Going to university is a huge milestone in anyone’s life, especially for those who are going to be living away from home for the first time like I was. Therefore, over my first year as a student I have grown a little older and a little wiser, so I feel that I am now able to share this new wisdom with my pre-student self.
Apparently, First Year doesn’t count towards your degree… Oh, but it does, it really does, especially for someone who’s on a practical course like mine.
If there is one thing I would tell myself from a year ago, it would be to have discipline. Sometimes it’s hard to say no and actually prioritise, but balance is key to a successful social and academic life. I live by the philosophy of “work hard, play hard”. Make a plan for studying as well as for your social arrangements, but don’t forget to make time for yourself.
Another large part of university life is money, a word that became incredibly daunting when I moved away. Overdrafts, bursaries and loans were among the monetary vocabulary I quickly had to learn, but the worst of all is budgeting. It’s slightly depressing having to ask every cashier “do you have student discounts?” but every penny saved means more in your pocket.
I think I’d tell myself to set a spending limit per week to prevent falling into the dreaded overdraft and to keep track of where money is going to, like unused subscriptions, gym memberships when the last time you went was your induction and Domino’s pizzas.
Something I found surprising about university is just how much there is to get involved in, like student councils, voluntary work and societies. My advice is to not bite off more than you can chew. You may walk into the societies’ fair in Freshers Week and write your name on several applications but are you really going to have the time and energy to do it all? I started out like this, wanting to get involved in all the activities I could – but I soon realised that my course was too demanding and I was missing out on my social life.
I had a rocky start at university, especially with my academic work. It was overwhelming and I really felt alone as I saw other course mates adapting and succeeding. Looking back now, I would say to myself – people are there to help you, you don’t have to suffer on your own. There are university services like the advice centre, your family, friends and, of course, your lecturers. Their job is to make sure you understand and do well, so don’t be shy to talk to them or email to arrange an appointment. Having a good relationship with your lecturers will improve your academic life.
For me, one of the most terrifying aspects of living alone in a new city was not knowing anyone. Looking back now, I would have loved to put myself out there a little more. Because it’s not a matter of popularity but rather expanding your friendship group. I was terrified when I moved into my flat with seven other people, all total strangers, but after giving myself a pep talk in the bathroom mirror I got chatting and a year on we have all signed a contract to live together for another two years. Some people are social butterflies, others are more introverted but you must remember you’re all in the same boat.
I’m sure every single first year’s experience will be completely different and unique. But, this is some of the advice I would love to have had prior to coming to Lincoln and who knows, maybe this will help students arriving in September.