It has, unfortunately, been a while since I started (and finished!) university. Back in 2014, my parents loaded up the car, unpacked me and I merrily waved them off without a glance back – I had things to do, people to meet! Whether you’re about to head off or you’ve already arrived, your first year is a weird and wonderful time. I have very much ‘been there, done that’, so now please take my super top tips and have the best year!
1) Do the prep work
About a month before I was due to leave, my mum cracked out the bags for life and started piling in everything she could find. I had all the kitchen gear and about a year’s worth of instant noodles & pasta. At the time I was quite bemused, but upon arrival, I was thrilled I could focus on getting to know my new pals rather than having to run to the Tesco (which was overrun!!) with everyone else who needed to pick up the essentials. Me and my UHT milk were ever so smug.
But on the other hand, don’t overpack! Make sure to scope out your new flatmates on the university social media – probably a Facebook or WhatsApp group for each block of flats. Decide what you’re all going to bring as your seriously don’t need 6-12 tin openers. One of you bring the spatula, the other the pizza cutter etc. Also decide how groceries will work. Again, do you need 12 packs of open butter? Unlikely. Once we got settled into our groove, things like milk, butter, eggs etc all became communal.
2) Leave your door open
Obviously close it at the appropriate times, but in the first few weeks, prop your room door open. Until lectures start to get going, you may find yourself with plenty of free time. I did and it was always nice to go for a wander down the corridor and see who else was about and your flatmates will probably do the same. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in those first few weeks and you will absolutely need your own space at some point, but please don’t shut yourself off. Homesickness is super common, but this will be made 1000 times worse if you don’t start to feel at home at university. So prop your door open and be prepared to meet and greet!
3) Make sure you know what’s happening!
I will never forget when my partner took himself off to his first lecture and found out that a whole week had occurred before. He was a commuting student and had such a focus on the actual learning, he completely missed the week before. It’s easy to do, even if you’re on campus!
There is so much happening, you may just miss everything outside of your new housemates, exploring the local city, fighting off the Fresher’s Flu. The list goes on! But during the day, you’ll have registration, introductory lecturies, meeting your personal tutor & peer mentors! That week is a busy one, so please pay attention to the itinerary – you’ll thank yourself later!
4) Sign up for every event ever
There is just so much going on during Fresher’s Week, so keep yourself in the loop! The big event however is of course Fresher’s Fair, where you’ll see every club, society and if you’re lucky, free pizza stand, on campus. Sign up to a million clubs, I promise it’s worth it. In my first year, I signed up for the Fencing club, TeaSoc & to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. Did I actually do any of these things? Nope. But we went along, tried things out, went to a few socials. It was fun! You’ll meet tons of new people and even if you don’t end up actually doing the thing you signed up to do, it’s all in the experience.
Don’t worry if you don’t find your club during your first year. I didn’t until my second, when I joined Pole and met a whole second family whilst doing a sport I adored. I got to travel to Prague during our ‘tour’, compete against our rival university at Derby Day and most of all, drank an obscence amount of VKs (green obvs) whilst bopping with my pals.
5) And finally, don’t put all that pressure on yourself!
The biggest thing you’ll hear is that at university, you’ll make friends for life. And you may well do – I’m bffs with my first year pals still, a solid sisterhood for sure. But it’s fine if you don’t click on your first day, first week or month. Your flatmates may not be your forever friends, but how about in your clubs, societies, course, random girls you meet in the club toilets? That last one, seriously!
Like anything new, it takes time to settle in, find your rhythm and get cracking. So please don’t worry if it doesn’t click right away. I promise you’ll get there.
Have the best time, stay safe & have fun! <3
P.S – please don’t be the kid who spends their first loan drop in a minute! Baked beans are only delish for so long.