I acknowledge that my experience as a fresher isn’t quite the same as the generations before me. However, life has a way of teaching the same lessons in different ways.
The past 18 months have been the strangest years of my life so far, and as much as I would like to give my younger self some advice for starting university, the next best thing is to share some of the things I’ve learnt with other people. As a disclaimer, I’ve asked a few of my friends doing a variety of courses what they wish they knew this time last year, but the majority of my writing is coming from my own experience.
It’s a well-known fact most maintenance loans won’t be enough to cover everyone’s basic costs. Parents and others will share their knowledge with you and help you in any way they can, but ultimately you’ll find your own way to make your finances work for you. Make use of every student discount you can find (and if you can’t find one, it never hurts to ask). If it’s a job you’re looking for, Career Central is always a good place to start, and job advertisements can easily be accessed on their website. They’ll also happily look over your CV and help with applications. All you need to do is ask. (And please, if you’re unsure about anything there is always someone you can ask).
You will find your tribe. Some people will find their tribes among their flatmates, others through their course and some through extracurriculars. And (possibly) a controversial opinion: you are going to meet dozens of people, and you do not have to become best friends with every one of them. You’ll find people with the same interests as you and though it may take some time, you’ll build up a network of people you enjoy spending time with.
It doesn’t matter what degree you’re doing, imposter syndrome exists and everyone feels it at one point or another. It’s been a long summer, and at the start of a whole new academic journey, it is easy to be overwhelmed by an influx of knowledge. Feeling isolated and out of your depth is a normal and very common experience. You’re in a new environment but it’s all about taking things one step at a time. Soon enough, you’ll find your rhythm, reach Christmas and wonder why on earth you were stressing during the first week of classes.
That being said, please make time for self care. It sounds generic, and it sounds easy, and that is how so many people can let it slip out of their minds. There will be something you enjoy doing, so find a way to do it in the quiet moments of life. Join a society, join a club, explore something new or even do nothing at all. Give yourself a way to recharge your batteries every once in a while. It’s like my friend Pran says, “If you don’t take breaks, your body will break instead”, and she’s doing Medicine so she knows what she’s talking about.
If there’s absolutely one thing you should remember, it’s something that everyone I’ve asked agrees on. The first year of uni will fly by, so make the most of it. There will be highs and there will be lows, but it’s all a part of life and trust me, it really is worth it.