Oh to be a fresher once more. Being honest, I really think I’ve got my partying university lifestyle out of my system now. I’m graduated and really ready to take on my new adult life. But, I do remember being a fresher like it was yesterday and I’m sure there are a lot of nervous people out there anticipating their move to a new city, new country and anxious about meeting new people and making new friends.
I’m not going to lie, those first few days are awkward. You throw five random people into a flat together and force them to live with one another for the next nine months or so. It’s strange and very much down to luck whether you are placed in a flat that you like.
I can tell you that first year goes by in a flash and before you know it, you’ve graduated and left university behind forever. Trust me, it goes by so, so quick so make sure to enjoy every second of it.
With good days there will be bad days. You’ll get homesick, be broke, argue with your flatmates, sometimes want to fly straight home or just feel like packing it in; but it does get better. I look back on my first year and remember all the good times, not the bad. As long as the good times outweigh the negative ones, you’ll be just fine.
Here are five bits of advice I would give to anyone entering their first year of university (you lucky lot!).
1. Don’t stress
Stressing about something that hasn’t even happened can’t change the outcome of it, so you’d be wasting your time and energy worrying about something you can’t control.
You’ll be anxious about your new flat, that’s understandable. Will you get along with your new flatmates? Will they be interested in the same things as you? Will they be clean? Will they become life-long friends?
You won’t know any of these things until you meet your flatmates and experience living with them. At the start, you’ll be tip-toeing around each other to be polite, but give it a few weeks and you’ll be banging on someone’s door because their dishes have sat in the sink for the past week or sitting up with them until 5am divulging your entire life story.
You might think that you’ll move to a new city and reinvent yourself and be someone completely new, but try as you might, you’ll always end up being yourself and that’s the best way to be. Don’t stress about whether they’ll like you because everyone will be in the same boat trying to make friends too. You’ll find your people, just give it a few weeks.
2. Go wild
They don’t call it Fresher’s Week for nothing. This is your week to blow the wheels clean off. Go crazy, drink a lot, party a lot, stay out late, meet a lot of new people and just get in amongst it all.
There’ll be lots of events happening around your university and in all the bars and clubs in the town/city that will suit everyone. Whether it’s a quiz night, karaoke night, foam party, silent disco or fancy dress party – there’s always something to go to.
Fresher’s week is tough going and most of it will be a blur to you because you won’t be spending much of it sober. Congrats if you’re capable of doing every night, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a break and staying in one or two nights if you’re not up to it. Even I didn’t do the full week.
Your first week of classes are usually inductions and I remember quite a few people turned up still a little intoxicated, some hadn’t been home yet or some (like me) only had two hours sleep before their 9am.
You won’t get many opportunities to be a fresher again, so make the most of it. Just beware of fresher’s flu, because it’s real.
3. Don’t get a job, if you can afford it
You may have received a fat lot of cash in your bank account thanks to the student loans company, but don’t go spending it all at once. You might be tempted to splash out on a new TV, Xbox or iPhone but I’d try and be smart with your money.
For me, my student loan didn’t even cover my rent in halls, so I had to be particularly savvy with my money. I lived off my savings that I had from working my part-time job back in Lurgan and the reduced-to-clear aisle in Tesco.
I thought I would be productive and get myself a part-time job in McDonald’s since it was a two minute walk from my halls, but after three shifts I realised I was missing out on a lot of fun nights with my new friends and a job in McDonald’s putting salt on fries just wasn’t worth it for me.
So only if you can, I would recommend not working during your first year and spend the year making the absolute most of it. Unless you can get a job that doesn’t require you to work in the evenings/nights then you’re absolutely fine.
4. Go to your classes
While it’s all fun and games staying out until 4am every night, you do also need to go to your classes once in a while. Your first year may not actually count for anything, but you still need to hit the pass mark so that you can make it through to second year.
I didn’t have the best attendance to my university classes, especially in the winter months when I decided staying in bed with Gossip Girl was a much better option than braving the icy five minute walk to my campus. But make sure you go to the important ones.
I had a Finance module during my first year and I’m pretty sure I only missed one class since it was going to be the hardest of the lot. While your first year is there to be enjoyed, you are still paying a lot of money to attend, so don’t act like you’re on a year-long holiday.
The freedom and independence can be liberating, but your an adult now and the university are going to treat you as such. Your mum won’t be there to get you up in the morning and your lecturer won’t care whether you turn up to their class, so you’ve got to get a hold of things by yourself and take control of your life for the first time.
5. Get an internship
One thing I would really advise on doing, is not wasting your entire year as a fresher. If like me, you choose not to get a job, then perhaps apply for a few internships or email companies in your local area to see if you can get any work experience.
You might want to go home during your reading weeks/mid terms and that’s absolutely fine, but you could also use those free weeks to rack up some intern time and some places to add to your CV and some contacts in your chosen industry.
Take the advantage of being a student and being able to intern while you study. It will be much harder when you go out after graduation and you won’t want to be interning then when everyone’s making their way up the career ladder.