For some people, University is just one big party. Sure, the glitter ball in freshers week was fun but now its week 8 and you have no food left, you’re not a fan of your flatmates, and it’s all a bit much.
Here is what I wish I was told before I went to University…
Friend or foe
Before joining University you may not know anyone on your course or in your accommodation. I remember joining all of the Facebook groups I could find and I actually met my best friend and several of my flatmates this way. Be wary of these groups though, not everybody is who they say they are so your usual online precautions still apply.
Similarly, at University, not everyone is as they may first seem. If you meet someone and their behaviour starts to display red flags, (controlling your actions, criticising you excessively, or pressuring you to do things which you are not comfortable) try to spend as little time with them as possible. Of course, this is difficult if they are someone you live with but your Students’ Union or University Welfare Team could offer support and advice on how to deal with your individual issues.
If you have any troubles with friendships that are more serious than playground squabbles it is important that you have measures in place to be able to deal with it. Your University and the Students’ Union or University Accommodation Team should have a student experience officer to offer support.
“How much money do you have?”
“Like 69 pence”
“You know what that means?”
“I don’t have enough for chicken nuggets”
True to myths, as a student, you will not have much money to spare. Between living costs, food, and the elusive student lifestyle, you may find yourself eating pot noodles every day. Creating a budget is important to ensure you don’t come up short!
If you are receiving a student loan you should work out how much will go towards your rent and how much you have leftover. If you are like me and your loan doesn’t cover your living costs then you should consider getting a part-time job. Your University may have a jobcentre like Unitemps on site where you can be hired on campus.
In my second year I applied for, and was part of, a paid internship scheme run by the University itself. This was a fantastic opportunity as it worked around my timetable. Keep an eye out for any opportunities such as internships or placements that your University can offer.
If getting a job isn’t an option for you it may be worth contacting your Student Union’s finance department to see if you are eligible for any grants or scholarships.
Play hard, work much harder
No matter what your focus is for your three years away from home, you are primarily at University for your degree. I have encountered many students who have pursued Law or Medicine instead of something that they are actually passionate about. I can tell you now that if you are not passionate about your subject it is unlikely that you will enjoy your three years. Your first 2 weeks are often ‘probation weeks’ so if you do not get on with your course you can switch.
You may think that you can learn all your material from your University’s replay feature but it is always better to go to every lecture that you can. Your difference between a 2:1 and a 1st could be that one 9 am Lecture that you were too hungover to go to. Lecturers can give valuable essay/exam advice and often divert from the PowerPoint to give additional information. It pays to turn up!
Make your space your own
It can get very lonely in your halls, no matter how friendly you are with your flatmates. Even the strongest, most independent students will get homesick at some point during the year. For me, the period just before Christmas was the hardest as I felt like I should be with my family not at University. By bringing a select few home comforts to your accommodation is will ease the transition into your new home.
Don’t bring everything you own as your room may be very small and you will end up feeling like Harry Potter in his cupboard. What I did was I gathered my favourite non-course related books and my cacti from home and had them on my shelf. I also had my Mum and Dad bring me my blanket from home after one particularly homesick week.
Most halls won’t allow Blu tack to hang posters but if you tape a paperclip to the wall you can use magnets to create a stain-free decorated room.
With all these new responsibilities and changes hitting you at the same time it can feel a little overwhelming. Being in a new city with thousands of new people can often make you feel like a face in the crowd. If you already struggle with your mental health prior to joining University then it is important to get in contact with your University’s Wellbeing service as well as the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). If you have an existing medical condition that affects your ability to learn you could be eligible. For more information follow the link: https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowances-dsas
The DSA runs alongside your student loan service and can provide software, specialist equipment, a non-medical helpers allowance, and even transport costs if eligible. Each allowance is subject to your personal requirements. In my DSA meeting to discuss my needs I mentioned that going to the University library to print would be a struggle due to my anxiety, they were then able to provide a printer and an ink allowance which helped me so much over my first year.
Your University Welfare team will also be a great help if at any point during the term you require any help. The trained counsellors and wellbeing staff often offer sessions both group and individual and will talk to you regarding any issues you may have.
University can be a trying time and do not be ashamed if you need to reach out. It is better to reach out than to suffer alone.
Returning to University with the knowledge I have now I feel 1000x more prepared!
Written by Rosella. 2nd Year DMU student.