Hey guys and gals and happy September (madness, I know!). Over the next couple of months, Universities all over the country will be inundated with freshers starting what will probably be for most their first adventure away from home. I finished 3 years at Warwick University this year. I have quite literally been there, done it and got the T-shirt to prove it. Whilst the 3 years were the most challenging of my life, they were also moments that were some of the best and I learnt a hell of a lot about myself, other people and how to survive on pot noodle because you’re too hungover to go to the shop (essential life lessons really). For anyone heading of to University this year, I thought I would share with you some of my tips for survival – everything from feeding yourself to going clubbing. So, let’s get started.
I made it!
Okay, so it’s moving day. The car is full and your Mum is crying. Moving day is an odd day – you’re excited and very, very nervous, but there are a few things you can do to make moving day just that little bit easier.
- Take snacks (a box of Celebrations always goes down well): Having something to offer your new flat mates is a create ice breaker. I went to people’s rooms and introduced myself with a box a Celebrations and everyone appreciated it (even the parents). It might sound cringe but it is a nice way to open a conversation if you’re feeling a little nervous.
- Only pack your winter clothes: Apart from a few dresses and fancy shoes, there is no point taking your whole wardrobe with you to University. One, it is probably not going to all fit in your wardrobe and two, you really don’t need it. You’ll be back home again at Christmas so you can mix things up then.
- Buy stuff there: It might be nice to feel prepared and buy everything you know, just incase you get the urge to make your own yogurt or remove the core from an apple with only one appliance, but you really don’t need to clear Ikea out of its kitchen section. You’re not going out of space – there will be shops! If you find you need something when you’re there, just pop to the shop. It will probably save you money and some room in your parents car boot.
- Keep your door open: Everyone says this but it is so true. Keeping your door open is a great way to let people know you’re there and willing to chat. It seems like nothing but just smiling and saying hello to someone walking past could start a new friendship.
- Bag yourself a decent cupboard: I got to University very early and bagged myself the best cupboard in the kitchen. Not too far away from the cooker, but far enough away that it wasn’t going to be in front of everyone’s work surface. If in doubt take your Mum – they always know best.
- Register with the University Doctor: It is super easy to do and the University will probably send you information on how to do this prior to your moving day. My University Doctor has been fantastic (they really helped during my tougher times), particularly during those first few weeks where I was pretty confident I was dying. Turns out it was just freshers flu – better safe than sorry.
If I had to do moving day again: I am pretty happy with how my moving day went but I do think I tried ‘too’ hard to make a good first impression that I was not 100% true to myself. I know it is hard and I did my best but I would try and be more myself.
The First Few Weeks.
Moving day is done, the hard part is over… Now what?
- Get up half an hour earlier: You’re probably going to get lost and so you need to allow time for this. If you do get to your lectures and seminars early, it is also a great chance to chat to your course mates outside. It might seem like a pain after your third night out in a row but it is definitely worth it.
- Don’t feel like you have to go out every single night: Your University is likely to have pulled out all of the stops for freshers week and there will be something going on every single night. Just because there is something happening it doesn’t mean you have to be there. I know, I know you’re only ‘fresh’ once and the FOMO is real, but if you don’t fancy it just don’t go. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to make up for it.
- Eat 3 meals a day and drink plenty of water: Everything will be a bit of a whirlwind for the first few weeks so it can be really easy to neglect the basic necessities. Make an effort to eat three meals a day and always have a bottle of water with you in the day (it will help with the hangovers as well). They might not always be the healthiest meals and they’ll probably be nothing like your Mum used to make, but make sure you’re eating.
- Mingle outside your halls: It can be easy to think your flatmates are the be all and end all. Of course, get to know them – for lots of people they end up being some of their best friends. However, there is a whole University full of people for you to meet. Don’t restrict yourself!
If I had to do the first few weeks again: I definitely would make sure I met more people outside of the flat and my seminars. I kind of got myself into a little bubble and when that burst I was in a tough position. I’ve learnt that it is not about meeting one best ever friend in the whole wide world you’re going to have as your maid of honour and love forever and forever – it is about meeting a range of people and learning about them whilst also learning about yourself.
Uni was ‘first class’ (see what I did there?)
You’ve not been out without you BFF since year 7 who turned 18 a month after you and it’s all getting a bit daunting. Drinks are more expensive than your home town and you can drink for literally nothing in the game of never have I ever. You ask yourself, Am I really that boring? as your new neighbour finishes her third pint.
- Have an emergency £10 on you at all times: There were many times during my first year that I was stranded in a night club having missed the last bus home. I’d recommend always having an emergency bit of cash just incase you need to get a taxi. Even if it’s just £10 in you phone case, you never know when you might need it.
- No one will notice if you get a glass of water: Don’t want a drink? Don’t worry. Turns out water and vodka and lemonade look a hell of a lot alike (even more alike when you’re surrounding by drunk people who are seeing double). If you don’t want a drink just get water. You don’t have to tell anyone if you don’t want!
- Eat before going out: I sound like a mother, don’t I? This one is probably self explanatory but make sure you line your stomach before drinking. I failed to do this many times (often on purpose) and I seriously suffered the consequences.
- Take condom: Okay, maybe I sound a little less like a Mum now… The reality is that you might end up having sex with someone and it is vital that you’re protected not only from pregnancy but also from STI’s and other nasty things.In the heat of the moment, neither of you are likely to fancy wanting till tomorrow so it is always best to be prepared. Even if you never ever use it, it’s there. You might also help out a friend in need.
- Learn to say no: It’s okay to say no. People won’t like you less. If you don’t feel comfortable then please, please, please do not do things solely to impress others.
If I had to do ‘going out’ again: I was very stand offish to boys when I went out as I was terrified of letting my hair down too much. In hindsight, I wish I would have let myself have a bit more fun. So what if you snog someone on the dance floor? When it comes to alcohol though, I would certainly have said no a lot more often and not tried to be the cool one doing all the shots – not big and definitely not clever.
Okay, your house mates are cool, but there’s more to you than just your address. What do I do when lessons are over?
- Be willing to try anything: I never in a million years thought I would have my own radio show but I ended up absolutely loving it. If something tickles your fancy, give it a go! Be open to trying new things – you never know, you might love it.
- Go to the Freshers Taster sessions, even if you have to go alone: Everyone is in the same boat at freshers sessions, so even if none of your flat fancy Doctor Who Society or Debating Club, just go! The exec board will be on their best behaviour (I promise, I have been there) and do everything they can to make you feel as welcome as possible!
- Don’t worry about it all ‘looking good on a CV’: Sure, running my own radio show was pretty impressive on a CV, but it’s not all about that. If you fancy cocktail making club over Politics Society then that is totally fine. Societies are a great way to let your hair down and enjoy yourself.
- Go on tour: I went on HistSoc tour in first year and it was incredible. I had such a good time and it is a great way to make new friends with similar interests. It is also useful if you fancy yourself as the next President or Social Sec – who doesn’t want to be a BNOC, right?
Little fresher Jamie on the HistSoc tour.
If I had to do ‘societies’ again: I would absolutely do a sport. I was terrified of the sports clubs because I wasn’t particularly great at anything and I had heard terrifying things about their initiations. It’s true, sports clubs tend to be a little wild, but they are also such a tight-knit community. You don’t even have to be that good – there are beginners classes! Warwick Netball, if you’re ever looking for an alumni member…
Embarrassed yourself drunk? Check. Turned up your 9AM after next to no sleep? Check. Eaten a healthy balanced meal in the last 8 days… Yeah about that.
- Buy some fruit: Getting your five a day is surprisingly challenging when you’re eating for one.Get yourself some apple or a punnet a grapes. Not only are they healthy snack but they’re also a super easy way to get in some greens without having to whip out your Grandma’s steamer that she promised you’d need.
- Drink plenty of water: I’ve said this before and I will say it again – drink lots of water. It’s going to keep you healthy, help the hangover and it’s free – a students best friend.
- Join a sports society (or the gym): Staying active is super important so get involved. Even if you’re only playing hockey once a week, it’s better than nothing! I also met some really lovely friends through going to the gym (and ended up qualifying as a PT and getting a job at Gymshark).
- Make time for food shopping: I was the worst at food shopping, I mean really really bad. It might surprise you but if you don’t keep stocking up on food, you actually run out of food. I know, it shocked me too… Schedule a day once a week to do a food shop and make a list throughout the week of what you’re running low on. I’d also recommend getting delivery as it will save you time (and money) in the long run.
If I had to do ‘staying healthy’ again: No surprises here but I would food shop! I would probably also have started the gym a little earlier and joined a sports club.
So there you have it – some of my top tips! But don’t just take it from me, here are some recommendations from others who have been there and done it.
‘Don’t feel like you have to go out every night with your uni friends – you might get FOMO but your body will thank you for a rest every now and again’ – @emilycatmuir
‘I’m a lecturer at college. I tell my students going to uni 3 things have to be right or they won’t be happy. 1. (Pick a) good, interesting course. 2. Good uni and facilities and 3. Great location/city.’ – @Islandbeauty77
‘My top tip is make sure you have mugs, tea and coffee all ready for the first meeting with your fellow hall mates- I’ll make sure my daughter has some.’ – @Roots2Success
‘Live your absolute best life’ – @kerrismackley
I hope you have the most incredible time at University. It’s hard and not every day is going to be good. By second year I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, but I did. Make the most of everything and have fun – you’re going to smash it!