University. It’s everything school promised to be but never was: sociable, entertaining and optional.
I would safely say that this year – my first year at the University of Birmingham – has been the best year of my life. I could not have hoped for more. I was unbelievably excited to escape the monotony of school life and start afresh in a completely new environment. I met people who I know will remain lifelong friends, embraced diverse experiences, and just generally thrived in the university scene.
However, none of this would have been achieved so smoothly and effortlessly without the set of vague guidelines by which I stuck.
These covered a wide range of bases, including how best to hack two nights out in a row, learning which lectures you can get away with going to still drunk (if at all), and how to juggle new friends, old friends, and family.
Below are the seven best pieces of advice any fresher could hope for:
- Freshers week is absolute carnage. The perfect mix of constant socialising, feeling like utter death curled up in a ball on your less-than-average-sized bed, and kneeling in front of your already disgusting toilet wondering if it’s possible to actually throw up essential organs. The key to limiting just how shit you feel is by manning up and drinking even more. After all, if you’re drunk you don’t realise you’re hungover. “A night not wasted is a night wasted.”
- After a week of relentless partying, the inevitable emails start flooding in from lecturers inviting you to your induction seminar. They seem to completely miss the point of uni. You are obliged to attend, but there is no mention of in which state – be it hungover, still drunk, bearing bodily scars, or still in last night’s clothes. Naturally, you immediately identify which geek is best to retrieve missed lecture notes from, and who the hottest girl is, in order to tactically position yourself close to her in the lectures, and offer any after-hours ‘tuition’.
- Everyone starts off by being *that* keen fresher who signs up to every sports team and society. However, sooner rather than later, you realise you’re just not that bothered about trekking 20 minutes to some backstreet pub to perform stand-up comedy to a smattering of tipsy 20-somethings, or representing you’re halls at ultimate frisbee in the pouring rain when you could be doing, well, anything else. Instead, you establish the familiar routine of sleeping in, going to the odd lecture, sleeping some more, drinking. Repeat.
- Eventually you will establish a solid group of close friends. These may consist of flatmates, vodka, coursemates, PlayStation, and mates you already knew from home. You will spend more time with them than anyone else, and they become your substitute family. You determine which girl is most dependable and will cook for you (mum) and which guy insists on cracking unfunny jokes at every opportunity (dad). These friends become your bedrock, you go on nights out with them, eat with them and, in some cases, sleep with them. Other good friends you will depend on include Night Nurse, Candy Crush, and Tesco Home Delivery.
- The university (and your parents) would have you believe that your main purpose at uni is to study. As if! But, as such, you are required to attend at least some lectures. You may even get into a healthy routine of going to every lecture…until you remember you only need 40% to pass the first year. Referencing is taken unbelievably seriously, and so that bloody Oxford Referencing Guide becomes something of a study buddy. Pencil cases and textbooks are replaced with a single biro and online texts. Required readings really aren’t very required at all, and you become pretty disillusioned when you realise all lectures slides, along with everything the lecturer said and handed out, are put online in full.
- Uni can sometimes be quite a lonely place. When not in lectures or out clubbing, you face a toss-up over wanting to see your friends, but not wanting to piss them off by dropping in unannounced and forcing them to hang out with you. Alas, you are forced to spend quite a bit of alone time. Chilling. Pondering. Sometimes you can even become so bored that you start a blog. You develop little ways to stay entertained, such as people-watching outside your window, playing disgusting amounts of FIFA, and going clubbing purely so you can use your hangover as an excuse to do absolutely nothing all day. You will most likely become nocturnal as your sleeping pattern gets completely screwed. As a result you end up watching obscure Chinese second division football matches on the regular, become hooked on several TV series at once, and Facebook stalk anyone and everyone just to pass the time.
- Your mum will definitely make you promise to keep your room clean and cook healthily. She may even send you up with some dust wipers, Dettol spray, vegetables and some diet Coke. Of course, these are immediately discarded once you realise she’s no longer around. Pot Noodle becomes your gourmet speciality, you accept Cost Cutter own brand cola will have to suffice, and tap water replaces Evian. You will become very short sighted and refuse to bulk buy as you convince yourself you will hardly even drink six Tangos, let alone a 12-pack. No matter how many times you fall in love with the tremendous waft of the latest Paco Rabanne cologne, you will plump for citrus-scented Febreeze as you realise your student loan just won’t stretch. Finally, you will refuse to make your bed (unless expecting female company) because, well, what’s the point if you’re just gonna get back in it again?
The points above are just a selection of things that will inevitably occur in your first year at university. No matter how much you promise yourself that you will attend every seminar, persist with table tennis club and drink less alcohol, it just won’t happen.
I can only encourage you to embrace and cherish every moment of your first year, because in the blink of an eye it’ll be over!