First-year, for many students, is the most nerve-racking but also the most exciting year of their student lives. You meet new people, some students move to completely new cities, you move out of home, and it’s really the beginning of a new step into adulthood. However, when something like the pandemic hits, it all completely changes.
First-year, for me, was a complete blur. It was spent mostly at home, looking at my computer for an insane number of hours, trying to keep up with the pace of the content, whilst also figuring out how to be a university student and trying to get through a global pandemic. It was intense, to say the least. I knew there were many things I was going to miss out on, some were completely out of my control, but others were things I didn’t find out about until it was too late or services that I didn’t think to make use of.
Those moments were the worst, when I saw something that I feel I would really enjoy or something that would’ve helped immensely at that time, but it was too late, or I had missed the deadline. So, I’ve rounded up some of those things that I wish I did in my first year, so you don’t have to miss out on these either:
- Volunteer: Of course, there’s nothing like volunteering in person, but one thing I wish I had signed up for sooner was volunteering. Even if it is strictly online, it makes a huge difference to whoever you are helping, especially during a pandemic. There are many ways you can volunteer; you can do it locally, as part of your community, or sign up to a volunteering post on KCLSU (where they advertise posts from tutoring GCSE students to volunteering to reading to children).
- Make use of my lecturers and personal tutors: I was never the person to put my hand up in class or ask for help, largely because I didn’t want to appear stupid or to ask silly questions—so, I figured, asking for help at university was going to be no different. But I was wrong, completely wrong. I was struggling, hugely, and I wish I had made better use of the resources available to me, like the office hours or even booking a meeting with my personal tutor to ask any general questions. One thing that’s certain at university is the lack of time, so I urge anyone else like me to make use of the teachers, no matter how silly your question may seem because it will make your life a LOT easier!
- Apply for Counselling: I had always been quite hesitant when it came to counselling because I hadn’t seen or heard of anyone close to me going to counselling or to a therapist. It was almost taboo to talk about. But I wish I had applied for counselling from the very beginning because it certainly would have made my first year a lot less mentally exhausting. Counselling is really just like a 1-hour journaling session, and it’s provided for free to students, so just go for it!
- Don’t neglect your hobbies: I wish I’d stuck to regularly reading and playing sports in my first year because it would’ve helped me relax and shift my focus onto something other than studies. Not having something different to change and cleanse your mind can be destructive, as it was for me. I was burning out, and it wasn’t even reading week yet! So, taking a break and having something else to do and prioritising it is what I regret not doing sooner.