Monday 9 September 2019

#FresherPressure 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting University

Tips and tricks can be so helpful when starting a new chapter of your life. Amy wishes she had known the following before she started her first year of university.
-Amy Gault

1. It’s okay to be homesick
For me, moving from Northern Ireland to Liverpool was such a big step. I remember that, in the lead up to moving, I cried nearly every night as I was so scared of such a big change but, in reality, it’s okay to be nervous, everyone is when they start university. Whether you’re moving to a new country, moving a few miles down the road or just 5 minutes away from your home, it’s still such a difference. It’s okay to be homesick, I missed my friends and family while I was at university and I still will when I go back. It’s a normal thing. Take your time and embrace the new surroundings, talk about how you’re feeling and it’s okay to have a break from university when you need to go home for a visit every once in a while.

2. Make a budget
Budgeting money is very hard, and it does take time to get into a routine. Plan out a budget on a calendar or on your phone. Set out money for food, hobbies and going out. It’ll mean less stress throughout the year. It is tricky but it’s worthwhile.

3. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to a night out
With Fresher’s being such a big week for going out and drinking alcohol a main thing I learnt is it’s okay to put yourself first and say ‘no’ to a night out. I wish I had known this at the start of the year as I often made myself go out and drink even if I didn’t feel like it. Even if you enjoy a night out, sometimes you have to put yourself first and if you’re not feeling it then that’s okay!

4. It’s okay not to make friends straight away
University is different for everyone and it’s a new experience going into first year. Everyone is going to be nervous and shy at first so it’s okay if you don’t make friends in the first few weeks of university or even overall in first year, it takes time for people to open up. A tip I would offer is to join some societies or clubs in order to meet new people, everyone will be so welcoming and it’s a great way to meet people who have similar interests to you.

5. If you’re struggling, ask for help
Every university has different services on hand for any student that is experiencing difficulties. It’s a big change so it’s okay to feel scared. Universities have well-being services on offer if you ever need to speak to someone, if it’s purely to talk about homesickness or if you have a mental health difficulty then they’re there to help.

6. Sign up to a GP
If you’re moving to a different part of the U.K., then I would recommend signing up to a GP. This is a thing that I didn’t do in first year and I regret it. When I was unwell throughout the year, I took myself to the walk-in clinic, who said that it would be a 2 and a half hour wait before I could see a doctor. If I had signed up to a GP, then it would mean that I could have booked an appointment and at least be guaranteed to see someone.

7. Everyone is different
People from all over the world will be starting university, people with different personalities and different opinions. It’s okay to not make friends with everyone. Some people will like you, some people won’t. And that is okay, you’ll be able to find friends that accept you for you!

8. Make use of your city/town
You picked your university for a reason. Go out and explore the culture. I didn’t take advantage of this until near the end of first year. Get on a bus, go visit parks, museums, try new food, go see the tourist attractions. At my university, we get discounted theatre tickets, a free gym pass and discounted festival tickets. You’ll only be a student for a short amount of time, so use all the freebies and discounts you can!

9. Your first assignment is not the be-all and end-all
I remember our lecturers saying to us in the first few weeks that it’s okay not to do the best in your first assignment. You’re learning the new format and how to use different referencing styles. Looking back, I wish I had got this into my head that it’s okay not to excel the first time you write something. Just do your best and learn from your mistakes.

10. Be yourself
Don’t try and change yourself to fit in with others. People are going to judge you no matter what you do so you might as well do what you enjoy! I know this is easier said than done but it’s your life and if you don’t be yourself now, you’ll look back in 20 years and regret not taking the opportunities when you had them. Be you.

For more advice see Student Minds' Know Before You Go guide.

Amy is a second-year student at Liverpool John Moores University studying Law and Criminal Justice. Amy is passionate about advocating for mental health and helping others by speaking about her own experience with mental illnesses. She also has her own blog where she talks about university and mental health. You can view her blog here.

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