Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Tips for Starting University

A lot of you may be starting university this week, it’s something I did back in 2011 and although I was 21 when I started, a lot older than all the 18 year olds that were starting university, my aim was similar to theirs... I was there to get a degree. However, I didn’t plan to I go out and get drunk every night, I’d had 3 years of that beforehand - I was there to make a career for myself. I applied to 4 universities to do a Sport Education type of course 1) Liverpool John Moore 2) St Marys Twickenham 3) Leeds Met 4) Brunel University. Because I never did A-Levels, my college and Personal Training NVQ were all I had to give me my UCAS points which came to just under 280, this ruled out Leeds & Brunel and then unfortunately, Liverpool had dropped their course but offered me a place on the Physical Education Studies course. After taking a trip up to Liverpool to visit one of the tutors and discuss if the course was right for me, I decided to go with Twickenham as it was more focused on the things I wanted to obtain from it, i.e. becoming a PE teacher. 


So, through the summer of 2011, preparations began, I was making lists of what I was going to take, sorting boxes, I sold my beloved little car *sobs hysterically* and was getting books which I thought would help with my studies. I moved down to uni on 11th September 2011 and I must admit, it was a little daunting but I couldn't wait to start my life in university, getting the thing I wanted most... A career (although this all changed when Millie arrived but that's a whole new story)! Now, if you're starting university, you may have all these questions about what's going to happen when you get there, how do you make new friends, getting to know the area etc... Well, fret no more. I have put together a little list of things to do when you get to uni to help make you more comfortable and to settle it quickly:

Be friendly - I know it's kind of stating the obvious but a smile goes a long way. You will probably find that 2nd and 3rd years will be helping you move into halls / helping you find your way around so don't forget to smile and thank them, maybe generate conversation. At least when you're settled in, you have a familiar face to say 'Hi' to around uni. 
Tip: Bake/buy a cake(s) to offer round to your fellow housemates, that way you have something to approach them with rather than daft or awkward questions.

Leave your door open - When you're moving in (or even once you're settled) leave your door open so that everyone in halls knows you're there! If one of you need something, it's less scary knocking on asking them and also, when you walk past, say hello and ask what course people are doing - I found this to be a starting point for all conversations!  
Tip: Buy or make a sign to put on your door letting people know if you’re in or don’t want to be disturbed etc - you’ll get people wandering around at all hours so unless you’re not a sleeper, this may be ideal.

Take part in what ever is going on - On our first night in halls, we had a halls meeting and all went for dinner together. It was a great way of seeing who we lived with and you will probably find someone that you instantly click with and will continue to be friends with for the duration of your stay. But throughout the first week there will be so much stuff going on that by the end of it, you’ll forget that you never actually knew any of the people you’re with!
Tip: Take earplugs - some events will go on most of the night and if you’re having a break, you’ll need some sleep and trust me, things can get pretty noisy when people are coming back at 4am!

Don't be afraid to ask questions - If you have a halls mentor or a ‘buddy' (normally a 2nd or 3rd year) don't be afraid to ask them questions. Whether it's about travelling home, going out, places to shop etc - they are there to support you, not just to make you extremely hungover! If you live quite far away, it’s worth asking them about the nearest train station, bus timetables etc so that you know where you need to go if you want to go home. 
Tip: Get your mentors number, if you ever have a question and they’re not around then at least you can text someone familiar!

Make the effort - I know this one sounds a little pushy but you have to remember, some people may not be as open as you are, others may be a little too open but friendships only work when both people put the effort in. Everyone will be in the same boat on the first couple of days so try to stay away from cliques or judging people before you get to know them - you never know... they could be your best friend in a couple of weeks time! 
Tip: If nothing has been arranged, put up a notice in your common room/area for everyone to come together that evening and arrange a dinner to get to know people!

Don't feel pressured - There will be things going on that you may not be comfortable with; drugs, drink, smoking etc, but don't feel like you HAVE to do something because everyone else is. I actually only went to the local nightclub about 3 times because the student scene just wasn't for me and I'd rather use my money to come home at weekends and see Adam. At times I felt lonely because everyone else would be going out but at the end of the day, I wasn't going to force myself to go out just because everyone else was, I sat and pre-drank with people but then would go back to my room once they headed out. I don’t think I was the only one though so that reassured me.
Tip: If you’re ever in doubt, maybe just arrange something else with one of your friends who also isn’t really feeling it, you can guarantee there will be someone else apart from you that doesn’t want to go out 7 nights in a row!

Most importantly, Be yourself! It's easy to get wrapped up in a little white lie when you meet a bunch of new people and if someone is bragging about their brand new Mini that's sitting in the car park and that they are planning 3 holidays during first year, don't feel like you need to lie to compete with them and look better. At the end of the day, these people you meet at university will be your friends for at least 3 years, maybe more, and will find things out about you in their own time. Don't try to be someone you're not!