After the furore which surrounded the tuition fee increase, the proposals become reality this month as a new generation sweep into universities paying (or more re-accurately repaying once they graduate) up to £9000 a year. The first few weeks of term can be crucial. Adjusting to a new environment, often moving away from home for the first time, meeting new people and probably most importantly starting a new course. It’s usual to have nerves when adjusting to a new environment. So here are some top tips on not just surviving, but making the most of the Freshers’ experience.
1 – Freshers’ fair
Make sure you visit Freshers’ Fair. It’s a great way to see what’s on offer at your new institution and students’ union. Generally there will be clubs, societies and sports teams aplenty on offer from the more typical groups like debating and religious societies through to Viking re-enactments and ultimate frisbee!
Generally it won’t just be clubs and societies on offer, but local business will be invited too. Hopefully there’ll be freebies galore, so feel free to make the most of it and stock up on any goodies that are given away.
2 – Invite your new neighbours round for a cup of tea
For students moving away from home, it can often be the first time living away from family and experiencing living with new people from a range of backgrounds. Of course, it’s impossible to tell where you’ll meet your new friends; on your course, in clubs and societies, on a night out, on the bus or perhaps among those who you will be living with. Most university residences will have established JCRs (Junior Common Room committees) or events in place to help you meet others you’ll be living with. But nothing can beat a gentle knock on the door of those around you, and an invite to join you for a cup of tea (or something stronger!)
3 – Don’t assume you have to buy everything new
When you move into a new place and start a new course, the temptation can be to buy everything new. But on a student budget it’s rarely a wise move. Most universities or students’ unions will have a second hand book shop which can often provide texts at a significant discount. And when it comes to utensils and items for your new room, given you may only need them for 1 year, it’s probably wise to make a visit to the local £1 shop. If you do need specific editions of texts, then it’s important to check they are still up to date before buying second hand.
4 – Buy an NUS Extra Card
Students can be entitled to a whole series of local and national discounts. If you don’t ask, you don’t get! The NUS Extra card (www.nusextra.co.uk) offers discounts to hundreds of stores and online retailers. The most commonly used are the 5% discount on Amazon, and the 50% off on Spotify Premium. Those aged 16-25 or mature students studying full time are also entitled to a Young Persons Railcard (http://www.16-25railcard.co.uk/).
5 – Enjoy the nightlife
Freshers’ wouldn’t be freshers’ without being invited to learn about the nightlife of your new city. Most students will sensibly choose to attend nights either organised or recommended by the students’ union. Student nights tend to have their own feel, and generally new students will feel much safer among fellow university goers. It goes without saying that everyone has different limits, and whilst it’s part of the university experience to sample the new nightlife, you shouldn’t feel pressured to go out every night in the first week. You’ll soon run out of energy, or money.
6 – But… it shouldn’t all be about alcohol
Not just because it isn’t healthy, but also because there will be many students who find this isn’t for them. You’ll also find it’s a great way to meet new people.
7 – Queues are inevitable. But also a good way to meet people.
Whether you’re paying accommodation fees or looking to join the gym, you’ll probably find yourself in a queue. Queuing might be very British, but it can also be dull. So if you’re in a queue, why not introduce yourself to those around you? I’ve lost count of the number of students who find friends and sometimes even future partners in a queue during Freshers’.
8 – Explore the town, not just the campus
Part of the excitement about the transition to a new university is often the chance to move to a new part of the country. It can be easy to get caught up in a student bubble, and months can go past before you realise you’ve only ever set foot on campus, accommodation and the city centre. Make the most of the university experience by finding out more about the city and explore the places to go and visit.
9 – Find out more about your students’ union
Your students’ union is more than a nightclub or a bar! It will usually be the home to dozens of clubs and societies, democracy, campaigning and representation. For many students, the opportunity to represent others or contribute to a campaign can be some of the most rewarding experiences in their student life. Whatever your interests, it will almost certainly have something for you. And if it doesn’t, then there’s usually funding to get something new set up. In a world where more and more graduates are chasing every job, your students’ union can also be a way to build up your CV. And it’s another way of meeting people, too.
10 – Have a think about part-time work
Increasing numbers of students are taking on part-time work to bring in some extra funds. Weekend and evening work is most popular as it tends to fit in with the university calendar. It’s important to take on work which isn’t too demanding, to that it doesn’t detract from study. And it’s helpful to be up front with potential employers about the fact you may be away for 4 weeks at Christmas and Easter.