Going to University is most definitely up there with one of the most life changing experiences you will ever come across, for the first time, you’ll be living away from home, moving away from life-long friends, taking the right steps towards your chosen career path and basically, starting a new life. I wish someone had written a guide for when I was starting university (a year ago this week!) because I was ridiculously nervous and really had no idea what to do or what to expect, so here is a little light hearted guide which should help you along your way...
It's pretty daunting walking into a kitchen full of people that you've never met before and knowing that you're going to have to spend at least a year of your life living with them, I was convinced that I was going to be living with a murderer or something but everyone is in the same boat, try not to freak out as much as I did. I remember my first day at uni like it was yesterday, a boy and a girl knocked on my door, we sat around the kitchen table and talked about ourselves and then, we headed to the pub in the union. There's nothing like breaking the ice than going for a large glass of wine, everything after that is history, once freshers week is over with, you'll be the best of friends, even if you don't click with your flatmates, you're bound to meet someone in the same vicinity as you who will be your friend.
Stay organised, be on top of your game – Time management and organisation is key when at university. You’ve got to juggle going out every night until 6am, making sure you’re up in 3 hours for that 9am lecture and have made sure you’ve got your reading work done (reading work is basically homework). I kindly received a gorgeous patent Filofax (it is to die for) which I'll be using to write blogging inspiration, maybe write some homework down and obviously as a calendar. You’ll get used to it, so will your body clock. It won’t thank you for it though, I spent half of my first year with Freshers Flu (that pesky cold that you get from going out too much), embrace it though and stock up on the lemsips.
Take Advantage Of Freshers Fairs - We're talking freebies, discounts and more, trust me, you'll appreciate them as a student, you'll be offered free shots left right and centre.
Note Taking Really Helps - Taking a laptop into lectures (if you’re allowed) really helps. I found that I was so much more productive and literally typed out all my lecture notes, this then helps because you can revise from them at the end of the year. Don’t be alarmed when you see that everyone around you will have an Apple Mac (80% of my course have them), I think it’s just because they’re lightweight but don't feel like you need to spend that much money just to fit in, other cheaper alternatives include Samsung’s notepad which I have and will be using this year for ease or you can take an ipad, I’ve seen plenty of people with them in lectures too frantically typing out the notes.
Carbs Are Your Friends - Always have bread, cereals, cereal bars and pasta in the cupboard. I was catered in first year and still went hungry. I lived on toast, we're talking a loaf of bread a day. If you want to stay trim, choose wheat options - find out more on my how to easily keep fit and healthy post.
Don't Sweat It - Don’t worry if you miss a lecture, most of them you can get the lecture slides online anyway, seminars are probably more important, usually a small group of you answering questions and discussing something for an hour, they're more of a one to one and you usually have to do a bit of prep work for them, it's not uncommon to do this work the night before.
Buy A Onesie – You’ll need it in winter and after nights out.
Understand The Met VS Uni Rivalry - If you're going to a big city prepare yourself for the Met/Uni rivalry, which is all in good spirit.
The Uni Lingo - You’ll understand the Uni lingo in no time – If the words ‘semester’ ‘seminar’ ‘lecture’ and ‘2:1’ scare you, don’t worry, you’ll understand what they all mean in no time. It’s all very Harry Potter, I often feel like I’m at Hogwarts.
Buy A Rail Card – this has saved me so much money, you never know where in the country you’re going to be heading to visit your new friends, buy a 3 year card and you save loads of money.
Stay Active - Everyone talks about the dreaded uni weight gain, I personally didn't put on weight when I went to uni (probably lost it). Treat yourself to some good sports gear before you get there, that’ll motivate you. If shoes are too expensive go to sportsshoes.com, I bought my first pair of the new Nike 5.0's from Office which were £90.00 and my second pair (these beauties - Mollie King has these trainers so I just had to get them) were only £65.00 from Sportsshoes I can’t recommend this site enough, I know a lot of people who swear by this website. I also kitted myself out with some new running trousers from Nike, I went to the Nike and Adidas outlet store in Leeds for these in York. I've written a quick and easy guide to help you stay fit and healthy which includes some really easy tips to help you keep the weight off whilst at uni if you're wanting to find out more about how to take some quick and easy tips to keep healthy at uni.
Use Student Websites To Your Advantage - Studentbeans is my favourite website you can get voucher codes for almost everything, we’re talking free pizza, free Topshop vouchers, everything. Use Unidays to your advantage too (I've not been asked to write this, I absolutely love Unidays for discount), you don’t need to buy an NUS card when Unidays is around, simply go online, sign up and you can get Topshop, MissSelfridge and other amazing high-street discount codes.
Eat Healthy – try and eat healthy, it will keep germs away, trust me you’re drinking out of mould ridden mugs, touching grotty toilet seats, there is nothing clean about university life. I was in the most incredible halls for my first year and still felt dirty. Saying no to McDonald's after every night out is something which probably saved me from gaining 10 stone.
Join Societies – If there’s one thing I wish I did differently last year, It’s that I wish I joined a society. In my halls, there seemed to be a lack of girls, to make up for that, you can join societies which are really sociable and mean that you can make friends, they usually go out on socials every Wednesday. I’ll be joining one next week to make up for last year.
Socialise - it’s easy to get caught up in everything and almost forget to socialize, you’ll be missing your friends from home, maybe your boyfriend but make sure you go out of your way to meet new people at Uni, you’re going to be there for at least 3 years.
Don’t Fall For Your Flat Mate - Apparently you’re not meant to fall for your flatmate, but I did and it hasn’t turned out too shabby, so scrap that old piece of advice. Let your heart do the talking.
Start Building A Portfolio Now – Depending on what course you’re doing, you can start building your portfolio now. Make a nice folder full of everything you’ve done so that when you do get a job interview after graduation, you’re ready to show them what you’re made of.
Money Money Money - Money is confusing when you go to Uni, you'll have money coming in and money coming out, you'll be spending it on all sorts, the current account by Think Money is good to help you get organised and it actually helps you manage your money, they don't charge you for late or missed payments either which is what some banks do, so look out for that. Another tip when it comes to money is try not to get an over draft, I never had one and never intend on getting one, you'll just get yourself into debt, it's best to just stay clear of them. Get a part time job if you need money!
Down It Fresher - Is a term that is commonly used throughout your first year at Uni. Don't be worried if people turn their nose up at you when you say you're a fresher, it's kind of like being a year 7 in high school again.
Your Accent Will Get Mocked - My accent gets mocked all the time, as does everyone elses, you'll get used to it. Apparently I'm really Northern, but at my school, I was probably the least Northern, I'm a country/village girl but the way people at uni mock my accent anyone would think I'm some Northern chav - you'll get used to it.
Drink Water - Take it to your lectures with you, even if you're not a crazy party animal who goes out every night, you'll need to keep your energy levels high after no sleep, even if you don't go out, your flat mates will most likely wake you up when they come in screaming, shouting and banging on any door they can find.
Turning Nocturnal Is Normal - Your body will quickly get used to 9am starts after not getting home until 6am that day. You'll probably be up til 7am some days finishing essays anyway...
Do Try In First Year - Ignore people who say 'you only need 40% to pass'. If you want to do a year abroad or an industry placement, you'll usually need at least a 2:1 in your first year, so yes, first year does count.
First Year Is For Settling in - Don't worry! It's a huge transitional phase.
Don’t be afraid to get your geek on – everyone is at Uni for the same reason, you have all done well in high school and 6th form, so don’t waste it at the last hurdle. It’s cool to get good grades at Uni, now go and get a first.
Second year tips - You first years don't have to worry about this, but when it comes to bills, I've learnt a few interesting lessons. I've only just started second year so for now, the only tips I have are about the dull things in life you guessed it, bills.
Split The Bills - A lot of my guy friends are using 'Glide' bills which splits the bills easily and quickly. I found splitthebills.co.uk which gave me a cheaper quote. Glide seemed really expensive so I've just gone with N-power, ring all of them and tell them the best quote you've had (there are loads of great comparison sites online) and hopefully you'll get the best offer. For ease and the split the bills evenly, Glide/Splitthebills are apparently very good, or if you're a lazy group of boys who don't trust eachother to pay.
Get Cheap High Speed Internet - When it comes to internet, you want the best on the market. I went for the highest speed because I use the internet so much on my course. I saw people on Twitter complaining about Virgin so was actually put off them, instead I've gone for BT. We use BT at home and have been impressed with their service, unfortunately it's quite slow at my own house because we don't have the right lines to have full speed broadband in my old school village, if you're living in a city centre this should be no worries and you can sign up for what I did, nine months subscription (this is perfect for students as you're only living there for 9 months, so you don't want a year long contract), with an entertainment package and it's only £20 a month for 38 MB. I've found this to be really good as you get unlimited connection, fibre optic broadband (the best, look out for this when searching for deals) (hello lots of blogging is getting done whilst I'm at Uni) and unlimited access to BT wifi which is necessary to me seen as my 3G always runs out on my phone when I'm out and about. Ring the companies and have a chat to them about what they can offer you, remember that you're the paying customer, student or not, you're still just as important as any other customers. A lot of my friends went with Virgin so check them out too for competitive rates.
Apparently it's not as easy as first year - so I better get my geek on.
So there we have it, everyones experience is different and I'd love to hear about yours. Are you going to Uni? Have you finished Uni? If you're not going, does this make you wish you were?
Lots of love, Em x