Entering the final week of my degree, and consequently my university life, I have been reflecting on the rollercoaster that has been the last three years. It feels like only yesterday that I said my tearful goodbyes to my equally tearful parents and was left to my own devices in flat full of strangers – I've never felt anxiety like it. But, throughout the last three years, I’d like to think I’ve gained some wisdom that’s worth imparting, should the need arise.
So, without further ado, dear fresher…
Don’t expect to be friends with everyone in your halls. It’s just not realistic, nor worth stressing over. Of all the random and seemingly arbitrary ways the University assign the different rooms, it’s unlikely that you’ll be best buds with everyone. There are so many different avenues to meet people and find your ‘tribe’ that if you don’t think any of the 7 strangers assigned to your flat are your future bestie, do not panic. Obviously, it’s great, and important, to get on with your flatmates – we don’t want any passive-aggressive stealing of food situations. But at the end of the day, these are just people to live with and that’s okay.
Comparison is the thief of joy. Generally, in all aspects of life, but more specifically when it comes to comparing your uni experience with your friends. When you first leave the bubble that is your hometown, there seems some unspoken competition that everyone needs to compete to prove that they are having the BEST time with their new BEST FRIENDS. It may seem that these people have settled seamlessly into their new uni life and are thriving when you’re still getting lost on campus, but don’t take it to heart. The reality is that so much of this is performative, and they're probably just as unsure of things as you are. Often, the ones who post the most on social media about how great their new life is, are the ones who are struggling but are fearful of judgement. There’s no time scale to settling in or even an expectation to be having the time of your life. The most important thing to do is take things at your own pace and not compare your experience to what you see on Instagram.
Overdrafts are dangerous. When I first got to uni, I was enthralled by the sudden financial freedom bestowed upon me, but it soon got out of hand. A coffee here, a top there, and a Pret sandwich more than I care to admit, and I had steadily slid into unchartered territory. Of course, a lot of students do exist in their overdraft and who am I to give unsolicited financial advice? But what I can say is once you’re in, it’s a slippery slope and damn hard to get out. Budgeting is ideal, but for many (me included) not realistic. But setting boundaries or goals e.g. ‘I will end this year not in minus figures!!!’ is a good place to start.
First year doesn’t count, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Although primarily first year is a time to find your feet and figure a bit of life out independent from your parents, don’t let the freedom go to your head. Go to that social on a Wednesday evening and miss that Thursday 9am, but just not every week. I’ve learned that setting good habits for staying on top of work has set me up for a positive work ethic throughout my uni years and that is something I would recommend. Uni work is important, but so is enjoying yourself. So equally, don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself in first year to get amazing grades. It takes a while to get the knack of how to write academic essays or figure out referencing – I still struggle with this one – and if in doubt, drop your tutor an email. My friends continue to berate me for my frequent emailing of professors, but they are there to answer your questions and give you the best possible chance of succeeding, so email away!
I struggle to believe that in a week’s time I will no longer be a student and would give anything to relive my experience - maybe without the deadlines and debilitating hangovers though. And so, in light of this, my last piece of advice is to embrace your uni years! Because if you blink, you’ll miss it. Relish in the comfort and security of living a tax-free life with seemingly few responsibilities, because it’s not long before we must depart from this season and begin the rest of our lives.