Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dear Fresher

It's that time of year again:

Freshers season.

Young, innocent (ahem) students are about to fly the nest, to go to university bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and full of expectation.

And it's time to get nostalgic (again). Whilst I'd like to think I could come up with deeper, more meaningful prose, the only words that can sum up how I feel about it, is the age-old cliché - you remember it like it was yesterday.

I didn't know how to feel about university. I had just come back from an amazing gap year and I had been spoilt. The thought of going back to full-time education was not the most exciting prospect.

But I had heard all the hype: freshers week is the best week of your life, uni life is amazing, I had to find out for myself if it was true.

So off I toddled to university.

Whilst it may not have exactly lived up to the hype - anything that is hyped is inevitably going to fall flat on its arse - before I start sounding like a massive fun sponge, university was in many ways an amazing experience and although I wouldn't go as far as saying that it was life-changing (don't want to be involved with the hype myself), it certainly made its impact on me.

Now, I'm older and no doubt, wiser, it is high time to pass on my oracle knowledge to you young'uns about to embark on your university career. So here goes:

Dear Fresher,

This is it. This is the time, the next step you've been anticipating for a while. The one where you will really see yourself grow, or at least lay the foundations of growing, into a (more) mature, responsible(ish) adult.

But don't worry, you don't have to do full-on grown up stuff quite yet. Thinking about pensions, saving for a deposit on a house and paying council tax are yet to come. That's the beauty of university. These are the years to enjoy, to be selfish, to have those wild nights out without repercussion. You will be the personification of young and carefree, until dissertation deadline is fast approaching.

But that's not until third year.

Be all about the here and now, fresher. If you are in the lucky majority that only have to pass first year, make the most of it. When you are preoccupied with coursework deadlines and major exams, your social life will be put to one side. So, venture outside your hall circle of friends, explore your interests, take up a new one. There is something for everyone and even if you don't find them straight away, you will find your circle of friends, the ones that get you, not the ones that you are forced to get along with like in halls.

Which reminds me, don't worry if you don't get on with your flatmates. It's a weird situation, being randomly chosen to all live under the same roof for a year. Great, if you find your kindred souls from the off but remember that friendships aren't always forged overnight so give it time. Feeling like you're the only one with no friends is more common than you think.

I've been making a few references to the wild partying that supposedly will be taking place. I would like to make a disclaimer: It is not what uni is all about. Or at least, it isn't if you don't want it to be. At the risk of sounding like your parent or a teacher, don't feel you have to go out. Partying in a club that plays the same songs EVERY WEEK, has floors so sticky, you're scared you'll get stuck to them and smells of vomit and regret is not all it's cut out to be (although the cheese factor every once in a while is innocent, good fun). Your bank balance will thank you too.

Speaking of finances, I would make the usual point about budgeting but I know it will fall on deaf ears. Stock up on noodles now and discover the delights that Lidl and Aldi have to offer. That is all.

Adopting the role of parent/teacher again, keep an eye on your health. I will not preach that you 'eat clean' (god forbid) or thou shalt never drink but try and incorporate the odd fruit and vegetable into your diet and do the whole exercise shebang every now and then. The Fresher 15 is an unfortunate regular occurrence (it happened to me), don't be one of them. Keeping physically healthy is also half the battle for your mental outlook. When the going gets tough, as much as it is difficult, try to think positive. Putting things into perspective and finding the silver lining instantly makes things easier. Look after yourself.

And if/when things do become challenging, ask for help. If you are finding your course hard, go and see your module convenor - they have office hours for this reason. Or if you simply don't enjoy your course or your hall, ask to change. As my mam says, you don't ask, you don't get.

And last but not least, remember there's life outside of the university bubble. My best piece of advice? STUDY ABROAD. Honestly, you may worry you'll will miss out on what is happening here but you will be too busy making your own fantastic memories to care. If you don't have the opportunity to study abroad, do something in your holidays: do a charity trek, go travelling with your new university friends or get involved with a course trip. There are so many chances to see the world throughout university so take advantage of some of them on offer.

Other than that, have fun, work hard and remember that university is not solely about your degree, important as it is, as you can see from the above examples, it is so much more. Give it your all, good luck and enjoy!

Are you off to university this year? If you've been, what's your best piece of advice?

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