You've said goodbye to your fellow sixth formers, you've had the parties or holiday and you've said your tearful goodbye to your parents - now what? Having this level of independence can be liberating for most students but for others it could be a stressful and anxious time. Meeting new people should be top of your list when you start university. If you are lucky enough to be in halls of residence on campus it will be hard to hide with all the facilities and meeting places available within a short distance. On your course also they may have ice-breaking meetings to start with or some sort of socialising opportunity which you could attend.
In this section we will cover the experiences of a student's first week as well as:
My first day at uni was strange, which is not uncommon. My parents had set off at an ungodly hour 'to miss the traffic' on the M1, which we managed, and in fact, only saw one other car stuffed with king-size quilt and weedy pot plant on the way to Leeds. I'd lugged all my boxes up the three flights, my parents had said goodbye and I was left in my new room (which had a slight hospital look about it); bare except for the electrical equipment my dad had to plug in before he left, all before 10am, with barely anyone else in the entire complex.
People gradually arrived, and with nothing else to do, I went round knocking on everyone's door in my building, gathering people a la Pied Piper of Hamlin as I went and met two of my best friends like this (although I suppose I had thirty two foul attempts!). This is definitely a good ice breaker though, and if you feel nervous, remember, everyone else does too, so just try to be chatty and friendly. It also gave me a lot of people to talk to that night, at the first drink in the hall bar. Meeting six hundred in one go definitely makes you overwhelmed by names, and most I'll never remember, but it all starts somewhere, and from experience, it's usually in the bar!
Hall social is good preparation for Fresher's Ball, obligatory drunken night with thousands of other freshers, a few third year letches (you'll start to recognise them), and terrible 80's throwback (we had Chesney Hawks). A good idea is to get your parents to pay for the tickets before they go, in a specially crafted, 'I'd like to go, but I'm going to have to be careful with my money' kind of way, that becomes fairly tired by the end of the second year.
Money or lack of it is probably the most uniting factor of students nationwide. For most people a student loan is essential, which is better if you've sorted it all before you come to uni, but you can apply all year, up until June (see the Student Loans Company's website). However, to receive your first instalment, you need to register for your course, which typically involves waiting in a three hour queue after you've wandered around the electives fair and picked your other modules. Make sure the number of credits adds up to what you are meant to be doing, because I realised in November that I was 20 credits short, and the only department that would help me catch up was the chaplaincy, and I ended up spending 3 hours a week with a very kind vicar learning Spirituality, when really, I could have been doing something a little more interesting!
After the first week of carefree parties, the second week of introductory lectures at 9am comes as an unjustified shock. I have found that you will never get used to this if you study English, history or arts in general and see as unfair that you have to get up before midday when you only do seven hours a week anyway. Unfortunately, you'll have to get used to it if you study engineering or worse, medicine, but remember there was a choice on the UCAS form!
After trying out some of the lectures on your course and you decide that it's really not for you, it's best to let someone know as soon as possible, but give this careful consideration. A lot of people I know switched courses before 'half term' week (which you don't get at uni; it's renamed reading week for arts courses), but lots of people were also able to change after the first year. You don't want to change and then realise that it was the one after all. I was quite unsettled by the little amount of work I had to do; after studying for four A levels, seven hours a week of English didn't seem right. I've become much more adapted now, and can see that the pressures are just different; some weeks are very laid back, others you have four essays in for (obviously the more sensible thing is to plan ahead, but I keep convincing myself that I work much better under pressure.)
If your seminars and lectures organise group work, then you're bound to make extra new friends on your course - if not, just start introducing yourself again, you'll be perfect at it by now!
Above all though, the first year of university is about having fun, meeting people and getting at least 40% to get through to the next year.
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