Tips for Freshers!
With Freshers weeks about to kick off all around the country any day now, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my own tips for freshers. I graduated from The University of Manchester this past summer... and although my first freshers week was a whole three years ago and now I'm an actual proper adult who lives a proper life and gets up before 11am everyday... I can remember those intense first couple of weeks in Manchester very well. I think if I had read these tips beforehand, I might have enjoyed freshers more and settled into my new course quicker...I hope they're useful!
- Be Yourself
After years at school being stuck with the label of "tomboy" after you cut your hair a bit too short one time in year 8, it can be tempting to want to totally reinvent yourself when you break away from the familiar and start uni. Although having some newfound confidence and not having any labels attached to you when you meet your new flatmates/course-mates can be beneficial, try to be yourself still. Obviously, you might be putting on a bit of an act when you first meet everyone (sitting up straight, smiling, looking people in the eye and making extra effort in conversations) and that's fine. But (and this might sound harsh) if you aren't naturally a loud, bubbly, dominant, loads-of-friends type of person, don't try to be. There's so much pressure to make tons of pals straight away, immediately bond with your flatmates and basically have the wildest and best time of your life as soon as you put your bag down in your new room. Don't let this pressure and the general overwhelming nature of freshers to make you feel like you have to become someone that you're not in order to fit in or please your flatmates (or so that from your Facebook profile it looks like you're having a crazy time!). Don't force yourself to become someone you're not because you think it'll make your flatmates like you more. Remember that freshers week is a friends frenzy where everyone is trying to impress and you will meet hundreds of people and add countless new people on Facebook - but these instant "friendships" properly won't all last. Just relax, be yourself, be friendly... and you will find your true friends, even if it takes a while.
- You might feel homesick... and that's okay
I felt like I was failing at Fresher's Week by feeling overwhelmed by all the newness and changes... and because I was struggling to be apart from my mom. But I'd just moved to a different city that I didn't know at all, away from my parents (and pets!) for the first time - it's completely natural and expected to feel homesick... and it's okay, it's normal. In no way did it mean that I was a failure, despite all the unnecessary emphasis on freshers being the best time of your life. There were plenty of times in the first few weeks when I was convinced that uni wasn't for me, that I was putting myself through a horrible experience by choice, and that I should just go home. Try and push through these thoughts. That doesn't mean ignore them though. Phone you mom, let yourself have a good cry, and make sure you get out and about - treat yourself to tea and a slice of cake somewhere. When I say push through, I mean don't be surprised if you feel very homesick, and don't immediately jump to the conclusion that you should leave uni for ever and never return. Give yourself a reasonable timeframe to settle in - I would say about two months, because you can't be expected to settle into a completely new environment with completely new people straight away. Of course, if you feel miserable weeks and weeks after moving, then university really might not be for you - but give it a good shot first. I'm so so glad I pushed through those difficult first couple of weeks... I've met such lovely people and am now the proud owner of a 2:1 degree in English Literature and American Studies!
- Make friends on your course
One of my biggest regrets from my time at uni is that I didn't try had enough to make friends on my course. I didn't establish a friendship group within my academic fields during either my first of second years... and that meant by my final year, I thought it was too late and had pretty much given up. Having pals on you course means that you can motivate each other and help each other out when it comes to making it to 9am lectures and writing essays. It can feel pretty lonely if you go into a packed lecture hall and don't have a friendly face to find and grab a seat next too... and that can mean you end up skipping lectures/seminars. I blame myself for not trying hard enough to bond with my course-mates, and for getting myself in a negative headspace about it all. If you're a student in their final year/years reading this... it's not too late! Strike up a conversation with one of the many people that you recognise and know by name... no doubt you will have loads of them on facebook, even if you don't really know them. Take the plunge... sit next to them and ask how their summer was. If you're a fresher, get chatting to your course-mates straight away - add them on Facebook and ask them about their timetable. Everyone will be keen to meet people on their modules, take advantage of this and make connections!
- Make your room yours
Spend some time when you first arrive to make your room cosy, homely and personalised. Student rooms, whether in halls or in privately rented houses/flats, are more often than not incredibly bland and feel un-loved. As nobody stays in them for longer than an academic year, you never get that immediate homely feeling from them. Add cushions, fairy lights, photos... whatever you like to make it feel more comfortable. I brought a cute lamp with me that had a nice warm bulb, and I was so glad that I did because the lighting in my halls was very clinical and harsh. I ended up never using the main light in my room and relied on my cosy warm lamp instead... and my flatmates wished they had brought one too! I think many of us are very affected by our environments, I know I am. If I hadn't put my stamp on my room, I would have felt uncomfortable and even more homesick.
- Make the most of university events
During freshers/welcome weeks, there will be all sorts of free events on offer to you. My university provided open top bus tours of the city, film nights, afternoon teas, markets and all sorts of quirky affairs. I was keen to check them out, but as my flatmates weren't so keen, I ended up not going. I wish I had gone because I could have made more friends, found my feet around the city/university, and settled in quicker. It can be very intimidating to go to events alone, but there's nothing shameful or embarrassing about it. There will be other students who have gone alone, and everyone will appreciate a smiley face and a simple hello. Remember that it's all new and scary to every fresher... it's a cliche but you're all in the same boat. If you want to go to an event, don't miss out, just go! You haven't got anything to lose.
So there you have it, my top tips for freshers - I hope they're helpful!
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