The first year of university is one of the most daunting experiences for any student, that, and getting a letter about the TV license... University is meant to be a time where you make close friends, mature, and grow as a person; it’s tough, but pays off eventually. Picture this: you’ve just finished moving your belongings into your room, your parents have waved you off and you’ve finally got the independence you’ve wanted for years. Now what?
Anxiety and Introversion
My first piece of advice is do not let anxiety and introversion stop you, its easier said than done, but you’ll really kick yourself if you don’t meet your new flatmates. You’re gonna be living with them for the next ten months and it’s gonna be seriously awkward if you want a cup of tea and they’re in the kitchen already. I’m in third year now, and we all laugh about how awkward we felt on the first night - so don’t panic, it will be fine! Before I forget, text your parents just the right amount. If you text them every night and then suddenly stop – they’ll think you’re dead and they will be in your dorm quicker than you can imagine.
Relationships and Sex
Maybe you’re already in a relationship, maybe you’re looking, or maybe you just don’t care; first year can be a rollercoaster. Its okay to have fun and get carried away, but consent and safety are vital. Contraception is your best friend, just because you’re “on the pill” or “completely STD free”, anything can happen. It’s more than likely that your university has an internal or external sexual health clinic, take advantage of the service; and the free condoms!
University is a time of oversleeping, under-sleeping, and all-nighters. We all know sleep is important and without it you can’t function, experts recommend 7-9 hours for students; something I didn’t get until third year. Spending a few nights staying up late won’t kill you, but doing it all the time will weaken your mood, concentration, and energy levels. The three things you need to survive at university, and life in general.
Work and Play
This one is obvious, but for many courses in the UK, the first year of a degree doesn’t count towards your final grade. But you still need to pass, I almost forgot that and had to whip myself into gear; a year of no sleep and partying is fun – but adding an extra 9k to your debt for nothing isn’t. Trust me, spending the last few months of first year in the library all night with energy drinks and Doritos is not a life (the memory still haunts me). Alongside this, don’t work yourself into the ground – there’s a reason first year is easier than the other two, it’s a great opportunity to adapt to university life and settle in.
There will come a time where you doubt your work, question the course you’re doing, and want to drop off the face of the earth. Everyone experiences it and it’s okay; if you find yourself struggling with anything – don’t keep it to yourself. I made that mistake and it only got worse; talk to your friends, family, lecturers, GP – anyone! It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and stay in bed all day watching Stranger Things, but when the deadlines approach, you’ll kick yourself for not doing something about it. You will probably be assigned a personal tutor within your faculty at university, use them – they’re paid to be there for you, almost like a third parent. And if you don’t gel with them, request a change – the university will want your experience to be as pleasant as possible.
Live in the Moment
Perhaps one of the most crucial things to do in first year is live it as best you can, because I kid you not, it will fly by before you have time to blink. You don’t want to find yourself in third year looking back in regret; have that drink, dress up, dye your hair, visit your family, and just live in the moment. First year is your chance to explore yourself and grow as a person – take advantage of the independence and a new start to make things right that you hated in college or secondary school.