It feels so surreal to not be travelling back up to Sheffield this year. I'm officially Alumni with no uni email and limited access to JSTOR, watching the lower years update their status' about moving back to uni. Part of me is itching to go and relive PopTarts one last time, but the majority is content to just sit back and watch the carnage that is Freshers Week unfold through the wonderful mediums of Facebook Photos (pre-untagging) and Snapchat.
And share some wisdom on How to Survive Freshers Week (or Fortnight).
Have your parents take you food shopping.It's the freshers right of passage (and ... pretty much every year you're at uni if you're lucky): having your parents take you food shopping on your first day so they know you're not going to starve. The eating habits after this shop may devolve hideously into pizza and garlic bread with limited greenery, but take advantage of this shop. Not in the way of getting the expensive best lines, but in getting cupboard and freezer friendly food. If you play your cards right, you can get about a months worth of food in one shop, meaning you only have to top up things like bread, milk, and small amounts of fresh produce in the week. You'll learn fast that food is expensiiiiive.
There is literally nothing worse than waking up dead. Freshers Week will typically have some sort of party every night of the week - ranging from absolute howlers of a theme to the first taste of what the uni has to offer for weekly nights out. One of the best ways to get to know your (first year) flatmates is to go out as a group, and it's also a fab way to meet tons of new people, but doing a full week of partying is a fast track to Freshers' Flu. Pace yourself. Pick nights out that look interesting, but be mindful of what you have on the next day.
If you want to go out every night of the week, there is literally nothing stopping you (other than your bank balance and your health), so you do you boo, but be considerate of your flatmates. Some may not be up for a full week, some may not like going out at all. It's a good idea to have a night or a half-night in so everyone can be involved. Also, don't be a dick and pressure people into do things that they don't want to just because you do. Not chill.
It's also a good idea to pace yourself with your money too - Student Finance may be bomb, but it's Not A Fun Time to work through your first loan installment in Freshers Week and be living on super noodles till February. You might have to buy books (and food) with that money... so don't blow it all on £100 of tequila or Belvedere/Sky/Grey Goose Vodka because it's there.
Get involved in daytime activities too
Freshers' isn't all about the nightlife your uni has to offer, it's an introduction to uni life. Your student's Union will probably be organising events to get to know the area, the societies and sports clubs your uni has to offer, so it's a good idea to check these things out! There'll be a load of taster sessions for different things, so get involved in anything that sounds interesting or takes your fancy. It's a great way to meet new people, and for a lot of the activities, almost everyone is in the same novice boat so it doesn't matter if you've never done something before. Freshers' is also the time a lot of the music and sports run practice sessions before try-outs, so if you fancy being in a group or on a team, get yourself in there!
Don't miss your course orientation
Some courses run orientation or an introduction class during freshers'. It might not have been something on your radar, so it's important to check any correspondence you've had from uni regarding your classes. Even if it says it isn't a mandatory class, it's a very good idea for you to go; non-attendance tends to look bad this early on in the term (unless you have a stellar excuse), and it's a fab opportunity to meet your classmates and ask your lecturers questions before term officially starts.
Don't get caught out by the 'student lock-ins'
The 'worst' thing I ever saw at uni was a girl blowing her student loan on Armani Exchange at the student lock-in. A 'student lock-in' is a bit of a marketing ploy to get freshers (and uni students in general) to the nearest large shopping centre after hours to spend. The discounts offered aren't usually any better than you can get with sites like MyUniDays (sign up, you'll thank me, it's fab), the queues are awful, it's tiring, and it's about 4 hours of your life you'll never get back. Save that dollar. And this is coming from someone who seriously loves to shop.
Buy oranges/clementines/satsumas/citrus fruit
Flu strikes when your immune system is sub-par (and doing lots without much rest in between, combined with potentially giving your liver a battering), or you're living in close quarters with people whose immune systems are subpar. Keep your vitamin C levels topped up by making sure you have citrus fruit to hand to stave off the sniffles. Bags of oranges aren't that expensive around this time of year, you get more than a weeks worth for your pennies, and if you put them in when you're doing the shop with your parents it looks like you're actively taking an interest in your health. If you're not a fan of oranges, adding fresh lemon or lime juice to hot water can help too. I did this every Freshers' and refreshers' and have never once had freshers' flu.
Go to alllllll the student fairs
Student Fairs = free things. Be it pizza, leaflets, vouchers, pens, stationery, condoms, keychains, and bags. Even if you just go for a wander to see what it's all about, you'll meet a load of local businesses, uni societies, and organisations that, admittedly, most likely want to buy your love, but it's handy to get a stash of branded pens to use in a pinch. Or since you now have to pay for shopping bags having a few branded totes to whip out when you need saves those vital 5ps. Also the lanyards are so incredibly useful to shove your keys on so you don't lose them. There's a special sort of embarrassment reserved for having to pretend to be sober to get the porters/staff/night crew to let you into your flat/room because you lost your key. They also started doing flip and a3 poster calendars which are pretty handy, and those 'money off x place' leaflets are fab when you really, really, really need food.
Have fun, meet people, and be yourself
When it comes down to it, freshers' is all about having a fab time at the beginning of uni before the hard work and learning sets in. You come into contact with a lot of people, so it's a fab time to start forming friendship groups - from experience it's a good idea to have a few that aren't just course of flatmate related in case things don't go too well as you learn more about each other. And most importantly, as cliche as it sounds, it's a time to really be yourself. No games, no gimmicks, no last minute reinventions and disasters at 4am with manic panic. I've seen countless people be caught out trying to keep up a charade that isn't them, when they're usually perfect without trying to be this new somebody that doesn't quite fit. Your vibe attracts your tribe, and it's much better to have people who love you for who you are than who you pretend to be. Uni's a long time yo.
A few little tips I've picked up along the way:
- ice lollies are the best morning-after-the-night-before/hangover cure ever. Sugar and water instantly
- if you're not happy with your living situation change it asap, it might get better but it also might not and it's awful trying to be comfortable in a place you don't feel like you can live in
- start tracking your spending when you start uni. it's a useful skill to have and makes you aware of your finances and where your money is going.
- a large part of any money you have will go on food. This is entirely usual and a sad fact of life. Food is unnervingly expensive. The basics range from your local supermarket absolutely fine to be shopping from, and budget supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl are student saviours. Also Asda is currently the only supermarket that has the 'affordable' online shopping option with a minimum basket value at £25 (Tesco bumped their minimum basket charge up to £40).
- sign up for cashback websites like quidco, and survey sites that give rewards (you can see more in my how to save money at uni post)
- MAKE FRIENDS WITH UPPER YEARS. I honestly can't stress this enough. I was that fourth year that was actively trying to get the first years talking to the upper year students. Especially in courses like mine where there's a year abroad and so much extra info to know, your upper years aren't scary or intimidating, and most of the time will be really happy to help & answer questions. Also, hello useful contacts
I think that's everything. If you're starting your first year at uni, have fun! It's a fab experience and I encourage you to check out my 'uni survival guide' series - it's a bit tongue in cheek at times but I like to think it's useful.
If you're a second/third/fourth/masters student doing freshers for the nth time: you know the drill, it gets harder the older you get. Leave any of your own tips in the comments (or freshers' week stories, I love freshers' week stories).
Remember to look after yourselves and drink responsibly if that's a thing you like to do!