It's more common than you think.

Be curious

You have an opportunity to grow, both intellectually and as a person. Ask questions, talk to people and challenge your surroundings. You'll come out of uni not just with a degree but being a richer and more balanced person.