Now that I’ve been at university for approximately 24 days, I’ve largely overcome the major stumbling blocks and issues which are likely to crop up during the first weeks and may even be close to feeling settled (though each time I say that a new challenge arises, so I’ve probably jinxed it again…). Therefore, I feel somewhat in a position to compile some tips for the freshers of the future:
- Be organised during your first week. I stay in catered accommodation and was handed a massive bundle of stuff upon arrival, which I proceeded to lump into a pile once I found my room. As a result of this I lost the card needed to gain entrance to meals, which was a rather stressful way to start the semester! (I suppose you could argue the true moral is to not enter catered accommodation, a view I’m increasingly likely to agree with. Food’s nice, however!). You’ll be handed plenty of other things throughout the week too, so keeping things organised really will make life easier.
- This somewhat depends on how you’re travelling (I assume I’m in the minority for arriving via a 14-hour ferry), but I’d say you should only bring with you what you need. Anything else is just more clutter, and you will be acquiring plenty of items (most useless, granted!) throughout the semester.
- Meet as many people as possible during Fresher’s Week. Be it flatmates, people in halls, societies, people in your classes, etc. You might not have anything in common with most of them but it becomes incredibly reassuring to begin recognising faces during your travels.
- Get involved with as much of Fresher’s week as you can. Whether this be nightclubs or tamer events during the day, these are among the best ways to meet new people and learn about the university. I was shocked to discover that some people didn’t go to any of the events at all during the week. Most of the friends/acquaintances I’ve made thus far have been through societies, of which most universities will have an incredibly variety – you should be guaranteed to find something of interest.
- Find your way around. Take walks along major streets and around the university, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar city. It’s definitely easier to learn your way around the campus as early as you can, too. Familarise yourself with maps. This is also useful for if you’re ever walking across a city after sundown, as I’ve found myself doing frequently – walking with a sense of direction is supposedly one of the best ways to prevent unwanted attention.
- Do all the ‘touristy’ things during Fresher’s week. Well, I found this useful anyway. I’ve still yet to climb Arthur’s Seat (it calls me every morning through the window) and the Scott Monument, but now I’ve seen most of the tourist attractions I can now feel more like a resident of the city than a visitor passing through.
- Keep diaries and notepads, perhaps containing details like your new addresses, phone numbers, timetables, and so on. I don’t know how I’d have managed without taking down so many notes in the first weeks.
- Don’t expect to settle in overnight. Some people might have the ability to feel settled wherever they live – how I envy them if they exist – but I’m willing to bet most of us can’t. I wouldn’t even say I feel at home now, over three weeks on, but I’m gradually getting there. Homesickness is okay.
- Take as much from university as you can. There are probably more opportunities open to you here than you’ll ever experience again during your life, so make the most of it. Always keep your eyes open for things to participate in.
- Finally, I’m not yet really in a position to discuss making friends, but this BBC article is very useful on that front. Some people are better at making friends than others, especially in this bizarre, artificial environment we students have been thrust into, and I don’t believe taking a more paced approach at getting to know people is necessarily a bad thing.
So yeah, these are basically the main things I’ve learned in the last few weeks. Maybe useful, perhaps common-sense. To be honest, university is such an incomprehensibly vast and overwhelming experience that I could easily write new lists of tips every few weeks. Perhaps it should be a regular feature! Or would that become incredibly boring? Anyhow, have another picture.