Sunday, 6 October 2013

On going into Second Year / my advice for Fresher's - ROUND TWO!

    I'm moving back to university today and in the next week I'll be helping to run the events for all of the new freshers! Seems like only a minute ago that I was the one packing up to leave home for the first time. In retrospect, I think that I had expectations for Fresher's week having to be the "best week ever/of my life", which were far too high.
    Despite this, I'm really looking forward to being able to return to university with a sense of routine and orientation, which to be honest, took most of the first year for me to find. In my defence, in total I only spent 25 weeks at university for my first year! So, as I'm able to live through the experience of Fresher's week again, I thought I'd summarise some advice for Freshers this year. This advice isn't just for Fresher's week (which is already over for most universities) but the entire first year of a degree.

    So, the first few weeks, and even the first year of university is sold as being like this:

    In all seriousness, you will probably have some nights a bit like this, potentially many nights like this. However, this can't last forever, sooner or later your bank balance (or your stomach) will give out, and you'll be forced to talk to people in a place where talking can actually be heard, and where you can actually make out their appearence...
    In addition, if you don't want to go out every night, or at all, just don't. There will always be people who aren't going out that night, just find them and organise an alternative activity, a movie night, a food-themed night, a pub, a cinema.
    Just to add, my best week of first year was not Fresher's. In fact, it was my last term, when I really felt like I'd got to know people. Yeah, that's right, sentimental, meaningful friendships do exist at university, even if the first few weeks just feel like random groups of people are just clinging to each other out of desperation. Which some probably are.
Don't do anything because other people tell you to/ imply you should. This might be drinking, this might be going out, this might be other stuff. Even "we're all going to X's flat, join us!", if you don't feel like going, don't. Equally though, there are times when you should try and meet new people/ do new things in general.
This is usually a better idea if a) you're at least moderately sober, or b) there are at least 2 other people you already know going to that event/person's place. Let's be real, whenever you go to an event with just one other person you know, they always end up disappearing, or worse, getting so drunk that your evening ends up being filled with looking after them.
PS, do NOT be that annoying drunk person who cannot handle their drink, yet chooses to do it anyway. Once is forgivable (especially in Fresher's) but after that you won't get off so lightly, AND you'll have a reputation for being that person.

If you get lost, stuck with something, or even forget someone's name, now is the time to ask.
For my first few weeks I struggled with using the washing machines, tumble dryers, and the phones we have in our rooms. Everyone did. It was only at the beginning of our second term that we realised there was a little heater-thing in our shower!
Even when you meet your tutors, and you're scared of looking stupid, ask questions about how many hours of work you should do a day, what are the expectations for assignments, where are the best resources to be found etc. Later you'll be thankful for that information, and you can bet some of the "ghost" (i.e. never-says-a-word-or-contributes) students in your study group will be happy that you asked a question they were also thinking, but didn't have the courage to ask!
Oh, and if you don't know someone's name, even after a few weeks, just ask it. Seriously, there's nothing more awkward than knowing someone for months and still not quite knowing their name, or thinking they're called something else. There will come a time when you will be left alone with them, and then the realisation that you don't know their name, with no one to gesture to, will become apparent.

    Ok, so you've left home, you've posed with photos of your flatmates and there are pictures of your uni room of Facebook. You are an adult now.
    However, some of the best nights of your university time may still be spent inside, watching classic Disney DVDs, or eating cereal in the middle of the day. Don't deny it.
    I think 2 of the hardest things to accept about first year are that;
    1. You still have a long way to go. Those days when you are literally forcing yourself to do work? Check. Those days when a tiny part of you considers leaving, even if for only a fraction of a second? Check. Those days when you want to cry because the work is too hard/ too much/ you're scared other people don't really like you yet? Check. It's tough, and all part of behaving like an adult that you deal with the challenges thrown at you.
    2. Leading on from there, 1st year is not always a picnic. People have definitely mentioned to me that they found 2nd year easier in general. You know people, you know places, you know coping strategies. Don't be upset if everyone on Facebook seem to be having the perfect university experience, surrounded by friends and parties. You're not there, and you just don't know the half.
    Focus on yourself, and, without seeming hedonistic, take each day as it comes. A new society? Might be cool. Someone approached you in a library? Maybe you should get coffee with them.
    Who know what you'll be saying and writing about in a year's time, when it's your turn to give advice to the next generation of Freshers. 

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