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5 Things You Should Know About University

FreshersStudentsUniversity

Some people can’t wait to get away from home and forget to call most weekends, but if you’re a home bird, like me, you might feel a bit embarrassed in comparison. Remember that everyone is different. Most people feel homesick at some point during university. Some will feel it especially hard in the first few months, while it won’t hit others until exam stress kicks in. Some people will feel more at home in their new university town than they ever did at home. 

When I began my first year of university, I was just shy of turning 24, so I didn’t think I had all that much to learn outside of the classroom. Of course, I was wrong. Moving to a different town for university made me realise that there’s much more to university than lectures, even if you’re not fresh out of school. Here are just a few of the university tips I wish I’d known back then:

1.    Timetables can be deceiving

If you’re a humanities student like me, you may look at your new timetable for the first time, and ask, “where’s the rest of it?” Your next thought may be to book the next train home for a long weekend, but hold that thought! There’s nothing wrong with taking your time to get into a routine and figuring out how and when you work best outside of the classroom, but don’t be fooled into thinking all that blank space is free time. 

Some people will tell you to treat university like a full-time job, which is all very well if you don’t have an actual job, but how often you study outside of your timetabled sessions is totally up to you. Just remember: quality over quantity. Pulling a 9 to 5 study session every day won’t be much good if you spend the whole time mindlessly highlighting words that you don’t understand, whereas shorter sessions spent really getting to grips with the subject matter will be more satisfying AND will leave you time to see your friends later. 

I recommend figuring out your preferred study methods through trial and error and physically noting down some regular study sessions on the blank spaces in your timetable as a visual reminder. 

2.    You probably won’t meet your best friends in fresher’s week

Have fun in your first year and get to know your cohort, but make sure to socialise sober too. Team sports are a great way to bond with people (so I hear, anyway) and joining the society for your course subject is a good way to get to know your new classmates. Go to the fresher’s fair and sign up to try something new. You might not become a regular at the breakdance society, but who knows? 

Finally, don’t worry if you haven’t found your people by Christmas or even the end of the first year. It’s a nice thought but, you don’t need to put too much pressure on yourself to meet lifelong friends. Just try to get along with people and make the best of your education. Take the pressure off yourself and just take life as it comes. 

3.    It’s OK to feel homesick

I felt a bit ridiculous when I realised how homesick I felt in my first year at university. With hindsight, what I felt was perfectly natural. I’d never lived outside my hometown before, and it’s ok if you Don’t Want to Move Away For University.

Some people can’t wait to get away from home and forget to call most weekends, but if you’re a home bird, like me, you might feel a bit embarrassed in comparison. Remember that everyone is different. Most people feel homesick at some point during university. Some will feel it especially hard in the first few months, while it won’t hit others until exam stress kicks in. Some people will feel more at home in their new university town than they ever did at home. 

An important university tip: do not judge yourself or anyone else for how they cope with the change. Call home as often as you want, budget for trips home if you can, and talk about it! As with most problems, bottling it up only leads to shame which comes out in other ways, like snapping at your housemate for not washing up (not a blame game you want to start, trust me). 

4.    Make a budget, seriously

A few weeks in, I realised that most of my flatmates must have a lot more disposable income than I did. Some people get larger student maintenance loans, some have very generous parents, whatever the case may be, don’t assume you can match them round for round unless you’ve had a good look at your money situation. 

A vital university tip would be to make a realistic budget and try your best to stick to it. Note down your maintenance loan along with any other income, then note your outgoings. Make sure to include monthly costs like your phone bill and Netflix. Then subtract your total outgoings from your income. Whatever’s left is your disposable income. 

It’s usually at this point that I hurriedly cancel some subscriptions and ask someone for their Netflix password. Do what you gotta do. 

I like to see what I’ve got going on money-wise in a monthly format, which involves a bit of division (I earned my C in Maths), but you can also look at it on a three-monthly basis as that’s how student rent and loans usually come. You won’t always stick to your budget, but keeping on top of your incomings, outgoings and disposable income won’t hurt.

5.    Ask for help before you need it

This is a biggie. The most important thing I’ve learned from being a student so far is just this: I can do it, but I don’t need to do it alone.

I started university with pretty poor self-esteem. I’d managed to get some A levels via self-studying, but I didn’t have fond memories of school and I found myself afraid that I was about to embark on a three-year-long extension of that experience. 

At first, those fears held me back at university. I didn’t socialise enough in my first year (or the second, thanks to Covid) and I was terrified of speaking in seminars and sounding like an idiot. But something funny happened as I stuck with it: it got better. I believe a key reason for this is that I asked for help early. 

Before I even started university, I admitted to myself that I might find it hard, and I went through a DSA (Disabled Student Allowance) referral to get mental health support during my studies. This meant that I was allocated a personal student mentor, who I could discuss my fears with. Three years in, I have fewer worries to take to my mentor, but I couldn’t be more grateful for them. 

Though I loved my subject, I spent much of my first year struggling and wanting to drop out. With the support of my mentor, family, and friends, I didn’t. University isn’t right for everyone, but I’m so glad I stuck out the hard times and can now tell you my university tips. It has taught me that I am smart and capable and opened my mind to possibilities I wouldn’t even have considered before. I even made friends! 

You don’t need to wait till you reach breaking point to reach out for help and support, why not try the 8 Proven Ways to Look After Your Mental Health at University. Sometimes, asking for help is the most productive thing you can do, and that’s my best university tip for you.

Did you find this helpful? Why not try reading Why It's Normal To Struggle With Life After University.

Rachael Caine is a third year History with Archaeology undergraduate studying at Bangor University.

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