A University campus on a clear, sunny day

6 points I would tell my first year self

Hannah Mayhew – Conservation of Historical Artefacts (MA)

Even though I’m now doing my Masters, I remember when I first started University, feeling an acute mixture of excitement and uncertainty – looking forward to meeting all new people, the parties and of course learning something completely new.

Inevitably, as I progressed from year to year, I found that I grew as a person, becoming more confident in myself. But this, unfortunately, comes with age. Although I believe that Uni is a place to make mistakes and learn from them, there would be certain things I would tell myself if I could retrace my steps, some of which I thought I should share.

Make the most of Freshers week.

Freshers week is a great chance to meet other people, so why not introduce yourself to the flat across the hall? Or go along to any of the hundreds of events on campus – there are a surprising amount of other people who don’t live in uni accommodation, so you might meet someone completely new.

Make the most of this time and the fresh start it brings. Use First year to adapt to living in a new place and with new people. Remember everyone is in the same boat, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself.

Join a society.

You will hear that a lot but all work and no play can lead to unwanted stress. Join a society –  it will help you meet like-minded people, but also give you a place to get away from studying when you need a break. It can also show employers the kind of person you are and help you stand out from the crowd. It also displays that you’re proactive and good at working in a team. However, be careful you don’t over-commit to too many groups. At the end of the day, you need to have time for studying too.

Try and eat a few veggies…

Never go shopping when you’re hungry! The freedom that doing your own shopping brings is liberating. However, I found that living off turkey dinosaurs and coco pops can leave you feeling less than healthy (sorry mum). Try and stay healthy and exercise – not only is it better for your body but your brain power too. One thing we did was have flat dinners, which made us feel like a little family!

Things are expensive!

Try not to spend your loan in Freshers week. For some, university is their first time living away from home and the sudden injection of cash and freedom can result in you living off boiled pasta pots for the rest of the term. Try and allocate money for everything – the nights out and the week’s food budget, so you’re not left in the lurch halfway through term.

Get into good habits

Although First year is the least strenuous time during your degree, it will help to start as you mean to go on, so try and get into good habits early on. This will make tasks in your Second and Third year less daunting and help boost your grades. Setting goals and rewards for myself especially helped me as I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator. Create an effective work schedule to get assignments done and reward yourself with a completely work-free evening or a lie-in. It will help to avoid having to do all-nighters (or as much as possible).

If trips are advertised, seize them!

During Uni I had the chance to work in Bulgaria for two weeks and visit Amsterdam. It was amazing! As long as it doesn’t conflict with your existing workload, grab the chance to work abroad. In many cases, it can make your coursework back at base more interesting.

Your time at University is the best time to seize experiences like this – you have a freedom that you may not have once you’re in full-time employment. Also, anything extracurricular will separate you from the rest of the bunch at interviews.

Interviewer: “What makes you different?”

You: “Well…”


That’s me using techniques I learnt to restore a Medieval mill Bulgaria.

So, that’s my advice. You are all free to make your own choices and those are what makes us who we are. I can’t guarantee that I would eat healthily and budget sensibly if I could go back, but I hope it will help you in some small way.