Starting University

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Published by Harvey
on 28/05/2019

Hello from an unusually sunny and warm Birmingham! It’s the middle of exam season right now, so I hope you’re doing well, and that your exams are going great too!

Once they’re over, some of you will be starting to think about moving away from home for the first time to study at University, which is a pretty scary thought at first! So here are some tips from me about how to make the first few weeks at University as enjoyable as possible!

Join a society: I did the typical Fresher thing of joining six societies, and not really doing much with them all year. So, this year I decided to get more involved, and threw myself into a committee role with the German Society, and I’ll be working with The Linguist Magazine next year. I’ve made friends and contacts I wouldn’t have without the Guild, and it’s great for the CV! It’s definitely worth setting some money aside for one or two groups to join and stick with.

Talk to your flatmates: My flatmates made my First Year a fantastic experience! Okay, there were the occasional disputes (usually about the sink or bin), but I was fortunate in that we all got on really easily. They were always supportive and helpful when things got tough, and we always had a laugh. This really helped around exam times, when a couple of us would sit in the kitchen together and chat over lunch as a revision break. In Freshers’ Week, take some time to sit and chat over some food and get to know a little about each other.

Keep in contact with home: As much as I love spending time with my new friends at uni, there’s nothing like a good catch-up with school friends and family. Make sure to keep some time aside for your family and friends – I usually call my parents once or twice a week and try and have a good conversation with different people from school as often as I can This will ease homesickness, not just for yourself, but for other friends who are at different universities, in exactly the same boat (and your parents will be scared that you’ve ended up drunk face down on the pavement somewhere in Freshers’ Week, so let them know you’re safe!)

Work: Getting into a good study routine in First Year is a good idea. Even though for many students your First Year grade won’t count towards your Degree, it’s a great opportunity to find out what learning and revision style works for you, and work on getting rid of bad study habits. Set aside a decent amount of time aside every day for study and prep work outside of classes – getting yourself into a routine as early as possible will help make exam season much easier to deal with.

Think about getting a job: This isn’t for everyone, but I work as a Student Ambassador, and it’s a position I’ll get to keep until I leave. This means I get four to five well-paid shifts per year, working on Open Days. It isn’t much, but it’s something I can fit easily around my studies. I also spent last summer working in International Recruitment over the summer, dealing mainly with Clearing applications. This was more skilled, and because it was a full-time job, I was able to save up some of my wages and live a bit more comfortably in Year 2. If budgeting isn’t your strong point (it’s definitely not mine), this is something to think about.

Ask for help: I did find myself occasionally struggling to adapt to university life, but something within me kept me from reaching out. Once I got past it, and finally asked for help with studying, I finally felt comfortable working, and enjoying it again. There’s always someone to help you, so please contact them! For us at Birmingham, Schools and Colleges have their own dedicated Welfare Tutor (ours is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet), who helped me contact the right people, and also spoke to academics and my personal tutor for me. It may be difficult, but it’s worth doing.
This also applies for academics and tutors. Yes, you need to be independent with learning, and that’s what most tutors will expect of you, but they know you’re new to University, and are always willing to help if you let them know you’re struggling. Make use of their office hours, or even just a quick email, and they’ll be happy to help.

Don’t be afraid to say no: Know your limits and look after yourself – that’s particularly true of Freshers’ Week. Whilst, of course, it’s great to go out every night and meet loads of new people, at a time of change like this, you also need to make sure you step back, ignore the FOMO, and take some time to make sure you’re resting and eating properly!

I hope some of these will be useful for you as you start to think about moving to University!

In the meantime, best of luck for the rest of exam season, and enjoy a well-earned break this summer! If you have any questions, feel free message me on Instagram at @harvey_uob!

Thanks for reading!
Harvey