1. Utilise the first few weeks
Although living in a new city where you may not know anyone, don’t allow nerves to overcome you. Get yourself out there! Explore your new city and make your flat nice and homely. Try and get to know your surroundings, that could be your flatmates, your local pub or where the university buildings are. I’d also say, if you live away from home, don’t go home for the first two months. Although this may seem super long if you’ve never lived away before, this will allow you time to get over any homesickness, and properly adjust to your new chapter!
2. Try new things
This sounds so obvious but people nowadays seem so afraid of trying new things in the fear of them not liking it. Now’s the time to live a little! You may think no society is fitting to your interests, or you aren’t good enough to try out for the sports teams, but who’s stopping you from joining for one session and seeing for yourself? University isn’t like school, you aren’t going to be judged for trying something new, and you never know who you’ll meet along the way!
3. Say ‘yes’ more
I’ll be honest, in first year, I attended almost all the fairs, workshops and extra events for various opportunities and paths to take during university. You may think this sounds super boring, but doing this allowed me to hear about all the new opportunities that others weren’t interested in knowing about at the time. A prime example was a talk about studying abroad. Of course it sounds cool, but I never imagined I would be able to do that. Nevertheless, I went to the talk and a year or so later, I was studying in America. Since then, all my friends say how cool it is and wondered how I did it, that’s how!
I shared my semester abroad story here!
4. Don’t forget to study now and again
Getting into a good routine in regards to studying will set you up nicely for times where things get a bit more intense such as exams season. Often lectures/ seminars might take up a couple of hours each, then you have the rest of the day to yourself. Missing lectures could result in you falling behind or even missing out on opportunities such as talking with course mates you haven’t spoke to before, or a prof telling you about a job opportunity! I’d add that, if your course allows you to take elective modules, think long and hard before choosing them. Think about the various career paths this could lead you down or give you a taster of!
5. Get to know your professors, lecturers and tutors
Although some lecturers might teach you classes you don’t enjoy, these are professionals in the field, and many will have amazing stories and priceless advice to share. Getting to know your professors, lecturers and tutors will enable you to learn so much more, not just in terms of content, but also life and career-wise. Ask them if you need help or want book recommendations for your course! Talk to them about your concerns on your course or university, they’re there to support you. Many will have office hours where you can book in to meet them. Establishing good relationships will be something that pays off long-term – you may need them in years to come for a reference, or you might meet them again in your field!
“Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down” – Wilson Mizner.
6. Remember, every year sees a new adventure
What we are sold in the movies vs what university actually is, happens to be two very different things, but don’t worry if you feel you aren’t getting the ‘conventional’ uni experience. No two students will ever have identical experiences and it always seems near the beginning that everyone has their fixed friendship groups. What I’ve learnt in the past few years at university is that every year sees a new adventure. You could meet your best friend in final year, don’t rule it out! It’s not always easy but trust the process!
7. Get involved within the community
Getting the most out of your university experience doesn’t exclusively mean university orientated activities. What I found really helped me was getting involved with the local community. Not only will this allow you to talk with people who know the city like the back of their hand, but it will also make you feel like you’re apart of something, which can be truly underestimated when you’re in a completely new environment. This can be easily achieved by joining a local club, volunteering or getting a part-time job!
8. Put yourself out there
Putting yourself out there is something that can come in different forms and it means something different to everyone. Don’t be afraid to start conversations with new people or take on roles such as course reps to get your name out there. Try not to put up barriers in your own journey, as, believe it or not, everyone is in the same boat. Also, when you leave university, you are no longer in competition with just your course mates, but every graduate. Make sure you’ve done something at uni that makes you stand out that little bit more. Even roles such as course representatives show leadership, communicative skills and confidence to future employers.
9. Make the most out of your summer
Four months is an awfully long time, and since you don’t have classes, use that time! Plan your summers in advance so you can have something to look forward to once you’ve completed your exams/assignments. Some people use the time to get some work experiences, such as internships, others use the summers to work full-time to help fund university and some choose to travel! For me, I work in a summer camp in Ontario, Canada! There are so many schemes out there so use them before you land yourself in a career! How you use your summers can say an awful lot to an employer about your interests and intentions.
10. Talk to people if there’s a problem
University life isn’t always straight forward. It can be hard for some, and you never know what is around the corner, for better or for worse. Each university will have a range of support services, and whatever your issue is, I’m sure they have heard it all before and are ready to give you a helping hand. Try not to worry too much, as this can manifest your worries into greater concerns. Whether it is a module you don’t enjoy or financial issues, make use of the services that are offered to you. They may have a resolution straight away, or lead you to your answer.
Ultimately, it’s just one crazy journey, and most people only do it once, so make it what you want it to be.