I have just finished my first year studying French and Italian at Bristol University. I have already written a reflective post about it, but today I wanted to give you my tips about how to make the most of your first year. I wasn’t one of those freshers that spent all their time drunk or hungover watching endless TV series on the internet (although a lot of that did happen…), and so I think I have picked up quite a few tips about how to get the best out of yourself and your university!
- Get out of bed and go to your lectures: It isn’t that hard to get to a 9am when a bit hungover, and especially if you just can’t be bothered there is really no excuse for not making the effort. We now have to pay £9000 for our university eduction, and if you don’t make the effort to learn as much as possible from the people you are paying to teach you then you are just throwing money away.
- Go to freshers fair, and take ALL the leaflets: You never know what might catch your interest, and there are so many random societies at Universities that you may never have thought about joining. Also at freshers fair you also get a crap load of free stuff that can save you a lot of money over the first term!
- If you find something you like doing, stick with it: I know a lot of people (including myself) that really enthusiastically joined a society, went for about 3 weeks and then couldn’t be bothered to carry on. They now regret that decision, and most are determined to join again next year.
- Don’t feel weird joining a society late in the year: This is the other side of point 3. Most societies love to get new members, it doesn’t matter when in the year you join, no one will turn you away. I realised I really missed dancing so joined Dance Soc in February, and had the best time!
- Stop worrying about what other people think: At most schools people are put into categories; there is always the ‘cool’ group, the sporty lot etc. At University all that gets thrown out the window. I think when people get a fresh start they stop caring about their image, and instead just want to pursue their own interests and meet people with the same ones. Also please don’t worry if you don’t drink/smoke/do drugs or whatever – at University I have found that everyone just accepts other people’s limits and decisions, and really won’t pressure you into it. Of course there are the occasional exceptions, especially sports team initiations, but generally speaking most people are happy to let you get on with what you want.
- You only ever regret what you don’t do: If there is an opportunity you want to take, a society you want to join, a person you want to talk to just go for it! There are so many great things that can happen at University, and if you don’t take the opportunity you really only have yourself to blame for that. If in the end it doesn’t work out that is ok, but at least you gave it a go. University is meant to help you broaden your interests and there are so many possibilities on offer that you are bound to find something totally new that you love doing!
- Be nice to everyone: You never who you may end up being best friends with, and you are constantly meeting new people throughout the year. It also just makes it easier to get along with a whole new set of people if you are nice, rather than overly bothered about your image/ having a specific group. Also I think being ‘cool’ at University is such a ridiculous concept – there are SO many people that there will never be a ‘cool’ group; there are just the really nice, interesting, approachable people, and the stand-offish ones that you cannot be bothered to deal with!
- Just because first year doesn’t count, doesn’t mean it isn’t important: At UK Universities, for the most part first year doesn’t count towards your degree; it is more a formative year to help you adjust to a new way of learning. But it is really important to take that seriously; not only do a lot of internships ask for your first year grades/ predicted grades, but also if you learn what is expected of you in first year, the rest of your time at University will be a lot easier.
- Don’t stress, and remember to have fun!: on the flip side of point 8, your first year should be fun. If you stress too much about work that won’t have TOO much of an impact on your future you will be making life a lot harder for yourself. Yes do all your work, be prepared for seminars, but also don’t feel too bad if you don’t spend as much time as you could revising for exams, or if every now and then you do an essay the night before the deadline. If instead you could be making better friends with someone, learning a new non-academic skill, or just letting yourself have a little break, that’s ok!
- Remember, everyone feels the way you do: Everyone is experiencing an entirely new way of living, meeting new people, trying to learn new things, being away from family and friends. Almost everyone gets scared, homesick, sad, happy, drunk, silly, shy. First year is such a whirlwind of emotions, people, and experiences that I think people who may be having a bad time forget that everyone else is going through the same thing. If you keep reminding yourself of that I think it makes it easier to talk to other people if you are feeling crappy, and you don’t get as annoyed at yourself for feeling anything other than “OMG THIS IS THE BEST TIME OF MY LIFE EVER.” (I cried with my friend for far too long one evening about 2 weeks into first year when we were both really homesick… if that makes you feel better!)
I hope these tips help any of you starting University in September, and if you have already gone through first year please leave your tips for freshers below!