University can be quite an uncertain and scary prospect for students coming out of a protected environment, such as school. Not only do students have to continue focusing and working towards academic achievement, but also learn to become completely independent, often in a new town/city surrounded by completely new people. However, in hindsight, considering my experiences as a student, I can confidently tell my First Year Self that it will all be okay! This is my advice to any new students regarding the difficulties of the uni experience.
some students may feel there is an expectation to be constantly socialising at uni to avoid ‘fomo’
The idea of making ‘friends for life’ on your first day of university can be very daunting. Also, meeting so many new people in such a short space of time can be very scary too. Some students may feel there is an expectation to be constantly socialising at uni to avoid ‘fomo’. I certainly felt all of these emotions in my first year at university and convinced myself that I’d be the only person going through it. However, pretty much everyone you meet at university will have felt this way at one point, so you’re certainly not alone.
From my experience, I would advise first-years to put themselves out there and get involved with a range of different social activities. This could be going to the student bar with your flatmates to simply having a picnic on the downs with coursemates. However, there should be no pressure to engage with anything you don’t feel comfortable with. Find your preferred way of socialising, as you can meet people in so many different ways.
One of the best ways I met people in the first year was through societies. I joined a handful of societies but particularly got stuck in with the A Cappella society and it was such a great way of finding a group of people who shared the same interests as me. So, I would advise engaging with societies of interest.
Also, I’d suggest trying to find the right balance between socialising and spending some alone time for reflection. This helped me a lot throughout the first couple of months of university as the social element could at times be overwhelming. To relax, I would sometimes get comfortable in my uni room with some snacks and watch Netflix or go for a walk around the beautiful campus to give myself a bit of a break.
it can take a little while for your accommodation to feel like a home away from home
The whole process of finding accommodation can be complicated as there are a lot of different options to consider when choosing where to live. Also, moving away from home, often for the first time, is a big step and can feel like you’re living on the other side of the world, away from normality. Honestly, it can take a little while for your accommodation to feel like a home away from home, but there are great ways that you can make where you live feel a little more comfortable.
My favourite way to add a bit of home life to my uni room in my first year was hanging up pictures on my bulletin board and throughout my room. This was such a lovely reminder that I could get through the experience, even when times are tough. Also, I’d tell any first-years to decorate their university room with plants, blankets, and any other cosy items.
I’d also advise first years to get to explore your accommodation! So many accoms have great social areas that are perfect for hanging out with any friends or meeting new people. Similarly, if you’re lucky enough to live on campus, explore the beautiful areas that are likely nearby to where you’re living, such as Highfields Park or Lakeside Arts.
Learning to budget
a system that monitors your expenditures is so important to avoid dangerous situations – like getting into your overdraft in the first month
Budgeting is a very important skill that a lot of students first learn at university. One thing that shocked me in my first year was how expensive everything was! Creating a system that monitors your expenditures is so important to avoid dangerous situations – like getting into your overdraft in the first month.
I would advise budgeting for necessities, like food, but also consider putting some money aside for more fun activities, like going ice skating with your friends. As you learn to budget, you’ll likely adjust it throughout the year. I know I will spend more money at Christmas, so I’d prefer to save over the weeks beforehand. Also, make use of student discounts, such as UNiDAYS for any purchases to save a little more!
Finally, there is a great range of student jobs through the Student Union and many more throughout Nottingham to help with saving a bit more money to support the cost of going to university. I only recently in my second year got a job through the SU and I would certainly tell my first-year self to have looked much earlier as it’s a great way to engage with another aspect of the University of Nottingham as well as help financially.
Balancing the academic with the social side
One thing that can be hard to figure out in the first year is balancing the academic parts of university with the social, ‘uni’ life. The first year may feel quite intense and grown-up, especially compared to the supported environment of the school, so sometimes there feels like an expectation to be working 24/7.
I would tell my first year self to enjoy social time and use it as a break from the academic pressures of university
However, I would tell my first-year self to enjoy social time and use it as a break from the academic pressures of university. University is an overall experience, not just a way to get a degree, so I’d advise making time for the social aspect with friends in such an amazing city. I would also recommend using social plans to motivate yourself academically. I find that if I know I’ve got a social activity in one evening, I’m much more likely to finish my work for the day at a faster pace and overall more effectively.
Finally, I would tell my first-year self to accept the difficult parts of university. In the grand scheme of things, they are often minor compared to the amazing experience you gain from attending uni. Allow yourself to experience the difficulties, but enjoy the positives!
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