If you’re off to university for the very first time you’re likely to be full of mixed emotions.
Excitement and nerves will be muddled together as you venture off to the land of independence and the next few years of your life. Take a moment to read our top tips to ensure you’re prepared and can make the most of the opportunities that lay ahead.
1 Overcome your nerves
This is probably the trickiest of the lot – you could spend your first term hiding in your room – or you could take a deep breath and start a conversation with a fellow student over a coffee or cake in your shared kitchen for example. Making friends with the closest people around you makes sense especially if you’re sharing cooking space! If the thought of making the first move fills you with dread, pretend it doesn’t. Think of the most confident person you know – imagine you’re them for a moment, walk taller, smile and make eye contact – once you’ve overcome that initial panic and have made the move, the next conversation will be easier. Have a few questions ready to ask – what course are they on, where did they travel from, what are their plans for the first week… anything to start the conversation, and then take it from there. Chances are they’re as apprehensive as you are, but if you can get over that first conversation, you’ll have made a positive start and other people will be looking to join in with you. When you first arrive, leave your door open – it’s a friendly sign, say hello and have a packet of biscuits and tea to share – ask if they’ve had a look around the local area yet – plan to go together.
2 Make new friends
You probably don’t remember your very first day at primary school – unless it was really traumatic! But you might experience the same kind of emotions – being in a new place with a whole load of people you’ve not yet met. Remember everyone’s in the same boat – you’re there to study but also to make friends and socialise. Freshers week is when the university will put on lots of events to help you meet other students and find like minded people. Go along to as many as you can until you find the ones that interest you the most – there will be different societies and groups vying for your attention, from debating and sporting, to political and charitable – with all kinds of different focus and priorities. It’s a great way to meet new people and make friends as you’ll have a common interest which is always a positive way to start.
Have an idea of your budget for food and socialising – the last thing you want to do is run out of money during your first fortnight after a spending/drinking spree! Use the end of your ‘school’ holiday to try and predict how much you’re likely to spend on food and accommodation so you have enough to go out and have fun with your new found friends. If you are buying things then always ask if there’s a student discount – some stores don’t advertise this as much as others, remember it’s free to ask and it might save you money! Spend a little bit of time learning to cook – it’s cheaper than eating out and is a great way to make friends if you’re all chipping in and cooking together. Have a few essential recipes in mind that you are confident to cook, especially something like a curry or chilli that can be shared – you’ll be glad you did!
4 Look after yourself!
With all the changes that are going on, you might feel a bit homesick. Keep a balance between exploring your new surroundings and making contact with home – it’s easy with mobile phones and instant messaging, but try to keep a balance so you give it a positive try. Get into a regular pattern of sleeping and eating – it’s really important that you eat and sleep properly to maintain your physical and mental health. If you’ve been jet lagged then you’ll know how out of synch your body can get and how disorienting it is. Find time to socialise, exercise (even if it’s just walking) and relax as well as study. Make your room your own – posters, photographs, play your favourite music and wear your familiar comfortable clothes – this will all help to create a home away from home. Give yourself time to adjust – over half the students asked on a Mind Matters survey said they felt homesick, so you won’t be alone – talk to other students and your university if you find that you are struggling.
5 Get ready for next year
Find your accommodation for your second and third years in good time – you might like to share a house with friends, it’s always good to plan this earlier rather than later so you’re ready as soon as the accommodation becomes available. Your first year is all about finding your feet and preparation for the rest of the course – the workload increases and you’ll need to be prepared. Think about your career – get some work experience planned for the holidays and don’t leave it too late. If you’re working in between terms then you will be building up your cash reserves as well as useful work experience to add to your CV when you’re applying for jobs. It’s never too early to start thinking and planning your next move.
You’re about to embark on one of the most exciting chapters of your life. Have a great time and good luck!