I recently looked through my journal and found an entry from about 2 weeks before I started university – and oh dear, I must have been absolutely mortified when I wrote that. I had nearly forgotten about the sheer panic I felt during those few weeks, but there was probably nothing about uni that I wasn’t scared of. Just the thought of my fellow students, my future lecturers, the confusing giant buildings, the high standards and the exams I would have to pass made me want to hide in a cave for at least a couple of months.
So if you have similar feelings about going off to uni or college – I understand. But I also know that 100% of my worries turned out to be completely unnecessary. I’m now about to finish the first year of my degree and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been in a better place in life than I am now.
Of course, I’m still far from being an expert and what I’m going to tell you now is only based on personal experience, but here’s a few pieces of advice I would give to any university fresher!
Get all the information you can
Especially when you’re feeling a bit anxious about uni anyways, it can be very tempting to skip welcoming lectures and information evenings to hide in your room and watch Netflix instead. However, putting together your timetable, finding your way around the university and getting the hang of how your online student account works can be quite tricky, so you probably need all the info you can get. Don’t hesitate to ask other people as well – they’ll either be in the same situation as you or they’ll know how overwhelming things can be when you’re new and have no clue what’s going on, so they’ll be happy to help you with any problems you might have. And once you get the hang of how everything works, it suddenly won’t seem that complicated at all.
Fresher’s week is a brilliant way to make your first friends and get to know your university, and for many students it’s a really fun and exciting experience – but don’t be too upset if it isn’t for you. I’m quite introverted and I struggle with speaking to a lot of new people at the same time, so fresher’s week was an absolute nightmare for me. I’m not sure if that’s always the case, but my Fresher’s week essentially revolved around getting pissed and nothing else – which shocked me so much that I seriously thought about dropping out before classes had even started.
But what I’m trying to say is, don’t let this first week intimidate you. Have a few beers if you want to, but don’t give into the pressure if you don’t, and always make sure to stay safe. Maybe you’re lucky and you’ll meet people you get along with right away, but if you don’t, don’t give up! Everyone is super insecure in those first few days so it’s perfectly normal if you’re struggling, and it will get easier.
First of all, don’t worry if it takes a while until you find the right people. My courses were all really big in the beginning, which made me feel like making friends was nearly impossible. I spoke to about 20 new people every day during the first week of classes and most of those first conversations were even more awkward than I was afraid they would be. The other problem was that, if you did get along with someone, you probably wouldn’t see them for at least another week because the university was so big.
Quite soon though, I noticed a group of people who seemed really cool and secretly planned to make friends with them. Now, if you’re braver than me, you should probably try and actually speak to people you find interesting, but all I did was sit near them a couple of times until one of them, now one of my best friends, started talking to me – and it sort of just took off from there. Later on, I actually found out that they had sat next to me on purpose too, and had wanted to speak to me since the first week – so if you feel like you might get along with someone, maybe don’t be a chickenshit like me and start a conversation right away, that’ll save you a lot of time and worries.
If you don’t want to speak to people first though, I’d recommend wearing shirts with band logos, references to tv shows etc., that’s always a brilliant conversation starter! Also, remember that you already have a mutual interest with every single person in your course – you all study the same thing!
Do your reading
I know that some of the texts you have to read for uni seem like the most boring piece of literature you’ve ever come across, but it really is worth at least having a proper look at them nonetheless. Most lectures are based on texts and knowing your material in advance will make following what your prof is saying a lot easier. Very often, the knowledge you get from reading your texts is simply assumed and you can feel really lost (and ultimately, bored) during lectures if you don’t know what on earth your lecturer is going on about. Additionally, all the texts you have to read could come in very handy when you need some secondary literature for an essay or term paper!
Talk to lecturers
Some lecturers and professors can be pretty intimidating at first, but speaking to them and asking questions is always worthwhile. If something they said in a lecture interests you, go and ask them about it! They’re usually really chuffed when they see that their students are passionate about their subject area, and it’s always helpful if they know who you are as well.
If you struggle with an essay, don’t be ashamed to ask them for advice. One of my lecturers actually personally gave me and some others a tour through the library when we mentioned we were still confused by how big it is, helped me pick out a title for my paper and recommended me literature to use as a reference.
Writing my first exams was an extremely scary thought, and it didn’t help to have lecturers tell you how many people usually fail every other day. However, you’ve got to remember that if you go to class regularly, do your reading and do even just a little bit of revision, you will most probably be fine. If you have procrastination issues like me, I’d recommend forming study groups with people you know are responsible and revise together – that’s not only a lot more fun, but you’ll also get things done a lot quicker.
I hope this was at least a little bit helpful and I wish anyone who’s starting uni this year the best of luck and a lot of fun! University is such a wonderful time because you get to learn about something you’re passionate about every day while meeting lots of amazing people along the way, and I really hope you’ll all enjoy it as much as I do x