Saturday, 25 July 2015

Starting University? | Tips and Advice


It's about a month and a half until the start of university again (gulp), so I figured now might be a good time to provide you with a mini guide to packing or preparing for starting university if that's where you're heading this year.

I'm starting my second year in September, so I'm not the most experienced uni pro going around, but that also means that the fears of first year are fresh in my mind.

By now many of you will have received offers of some sort (both unconditional and conditional), so you'll have an idea of where you'll be heading in a few weeks time hopefully! Personally, I was fortunate to receive an unconditional offer for my dream university, so I was ridiculously excited to move up there, completely bypassing the 'Oh no, I'm terrified that nobody will like me and I'm going to hate my course' phase that many of my friends went through. I was just too excited to buy all the homey stuff to make my room as cosy as possible!

Which brings me onto some advice for all of you upcoming students!/Things I wish I could've told myself a year ago!

You do not need every kitchen utensil under the sun. I went a little crazy in B&M Bargains and stocked up on knives, cutlery, ladels, spatulas, potato mashers, everything. I'd recommend bringing 2 of everything tableware related (glasses, cutlery, plates etc.). That way if something breaks/gets stolen, you have a spare. As for cooking equipment, 2 pots/pans should do (one for the pasta, one for the pasta sauce), a chopping knife&board, a pizza/oven tray (doubles up for cooking chips and baking if you're into that!), colander, and a wooden spoon. I've probably missed something there, but unless you're planning on cooking up gourmet dishes every night, you do not need the majority of kitchen stuff out there. Not when you can get 2 for 1 Dominos on Tuesdays...

Stock up on notebooks. I am a complete stationery lover. It's my favourite type of shopping to do if I'm honest. (Oh, those back to school offers are flooding into the supermarkets right now and I could not be happier) I like to colour-code my notebooks, so blue is my colour for French, purple for History etc. It helps me grab the one I need for each class without my notes getting all jumbled in one big book. My advice would be to wait until the end of August to buy your notebooks, because by then most will be reduced. 5 notebooks for £4? Don't mind if I do...

Organise your timetable well. I'm fortunate that I can come home for the weekend quite easily if I want to, so I like to try to avoid having classes on a Friday. Pacing your tutorials throughout the week stops you from feeling overwhelmed at the thought of 3 sets of coursework due on a Monday. In first year I had 4/5 tutorials per week, meaning spreading them over two or three days meant that there was still a day or two when all I had was lectures (the easy days!). One of my friends signed up for 6 classes in one day, not realising that it meant that she would be running all over town to make it to each lecture/class on time. Just bear that in mind when choosing your classes!

Don't buy your course books brand new. University is expensive enough without the additional £200+ spent on books each year. (Money that could instead be spent on enjoying the student experience while you can!) If you study a literature-based module, charity shops usually have the classics lurking in their bookshelves. Also watch out for older students selling their books during Fresher's Week. I got all of my French and German books from a second year for £60, saving me about £70 had I bought them first-hand. By doing it this way, you can also get the possible additional bonus of them having written in the books already, giving you a headstart as far as notes are concerned. Every little helps!

Don't worry if you don't bond with your flatmates straight away. Ah, student accommodation. I had such high hopes that I would be best friends with my flatmates, but sharing a flat with 11 other students means that not everybody is going to see eye-to-eye. I personally didn't have any issues with my flatmates, we just didn't have that much in common so we weren't as close as I initially hoped. And that's okay. I found my friends on my courses, at society meetups and general university events. I met my closest group of friends (also my academic sisters) in the university bookshop when we noticed we were all buying our French course books after the most terrifying induction talk of our lives! My point is: be patient, you only have to live with them for nine months. Your flat can just be a place to sleep if you can't stand the people there.

Homesickness is normal, and it doesn't mean that you've made a terrible mistake. Like I said before, I didn't have the phase of complete freak-out mode before moving to uni. I was too excited about leaving my hometown and starting my new adventure! But once I got there and hadn't bonded with my flatmates straight away, I was desperate to come home. It was a tough first week, but finding an initial group of friends really helped me with that. Everybody I know went through the same phase of thinking that they weren't smart enough to be at uni, or that they were never going to make any friends, but once I overcame that little setback, I had the best year of my life. Striking a balance between uni and home life was the key for me, so don't go forgetting your friends and family back home while you're away! Bringing photos, cards, tokens of friendship etc. will help to make your room feel more like home. (Also skyping my dogs helped me a lot, just in case you also have similar concerns about leaving pets behind)

I hope those little tidbits of advice and anecdotes of my own first year university experience help someone in any way! I can honestly say that going to uni was the best decision of my life, and I'm a huge advocate for higher education. If you have any questions or additional advice please do leave a comment below! Or if you'd like to see more university advice, please let me know!

Speak soon!

Chloe x