If you’re freaking out about going to university, we’ve all been there. Even if you’re the most eager fresher out there, it’s totally understandable to feel a LITTLE apprehensive about moving away from home and into student accommodation with a bunch of strangers.
This time five years ago, I found myself preparing to up haul my cosy and familiar life in South London to move to Cardiff. And while I was excited to see what the next three years had in store for me, I was also absolutely shitting myself – to put it bluntly.
But there I was one Saturday, crammed into the back of my parent’s Peugeot surrounded by my worldly possessions, and the contents of a mad dash to IKEA. I’d looked around to find advice online only to met with content clearly made by people who had never been to uni (who will really bring a shabby chic rug to upgrade their room??).
So here’s a list of information I genuinely think is helpful.
BEFORE GETTING TO UNIVERSITY
- With social media now, it’s all too easy to find people that you’ll be living with. By now, you should know what accommodation you’re in so get searching on Facebook for groups for your halls. On there, like I did, you should be able to find people in the same corridor, or even flat as you.
- Keep up-to-date with university emails. Trust me, it’s really important to know what’s going on, whether that is social or actual serious university work. Your university is likely to have a Student’s Union team that has been working hard to prep your first fortnight at uni for you.
- Sort out your paperwork. This is the boring part but it’s crucial to make sure you have everything sorted and sound including student accommodation, student finance and course confirmation. Use this as a time to open a student bank account if you haven’t already, get yourself a student rail card and an NUS card for discounts too.
- Start getting your bits and pieces ready to move. I waited until I saw my halls to see exactly what I’d need to buy then made a trip to IKEA once I’d arrived in Cardiff.
- Find out what’s happening for Freshers week. You’ll often find that your university will organise a week of club nights and activities, but the clubs in the town centre will do the same. I’d always recommend opting for the first option, as you’ll guarantee be in a situation with other people in the same year as you.
- Sort out your fancy dress. Although it’s not important – it’s good to check ahead and see if your SU is organising fancy dress events as part of Freshers. That way you can turn up with a banging costume.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT UNIVERSITY
- Bring a doorstop. Yes, really, especially if you have one of those heavy-duty fire safety doors that always slams shut behind you. Keeping your door open is a great way to say hi to people as they walk past.
- Get yourself unpacked early, that way you don’t have to worry about it later on in the week.
- Just go for it when introducing yourself to people. Remember that you’re all in the same boat. You’ll find that you make friends quickly.
- While you’ll probably want to wave the parents off and start chatting to new mates, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need before they leave… especially if they have a car.
- Bake a cake. It sounds silly but it’s a great ice-breaker. One of my flatmates rocked up with a cake her mum had made and left it in the kitchen. It got us all in there talking to one another.
FRESHERS WEEK (OR FRESHERS FORTNIGHT)
- Discuss early on with your housemates what you’re going to do during Freshers, as they will undoubtedly be the people you will be experiencing it with. We all agreed to do the Freshers events at our Student’s Union, and stuck together the whole time. It’s also important to accommodate everyone. Remember: not everyone will want to go out clubbing every night. If that’s the case, maybe suggest a cinema trip, or a pub dinner, or even team bonding like bowling.
- And Freshers week isn’t just about drinking (although it primarily is). Most of the fairs are on then too, including signing up to societies and sports, meeting course mates and getting free stuff from local companies. Make sure you go to these things!
- Signing up for sports/societies. I didn’t sign up for a sport during my time at uni, but I did for my journalism society, and ended up being president of the society for two of the years. I strongly urge you to do something extra-curricular… I met my closest friends by doing this.
- Look after yourself. Now I’m going to get all old person on you here, but the term ‘freshers flu’ is very real, and it’s important to look after yourself too. Yeah, you may want to ‘go hard or go home’ for the whole fortnight, but trust me, it’s not your only time to party. Put the FOMO to rest, and actually get some rest too.
- Soak in your surroundings, and that means leaving your uni campus and your halls and actually explores the new city or town that you’re living in. This is a great chance for a non-drinking flat outing to suss out where the nearest supermarket is, the cheapest pint, any cool food places and your doctor’s surgery.
- Be prepared for the homesick comedown. After a full fortnight of partying and socialising you’ll suddenly find yourself in your uni room by yourself for the first time. This is when you’ll probably feel the most homesick and will want to give your mum a ring. But that’s totally OK, and totally normal.
But most importantly, BLOODY ENJOY YOURSELF, and let don’t let others dictate your uni experience. Oh, and change your sheets please.