So you’re off to Uni. That’s most likely a daunting prospect. But properly exciting too. My, what a mixture of emotions. Anyway, you’re probably aware that life is about to change completely. You’re on the cusp of a level of freedom and self sufficiency that will be unlike. But are you properly prepared? You’ll probably have a reasonable idea of what’s in store from your Uni welcome pack – but here’s our slightly less corporate guide to being a fresher at Uni and some of the ‘boring but important’ basics that you’ll need to consider.
If you’re off to Uni there’s a lot of things to think about. Some big, some small. First off, if you’ve relied on Mum (or Dad) to keep you fed, watered and in clean clothes, well that’s coming to change. Big time. Then there’s the freedom you’re about to enjoy – you can party whenever you want and it’s up to you to choose when you study. It’s a lot to get your head around. Especially during Fresher’s week when you might find yourself influenced more than normal by the wares on offer in the student Union Bar.
Most 1st year students end up living in halls. That can mean shared bathrooms and almost certainly a shared kitchen. You’ll need to be on top of your game here. There’s a whole load of shared living shenanigans to get your head round.
Food & Cooking
Unless you’re seriously rich, you’re going to be doing your own cooking and cleaning. Sure there might be the occasional takeaway, but you’ll need to find your culinary groove pretty quickly. Eating in Student canteens every day will cost you a fortune and even if you’ve got the readies – unless you have the self-discipline of a Tibetan Monk – temptation will make it difficult to keep it healthy. The lure of the fried breakfast can be like a siren to the sea for some – and that temptation will be there on a daily basis.
Which means you’ll need to do your own shopping and cooking. That means a trip round the supermarket. The first time you do this you’ll probably cover about 6 miles and it’ll take an hour and half. But as you familiarise yourself with what’s where it’ll becomes easier. You’ll find yourself knocking out personal best after personal best until after a couple of weeks there’ll only be a few seconds in it each time. Unless there are some special offers to consider in the booze section.
Buying your own food usually means storing it in a communal fridges and freezers. It’s a good idea to get yourself some kind of frost safe box to put your stuff in. Be prepared to encounter some pilfering from drunk students with the munchies. They don’t much care who paid for the food they’ve found. It’s just there and they’re hungry. A lockable box would secure it all – but will seem like overkill – or you could leave a post-it on your food bag telling people you’ve licked everything before putting it in the fridge.
When it comes to the cooking itself, develop yourself a repertoire of dishes you can knock up quickly. Classics – like Spaghetti Carbonara or Bolognese – will help you make friends quickly. It’s also worth experimenting. Stir fried white cabbage ribbons with butter and marmite is cheap, nutritious and surprisingly good – and a classic example of using up what was left in the cupboard. Provided you’re in the ‘Love it’ brigade on the Marmite.
As a teenager, you might have the perception that clothes, bedlinen, carpets and sideboards clean themselves. Well, you will if you were lucky enough to have a parent who quietly did all that stuff for you. An undies fairy who magicked away the dirties from the bedroom floor, only to replace them with clean ones in the bedroom drawer. A mysterious elf who ensured dirty plates and mugs left in your room, plus any build up dust on your furniture was quickly dealt with. Or a Dyson (other vacuum cleaners are available) wielding mythical knight, who ensured your bedroom floor didn’t resemble a concert hall after a Motorhead gig.
After about 6 weeks, be prepared to encounter student bedrooms that would give the whiff you get from a a passing dustbin lorry a run for its money. Just make sure you’re not one of them. Having dirty plates and cutlery lying around your room won’t endear you to your peers. At some point you’ll need to brush up on your student launderette skills – and ensure your clothes get to see the inside of one of their machines regularly.
One thing to remember is that student accommodation – particularly in hall – is not all that spacious. So if you’re bringing a lot of stuff with you, check out the nearest storage facilities. Club together with a few hall-mates and you might even be able to rent a larger unit at a lower cost. You can check out our student self storage deals here.
It’s studying that you’re there to do. Coming away with a qualification is the whole point of going to University. It’s easy to get distracted, but stay focussed, disciplined and put the work in and you’ll graduate. Work out a timetable for yourself to get some research, reading or writing done outside of lectures and stick to it. Best of all switch off distractions that connect you to the outside world – like phones and email – so you keep your mind on topic. Fragmented learning and constant interruption is enemy of good study.
The Social side of University can be a bit of an eye opener. There are plenty of ways to get stuck in. Chances are you’ll have a hobby or sport that you’ll like to immerse yourself in, and almost certainly there’ll be a club or Society cater for you. But it can also be fun to sign up for something new and develop new skills. Perhaps you’re a political animal and want to run for office. Or maybe you’re just looking for somewhere to let your hair down, enjoy some great entertainment and make a wider group of friends.
The cheap booze is writ in folklore, but the Student Union is the place where all of your additional student life happens. It’s an odd one, because it is both an entity and a place. There’ll be at least one building (usually several) on campus run by the students for the students. They’re a democratically elected group of peers who are there to oversee a variety of services. Not least the entertainments calendar – which, in the eyes of the student customers – is probably the most important service on campus.
The Student circuit is a pretty big deal in entertainment circles. It’s normal to find some big names and established acts coming to perform at your SU. There’ll be plenty of fringe style events from up and coming artists as well. And it’s all underpinned by discounted student prices and subsidised bars. So you can be sure you’ll enjoy some top-notch entertainment that’s great value. There’s also something for everyone, so whether you’re into mosh-pitting to some Death-Metal, guffawing to some super stand-up comedy, or even cult classic-Time Warp disco night, there’s sure to be something to float your entertainment boat. Then, before the summer break – the Summer Ball is the biggest and black-tie event of the year – with big bands and entertainers galore you’ll get a chance to show off your partying prowess with many drinking games and activities.
Clubs and Societies
Whatever your interest, there will almost certainly be a Club or Society to suit. From hobbies to sports to other life skills – such as languages – you’ll find most interests catered for. And if you’re into something a little more obscure tat there’s no club or society for – well the Students’ Union will help you get one going. Getting involved in the organising committee for a Club or Society is a great way to hone skills that you’ll find useful in a Boardroom in later life.
There’ll be a club for most sports that opens up a whole world of social and competitive fun. As an example – if you’re a winter sports addict and fancy the idea of heading off ‘on-tour’ over the winter break, then there’ll be a snow riders club, and you may even be able to compete at a big event – such as the British Universities Ski Championships as part of your University Team.
Search up the Student Union pages on your chosen Universities website to see the full list of what’s on offer.
Being at Uni can be a stressful experience and if things aren’t going so well it’s far from unusual to need a bit of help and support. University Health Centre and Student Unions usually offer advice and counselling services. If you’re in financial difficulty they can help you look at your options, likewise if you’re suffering emotional difficulties as a result of your studies there’ll be a range of appropriate counselling and advice services available to you.