11Top Tips For Starting University
University felt like a distant concept, right? but here you are, soon to be packing and forcing your parents to drive you to IKEA to find those fairy lights and pretty kitchen plates. You've said a teary goodbye to your friends and stalked Facebook to find out who your future housemates will be. University will be a roller coaster experience, especially in the first term so I've put together some tips to help ease your anxiety and hopefully, give you some solid advice (although these tips can still apply to you second and third years!). For me, the prospect of university looming filled me with 80% excitement and 20% anxiety. Each of your journeys will be different - but I hope that you find abundant joy and success.
1) Open attitude - have no preconceived idea of what you want university to be. Definitely have goals in mind, but don't create the whole experience up in your head before you've even started it. I had an idea of what it was going to be and I was very wrong, not disappointed, just wrong. I think going with an open attitude and heart is the best thing you can do. Be open to new friendships and new experiences. Don't fear the unknown, rather grasp it with both hands and simply give it a go. Don't just settle for what you find in that first term, keep trying to experience new things and have a go.
(One of the very first photos I took at university)
2) Say yes - by nature I am a reserved, nervous introvert but pushing myself out of my comfort zone is how I have achieved some of my biggest rewards. I quite often said no because I was nervous but looking back, I really wished I had done some things rather than stayed in bed. I experienced some really low mental health moments and that's perfectly ok, but I think I let that take over sometimes when it didn't need to. In my last year I said yes to so much more and actually went out of my way to try new things. At Newcastle University we had this really cool thing called Give it a Go, with a monthly calendar of events and classes etc to try at a discounted price. I would always ask a friend to come with me because I was too nervous, and I wouldn't go alone but I finally plucked up the courage to go to a ring making class and I am SO glad. I look at my ring every day and it gives me a little boost knowing that I am capable and creative.
3) Be true to yourself - sometimes I tried to be different to fit in with people, but I know now that it was so unnecessary. It's other people that don't fit in with you rather than you don't fit in with them. There are SO many people to hang around with and you meet new people ALL the time so don't just settle for the people you meet straight away and cling to them. As someone who doesn't enjoy going out drinking all the time and being in a room with loads of people I don't know, (I'd rather go for coffee, to the cinema or go for a cocktail or two instead), I felt so out of place because I thought that's what everyone was doing and I sacrificed myself a little to fit in with that. But I met new people with similar interests to me and I was a lot happier. Don't ever do anything if you don't want to do it and know that friends that don't make you feel valued or comfortable are no friends of yours.
4) Don't worry about your grades but soak up information - your first-year grades don't count BUT the information you're taught is the foundation of the following years so it's best to understand now rather than make up for it later. Also, try that little bit harder! I did really well last year but in second year I didn't do as well, and my final grade suffered a bit because of it and I was less than one mark off a first (cry cry cry).
5) Make yourself feel at home - we all get a little homesick sometimes so creating a space that feels warm and welcoming can help that feeling. I spent a lot of time in my room watching movies, writing and doing work and I thrive off a happy space! I decorated my room with photos, little trinkets and pretty bedding and of course, the staple of every university room - fairy lights! Wilko, IKEA, The Range, Dunelm, I love all these places for cheap home decor.
6) Communicate - if you're starting university with a boyfriend, the distance can be extremely hard. I don't think anything really makes it hurt less if I'm brutally honest, but communication will help the situation. Also, think of the space as a positive time to grow and make yourself happy and experience your own things. Despite all the emotions I endured, I think the space actually helped our relationship. If you want it to work, then you most definitely can make it work! Read my previous blog post on managing a long-distance relationship. This applies to friendships too, make the effort to text your friends and stay in contact!
7) Always back up your work!!!!!
8) Put your well-being first - university is not just stress, alcohol and frozen food. Making time for balance should be your priority. All the people I knew at uni were SO different. I had friends that went out every night and ate chicken nuggets and I had friends that woke up at 6am to go for a run and cooked everything from scratch. Your own routine that maximises your wellbeing is so important (you know how passionate I am!). It's all about balance to me. I enjoyed partying and socialising, but I also enjoyed working out, getting my head down in the library and taking the effort to cook proper meals because I enjoyed all of these things. You can definitely eat well, nourishing food on a budget - I found that local markets were best for fruit, vegetables and meat. Use Pinterest to look at tasty easy meals, it's a form of mindfulness and will make you glow inside and out.
9) You don't have to 'do' uni a certain way - there can sometimes be an image of university that people try to live up to (if you've watched all the crazy tv teenage series - it's definitely not an American sorority house), but I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way. You can create your own experience exactly how you want it to be. If you want to go out 5 nights a week or not or if you want to get involved in sports societies or not, it's totally up to you so don't feel pressured to live up to any kind of expectation.
10) Budget - I know I know, having this amount of money suddenly appear in your bank account is super exciting but remember, this is a loan and it has to last you the whole term. I made a mistake very early on and went on a huge shopping spree and spent most of my term's loan in one week! It was so tempting to get regular take out but honestly, it's such a waste of money! Going out regularly is always super expensive too because you have to buy the pre drinks, buy your entry and then buy drinks, buy an Uber or get McDonalds afterwards and for me, the hangover and lack of productivity just wasn't worth it! Sit down when your loan first comes in and actually work out how much you actually have to spend weekly once your bills etc have come out. I found that keeping track of what I was spending helped me too.
11) Take advantage of the student discount - if you're going out for dinner then look for the cheapest places! Byrons and Bella's Italian always did 50% off! Plus, most high street shops have student discount too so shop wisely.
"Not all those who wander are lost”