What I Learnt from my First Year at University

So this week I finished my first year of university. Where on earth did that time go?! Looking back, so much happened over that short nine months and I’ve definitely changed and grown as a person. Well for one, my hair colour has dramatically changed.

I arrived at Liverpool John Lennon Airport a nervous, anxious, shy 18 year old from a small town in Northern Ireland. Nine months later I left John Lennon Airport as a confident, (blonde) 19 year old with a significantly smaller liver.

Moving to Liverpool was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. I met so many new people from so many different places and had so many new experiences and opportunities I don’t think I would have had if I’d stayed at home.

Looking back on my first year, this is what I’ve learnt:

1. I shouldn’t have had a part-time job

If I was to advise anyone going into first year in Liverpool I would recommend not getting a job if they’re a keen partier like I was. I had a short few weeks in McDonalds (or Maccies as they like to call it) but I was always given the late night shifts and my flat mates and course-mates were going out and I felt like I was missing out on the night’s events. It doesn’t feel great when they tell you the dramas from the night before and you missed it because you were boxing fries and serving drunk people. Yes I did struggle for money but I learnt to budget this way and learnt how to spend my money wisely.

2. I had a good social life but I still put the work in

I know first year doesn’t count towards your final degree but you should still make the effort to go to a few classes. Missing one a week isn’t that bad but only going to one class a week kind of is. Do the work. If you’re like me, you’ll leave it to the last few days before the deadline and shut yourself in your room with your laptop until it’s done and that’s ok. As long as you do it. You still need 40% to pass. I went out more than most people I knew during the year and still managed to come out with two 1sts and two 2:1s in my modules. (Still waiting for my last module result to see what my overall mark is). So you can have your cake and eat it. You’re only a fresher once, so make the most of it.

3. I watched Netflix – a lot

Get Netflix. There’s going to be some nights when your flat mates are doing work, or they’ve gone home for the weekend and you’re stuck with nothing to do. I completed Gossip Girl, Peaky Blinders, Prison Break, Suits, Game of Thrones, 90210 and Narcos among a lot of others from lying in bed binge watching while feeling sorry for myself and my hangover.

4. I changed as a person

Change is good. If you’ve always wanted to change something about yourself, do it. I was bored of being plain brunette and never having dyed my hair so I took the plunge and went straight to blonde in one go. I changed my style. I’ve always been a lover of fashion and taking risks but growing up in a small town I felt that I couldn’t express myself through my fashion. Being in a large city gave me the opportunity to wear the clothes I wanted without feeling anxious or self conscious. I now feel more confident to be able to walk around my home town wearing the style of clothes I like most.

5. I learnt how to be independent (and how to cook!!)

I spent my first week at uni eating toast and pot noodles. My flatmates used to pity me that I couldn’t boil pasta, cook chicken or work an oven. By the time I left uni I was able to make lasagne, stirfrys, roast dinners and everything in between. Ask me to cook something and I can. I had to learn how to do my own washing, clean my bathroom and bedroom and do my own grocery shopping. I finally felt like a proper adult. Being back home for summer, I miss the privacy and independence I had from living on my own. Safe to say I won’t be living at home once I finish my degree if I can help it.

6. My sleeping pattern was horrific

At home I’m used to the bars and clubs closing at 1:30am but in Liverpool that’s usually the time we head into town. Leaving somewhere at 4am to move on to Omnia/Fusion until 6am, then heading for a takeaway and getting home to wake up at 9am to make a 10am lecture was not fun in the slightest. I may have been there in person but the only thing I was thinking of was my bed waiting for me to crawl back into it come lunch time. I was sleeping all day and partying all night. So when it came to nights I wasn’t going out, I was sitting watching Netflix wide awake at 5am and making dinner. In the winter months I was waking up at 5pm and it was already dark outside. Waking up and seeing that you’ve already missed daylight is a very strange feeling. I felt that I was living in a different timezone while being in Liverpool.

7. There’s no uni nightlife like Liverpool nightlife

Walking into Concert Square for the first time was like walking into a club strip in Spain. The amount of bars and nightclubs all in the one spot is ridiculous but amazing. You could visit 20 bars/clubs in one night without leaving one street. I’ve never experienced anything like it. There can’t be anywhere better than Liverpool for clubbing and it’s obvious why so many people come over for the weekends as it’s such a popular and busy place.

8. Liverpool is home from home

It’s been called the second capital of Northern Ireland as there’s so many of us living there and there really is a lot of us. It made things a lot easier as I was able to meet a lot of new people from back home and also everyone was used to the accent already. I was even approached the odd time and asked if I was Irish as apparently I ‘just looked it’. Compliment? I’m not sure. It’s good to have that familiarity with the people there as they all love the Irish and I think it made me less homesick. Walking into any of the Irish pubs was just like walking into my local at home. So if I ever needed to hear people talk in my accent for familiarity I just went for a pint in O’Neills.

I learnt a lot in my first year of univeristy and really can’t believe that it’s over already but I’m so excited for what’s still to come in the next few years and the people I’m going to meet. I definitely changed as a person and became more mature as I was having to fly by myself a lot, and be a lot more organised and independent. I’m glad I made the decision to move to England and away from home and would encourage anyone deliberating the thought to take the leap and go!


A recent graduate of Business with Public Relations from LJMU, Orlagh works in the influencer marketing industry and has just returned to the UK after spending one year working in New York City.

Find me on: Twitter | Instagram

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