Originally published in September 2010
So over the next few weeks, lots of young people will be packing up their stuff into bags, suitcases and boxes as they leave home for the first time and move to go to university.
Unbelievably it was
NINE (update: FIFTEEN) years ago when my Mum and I drove up the M90 to move me into the university halls of residence at Hillhead that was my home for my first year at the University of Aberdeen studying for an MA in Human Geography. I was 17 years old, no one else in my family had ever gone to university, all my friends (except 2 who left a year early like me) were staying on for our final year of high school, I’d been warned to do everything except go to any Chaplaincy events and I didn’t actually know that you had to do exams at university before the end of your 4 year degree.
I was CLUELESS. And I’m thankful that in 2001, no one really owned digital cameras 🙂
So I thought I’d impart my wisdom I learned from that first year onto any freshers to be who want to ‘listen’…
I am so excited that you are going to university. I found a real home in Aberdeen when I was a student, and my hope is that no matter where it is you go to study, you will find a home there too. I hope you learn lots, not just from what you study, but also from experiencing so many opportunities that are going to lay ahead of you.
I also wanted to give a few of my top tips for living in halls. First of all, take things with you to make it ‘homey’. Pictures of friends, family, pets. Posters (though I’m willing to bet you’ll find some GREAT poster sales in Fresher’s Week). But most importantly: TAKE YOUR OWN DUVET COVERS! Second of all, for the first few days keep your door wide open whenever you’re in your room (maybe not when you’re changing or sleeping, but you catch my drift right?), this way you can say hello to people who might be passing. It’s a great way to greet your roommates/neighbours in halls who may also be feeling homesick or nervous. I also took teabags, juice and stuff so that I could offer cups of tea or whatever which people really appreciated if they hadn’t unpacked or got to the shops yet.
Be nice to the campus staff – porters, cleaners, cafeteria staff….(it pays to be nice, just ask any of the S Floor girls!)
There’ll be lots of events on for freshers, and it’s worth going to as many as you can. Freshers week creates so many memories, and I still remember my freshers week – we had such a great laugh, all the girls on my floor together.
If you are a Christian – check out your CU on campus. Most CUs will put on events in Freshers week, and even if you never really get involved for the rest of the year, it’s worth getting to know some of the other Christians on campus. Most of the ‘older’ Christian students will organise church walks so that you don’t get lost trying to find churches on a Sunday morning/evening, and it’s nice to go in a group.
Which brings me to my next piece of advice. Find a church home. Sometimes we used to get quite competitive in the CU about how many freshers we got to go to OUR church. But seriously guys, find the one where you think you can be involved and grow in your faith. Get stuck in…introduce yourself, find out more about the church, what their vision is and whether it’s one you feel called to be a part of. If you find one, stay there – don’t spend the whole term church shopping. Trust me, in the second semester (after Christmas) you want to be settled.
Get involved in university too. Join a society – it’s a great time to try new things whether it be musical theatre, underwater hockey, canoeing, football or gardening!
Make sure you have a good stock of lemsip and vaporub. If you don’t catch the fresher’s flu at some point in your first term, it’ll be a miracle (and I want to know your secret).
A toastie maker is your friend. Cheese and baked bean toasties rock at 2 a.m.
Take flip flops for the communal showers (unless you’re going to posh accommodation with an en-suite…)
Try to go to at least 50% of your lectures (and if you miss them, make sure you catch up!). Don’t miss tutorials.
If you find you are hating what you study after 1 year, don’t feel like a failure. That’s fine. It wasn’t for you, and now you know. You gave it a go and it’s not the end of the world. Several of my friends changed degree after their first year. I changed 7 weeks into my 3rd year. Find what you do like, go for it and stick at it! No matter what degree you do, there’ll be boring courses you have to take. I loved my Health Sciences degree, but the compulsory study of Statistics that was part of it did make me cry (more than once).
Take advantage of the student discounts (always ask wherever you go!)
Don’t get a credit card. Try your best to avoid going into student overdrafts if you can.
Put your student loan or bursary into a high interest savings account.
Avoid drugs like the plague, if you’re going to drink alcohol do it sensibly (and never on an empty stomach), and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel out of your depth.
Feel free to experiment with fashion. It’ll make for great photos to show your grandchildren in later life if nothing else. 😉
But most importantly…enjoy it. It doesn’t come again and university is an amazing opportunity not many people in the world get. It will shape you and give you a foundation for the rest of your life as you take on more adult responsibility.
And I hope you’ll gain so many friends you have for life…
Safe travels & happy studying!
DipHE BScHlthSci (Hons) (<–the only time I’ll ever use those letters it took me 5 years to earn!) (Update: Lets make that Brunette Koala DipHE BScHlthSci (Hons) PgDip)
PS If you’re a university graduate, what advice would you give to freshers and current students?
Comments left by readers on the original post:
Scott: I graduated with a DipHE so my advice might be limited but I’d add.
Treat it like a job with a flexible boss, do a uni 9-5. That way you’ll keep on top of things and not find yourself saying you have to study when an otherwise unmissable opportunity comes up.
Register with a GP. You may never go but if you do have to go at least you’ll not have to fill out crummy forms when you are ill.
Don’t leave laundry in the machine, be ready for the cycle ending or a fellow student will pile it on the floor for you.
And to expand on the wrong course point, if you are on the wrong course it is also okay to leave uni and figure out what to do, check out exit awards first.
Tara: For those who are Christians – when it comes time to leave halls and start choosing flat mates (third term of 1st year), try not to live with all Christians. You’ll never have a better opportunity to talk to your peers about your faith and those opportunities will not come more naturally than with those you live with. On the flip side, don’t be the only Christian in your flat – because that is tough too.
That’s the advice from my experience. From others – put your faith and morals out there early. Not in people’s faces, but don’t hide who you are. If you don’t drink and are joining the hockey team whose initiation involves copious amounts of alcohol,don’t cave. Tell them you don’t drink but that you want to play for them and will take some other initiation ceremony instead. Those moments are terrifying – but once people know who you are up front, they accept you and it ceases to be an issue. And it ultimately gains you much respect and many opportunities.
Gavin: This seems quite appropriate…