Friday, 21 August 2015

How to Survive Freshers' Week

Freshers' week marks the exciting kick-off to a brand new chapter of life.  For many people, it's a huge change - moving away from home to live with a bunch of strangers, cooking for yourself, doing your own washing, choosing exactly what you want to do and when you want to do it.  It's a new form of freedom that can be absolutely terrifying.  

This time last year, I remember spending hours trawling the internet looking for advice about the fast-approaching and infamous 'Freshers' week' hoping to put my mind at rest.  I'm not going to sugar-coat this... you probably almost definitely will be shitting yourself the day you finally set off to move into your new accommodation and begin your first year of uni, but just be comforted by the thought of the millions of people who have already done the same...and survived it just fine.

Here are a few bits of advice I can offer in hindsight of my own Freshers' week (I'll try not to blabber on too much).  Make a cup of tea, have a read and please, RELAX!  It'll all be just fabulous.

Ruby x

1) The most important thing: take advantage of the week!  It's a great chance to meet a tonne of people in one go, suss out the talent (if you're so inclined), and make some friends because at that stage, nobody knows anybody... yet!

2) Wear flat shoes.  Having taken a million pairs of heels to uni thinking 'yes I'm going to wear the platforms on the Monday, the stilettos on the Tuesday, and probably my six inch wedges on the Wednesday (etc.)', I did not wear a pair of heels even once during Freshers' week.  It might just be my uni where it's definitely not a done thing, but I have to say I have absolutely no regrets about not wearing heels out.  I wore trainers the majority of the week, meaning I was 100% uninhibited and could break out all of my finest dance moves without the restriction of heeled footwear...ahem.

3)  Go to your introductory talks (sorry to be boring).  These are a good way to get introduced to your subject(s), and meet some of your coursemates... plus get the low down on what the devil you'll actually be studying.  

4)  Take the opportunity to cool-ify (real word, I swear) your room.  Take old photos, posters, artwork, wall hangings, fairy lights, speakers, storage like boxes or baskets, blankets and cushions, a mini fridge, a fold away bar, a collapsible double bed... Okay, the last three were maybe just me getting carried away, but do take some stuff you can decorate your room with to make you feel more at home and show your housemates what kind of a person you are.  If you can get your mitts on some decent speakers they are a worthy investment as a student and a sure-fire way to instant friends.

5) Get to know your housemates.  Try and introduce yourself to them all on the first day as you're going to be living with them all year so get off to the best start you can!  During Freshers' I did some different stuff to get to know my housemates, like cooking a meal together, having pre-drinks, going 'exploring' round the campus and nearby countryside etc.

6) Take a disposable camera.  It's always hilarious to see the prints when they're done, I've got some absolutely golden shots from Freshers' week that I took on a disposable camera.  When they're printed off you can stick them on the walls of your room.

7) Make sure you eat.  It sounds silly, but making sure you eat during the day and before going out is a big yes.  Your immune system is likely to take a bit of a hit during Freshers' with all the drinking and staying up late and having way too much fun.  If you get together with a few of your housemates and all cook a meal together before going out, that means a) (most importantly) you can drink more b) you'll hold whatever you do drink down better c) it's another opportunity to make friends!  Try and get in some fruit and veg in too if you can, your health will thank you when term begins!

8)  Leave your room door open.  Take a door stop.  Top tip!

9)  Save up before.  The week can get pretty expensive, especially if you're buying drinks and clubs and bars.  If you can, buy event tickets in advance so that you can budget better what you might spend during Freshers'.  Your student loan won't arrive until your attendance at the university has been confirmed, which for me wasn't until after Freshers' week, so try to take a bit of money with you to get you through the first week.  It's very easy to splurge during the week too - this is when pre-drinks become your best friend.  Don't go too crazy and splash the cash because you will regret it when you're eating instant noodles every night because you can't afford anything else!  

10) Establish bin/toilet roll rotas, kitchen cleaning etc.  The first week is the best time to try and come up with a fair system for things like taking the bins out or cleaning the kitchen, while everyone's still friendly and co-operative.  

11)  Swot up.  In order to get off to a flying start, it will really help you to carry on with/finish/begin doing some of your course reading.  You'll likely be sent in advance or perhaps given at your introductory talks things like reading lists or preparatory materials to read before your lectures begin.  Get any books or other nerdy things you might need before teaching starts, and try and familiarise yourself with them a bit so you don't feel too much like you've been thrown in the deep end when it actually does.

12) Remember: you don't have to go out every night.  If you're feeling a bit ill and crappy one night, you don't have to go out!  Don't be afraid to suggest staying in, getting a takeaway and watching a film if that's what you feel like doing - chances are at least one of your housemates will probably feel the same way, which means you'll get a night off to recover, get to know people a bit better, and be totally revitalised for the next day.  
13)  Make time to catch up with people at home but try not to miss them too much.  You probably will feel homesick and miss your friends and family, especially perhaps if you have a boyfriend/girlfriend at home who you've now moved away from.  My best advice, which is difficult but important, is to keep in contact with them (obviously) but try to be strict with yourself.  Organise a time when you'll ring your mum/sister/boyfriend to check in with them and enjoy catching up but don't be constantly on your phone texting to see how they're doing and how much they're missing you.  You'll not only give yourself a really good chance to settle in, but be more approachable to other people if you seem available so, as tricky as it is, try to keep your home contact under control for the first week.  

14)  Fill out your room/kitchen inventory.  When you move in you will most likely be given an inventory list to fill out.  Go round your room and check everything is working and present as if there are problems they can take a long time to be fixed.  We spent our first term with only the smallest ring on our hob cooker working...which was fine unless you wanted to cook anything bigger than a fried egg.  Or cook at the same time as someone else (impossible).  Or just have a working oven like you were supposed to.  

15) Arrive on time!  If you can, get there on the morning of your move-in date.  That way, you'll have plenty of time to unpack your stuff, say goodbye to your family, relax a little bit and then wait for the fun to begin.