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Anna Goddard-Jones

If I could tell you one thing… What advice would I give to my first-year self?

I just started my second year, and boy does it feel different from my first! All the expectations and uncertainty around starting university that dominated my first few months last year have vanished. I made my fair share of mistakes last year, and I’m not the only one, so I’ve gathered some fabulous advice from the girls at Her Campus Exeter and asked them one simple question: what advice would you give to your first-year self?  


1) Get involved! 

It can be all too easy to get caught up in stressing over food, laundry, finance, and your studies during first year as you adjust to University life, meaning you forget about societies and events and, you know, having fun! It’s not always easy to pluck up the courage to audition for a choir, or try out for a sports team, or even just turn up to a society event or workshop, but you shouldn’t be afraid to give something new a go!

Joining clubs is a great way to make friends outside of your flat and course, and it’s important to remember that there’s more to University than just lectures and seminars. Our Publicity Sec Lauren says: “My advice would be don’t be scared to try something new – my biggest regret was waiting till second year to involve myself in the sports and societies which I wanted to join in first year. It is always scarier to do something new but it is never as bad as it seems!”  


2) Use the Library! 

This advice is a little more specific…but I can’t push it enough! I spent way to much money in my first year on printing and textbooks, as I don’t like reading off a screen and need a hard copy of my readings. It barely occurred to me to check the library catalogue to see if I could check out the book, I just rushed straight to the printer or amazon.

The library can seem quite confusing at first: finding a book isn’t always easy, but there are staff on hand who love to help! You’ll save yourself some serious money if you just think ‘library first, printer second, amazon third’. The library also has spaces where you can work in quiet, as well as rooms you can book out for group work. Working in your room is tempting, but it’s so easy to get distracted; sitting down for an hour or so in the library is often way more productive.  


3) Give yourself time! 

People come to university with lots of expectations, and 90% of them just aren’t realistic. Lots of people arrive on campus expecting to make friends for life within the first forty-eight hours, but those sorts of bonds take time to form. You might not instantly get along with your flatmates, but over the coming weeks you’ll get to know each other better and things will start to click into place. Your flatmates might not be your closest friends at uni either – you might bond more with people on your course or in the same societies as you.

Cooking, cleaning, and academic skills will also take time to develop. Don’t panic if you leave your lectures brain-dead and confused during your first month or so, and don’t be afraid to reach out for support! There are tons of services on campus to help you, from StudyZone to Residence Life Cookery School! Give yourself time to settle in. Moving to university is a big change and adjusting to it will take a little longer than one Freshers Week.

Our writer Sisi says: “I started my first year at uni with such high expectations – that I would have the best year of my life, meet my best friends in the entire world and, as ridiculous as it sounds, meet the love of my life. I put a lot of pressure on myself in the first few weeks to have this experience but for me, it didn’t happen like that at all. I had put this ludicrous imaginary pressure on myself to achieve all these things within the first weeks (first days even!) of university, but it just wasn’t realistic. Going to a new place, meeting new people takes time and I didn’t allow myself to realise that. I would tell my first-year self not to worry so much about not meeting people who understood me straight away or who were going to be my friends for life, because it would happen naturally.” 

I'm an undergraduate reading BSc Politics and International Relations at the University of Exeter. I have a passion for current affairs and want to write articles that make complicated issues understandable for everyone. As a proud aspergirl and Childline ambassador I also want to use my writing to raise awareness around mental health conditions and disabilities.
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