Monday 9 September 2019

My Advice to Uni Freshers

I'm about to start my second year of university, and I keep thinking back to this time last year when I was just about to move in and had no idea what to expect. I don't claim to be an expert on anything, we're all just fumbling our way through trying to make sure we eat and stay on top of reading. These are just a few things I've learned in the past year and which may be helpful to others.

Find your safe space

Whether that’s a coffee shop, bookshop, wherever. I have two. The first of thse was (and still is) a teahouse right next to my uni. It’s cosy, has some great vegan cakes and more tea than you could ever dream of, and quickly became my go to for practically everything. Meeting friends, a place to read, to kill time, to write a blog post, write an essay. I find it’s so good to have somewhere non-uni related that’s also not my flat (now house) to get away and chill.  The second is Tyneside Cinema, an independent cinema in the middle of Newcastle. I love films, and going to the cinema has always been one of my favourite things to do. My first year at university was the first time I actually went to the cinema by myself and now I go all the time. Okay, that may be partly because of the cheap tickets I’m able to get because of my age but I take full advantage of that because I love going somewhere and being completely absorbed in something else for a couple of hours. The point is that you should find somewhere which feels almost like a warm hug when you need one. 

Look online

The best friend I made at uni, I met online. I saw that she was doing the same course as me on Twitter on results day, followed her and messaged her later on. We had a conversation and met I think at some point in Freshers’, if not the next week. I’m so glad I met her, and if I hadn’t been stalking through my course’s tweets and likes we may not be the friends we are today (despite being on the same course, there are a lot of people you don’t meet even if you have all the same modules). 

You can also find lots of Facebook groups specifically for freshers. There you can find flatmates, other people in your accommodation and people doing your course. I didn’t have a Facebook account until about midway through the year, so I didn’t use those groups but I know that a lot of people found them useful. 

Get involved!

I love my course, don’t get me wrong. I find it interesting, I love debate and discussion and constantly finding out new things. However, some of my favourite things about uni is the extra-curricular stuff. I went to lots of events with the Feminist Society last year and this year I’m their social media manager – something which has given me a bit of purpose over summer as well as got me looking forward to events happening over the next year.

At the beginning of the second semester, I also got involved in a student-run organisation providing free English lessons for refugees and asylum seekers in the local area (as well as sports, trips and activities for children). This has been a huge part of my uni experience, having given me purpose and direction, and has ensured that I make better use of my time by actually getting out of bed at a decent time on the weekend. I’ve genuinely missed

There are so many volunteering opportunities available at practically every university, so you should be able to find something which suits your interests. And if there’s something you want to do which isn’t available? Then start up a society or organisation yourself! Your Student Union should provide you with support on how to do so. 

Explore the area

You may already know the location of your uni for whatever reason, but if you don’t then it’s a great opportunity to explore! There’s so much going on and so many new places and things to discover. Look up places on the internet and on social media before you go, and just have a walk about when you’re there. Even after you’ve been there for a while you’ll still be finding new things!

Use your common room(s)

As I study 2 subjects, I have access to 3 common rooms across the campus. This is actually so useful, and I didn’t quite realise it until later on in the year. I find common rooms useful, not necessarily for working (I end up chatting to people or getting distracted because it’s a more relaxed environment). So for me, they’re a good place to heat up and eat my lunch, get a drink (tea or water) or just somewhere to wait and read a book when I have a short amount of time to kill in between lectures. 

Bulk cook!

I cook a lot. I love it as an activity but it’s also cheaper, more nutritious and really tasty if you know what you’re doing. I always make sure I’ve got some lentil bolognaise and homemade tomato sauce in the freezer (as well as often some kind of veg curry) so that I can easily shove on some pasta and microwave the sauce and a meal will be ready super quickly and with hardly any effort. Of course sometimes it’s nice to have a ready meal every once in a while, but that’s just so unsustainable to do all the time (both in terms of money, nutrition and the environment). You can find loads of great recipes all over the internet – Jack Monroe’s website is a particularly source for all kinds of dietary requirements and amazing food. I’m gradually making my way through one of her cookbooks as well and they’re great!

Use libraries and charity shops as much as you’re able to

I am a huge advocate for the use of libraries and charities whenever possible. Textbooks can beare expensive, so if you’re able to keep a book out of the library as long as possible or find the ones you’re looking for in a charity shop for a much cheaper price, then go for it! This is probably a lot easier with humanities rather than sciences – I make no claim on any kind of knowledge on the latter. You’re much likely to find politics, history and literature books in charity shops rather than hardcore science texts. Although obviously they should have all the textbooks required in your university library. Sometimes the stock in the library doesn’t always fit the demand, and you’ll only have the book you need for a fraction of the time you need it for. What I’ve found useful is getting the books you need out early and taking pictures of the pages you need, and then looking over them whenever you need them.

Be open to meeting new people

There are people everywhere at uni, which can be overwhelming if you’re used to smaller places. It’s easy to latch on to the first people you meet and feel obligated to stick to them no matter what because they’re the only bit of familiarity that you now have, but often a week or so later you’ll barely speak to them. You’ll find your crowd, it may just take some time to get there.

It’s okay to feel sad or out of place, and it’s definitely okay to miss home (and to not miss home too)

Whatever feelings your having they’re valid. It’s a whole new situation and that takes some adjusting to. I was excited and happy to move out of my parents’ house and being living on my own (yes it’s not actually on my own but you know what I mean), but I still had moments of really missing my family, my cat, my friends from home… It can actually get really emotional. And that’s okay. It’s also okay to not miss home. And I’ve seriously missed Newastle when I’ve been back home. You can’t win!

Holidays will be hard, but you can hopefully figure that one out your own way

Uni holidays are long. So long. Suddenly you’re back at home after months away, not doing completely your own thing anymore – it can be a lot. I definitely found the readjustment back to living at home, even just temporarily, more difficult than the adjustment to actually starting uni, something no one had ever mentioned to me until I experienced it. I don’t have the answer for how to ‘do’ the holidays, if someone does then please let me know. 

If you liked this post you might like: 5 Kitchen Essentials as a Vegan Student

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