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We Asked NUS Officers What They Wish They Had Known as Freshers

When you’re at uni, it’s all about making the most of the years you have there.

Earlier this year, we asked graduates from universities across the UK to share their biggest university regret – they talked about what they wish they had, or hadn’t, done in their time as students. Now, we’ve spoken to several of your NUS Representatives to see what they have to say. We asked them to share what they would want their former selves to know, what they regret about their uni experience and some tips for this year’s new students.

Here’s what they told us:

Malia Bouattia, NUS President

via NUS

via NUS

“One of the best ways I made friends at university was through setting up the Hip Hop Society in my Students’ Union. See which activities your SU has and, if you think there’s something missing, why not set it up yourself!”


Shelly Asquith, VP Welfare

“When I was a first year in 2010 I went along to the NUS national demo. It felt amazing being amongst thousands of likeminded students from all over the UK. After that, I got stuck into activism and have never looked back. Join us for #Nov19 and you might find your calling too!”


Richard Brooks, VP Union Development

photo provided

photo provided

“There are a couple of things that I wish I’d known as a Fresher; how to iron shirts properly (jury’s still out on that one to be fair), how student finance works (little did I realise at the time that no one knew) and how to budget correctly.

“But I guess my one and only regret is that I actually didn’t take the academic part of my educational life seriously enough. It’s not just about bashing out a 2:1 at 3am so you can get a graduate job after – education and the opportunity to learn is a gift and a privilege. We get a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in the country, and I squandered it a bit. Little twee I guess, but most regrets are.

“My advice for freshers is:

“Remember everyone is as nervous and scared as you are, and that means no one is ever properly alone. No one knows what they’re doing a lot of the time and that’s where the fun happens.

“Know that not everyone who goes to uni is posh.

“And there is no shame in asking for help or support.

“Finally, branded cereal doesn’t grow in cupboards and is really expensive. Seriously. Get someone to bulk buy you cereal.”


Vonnie Sandlan, NUS Scotland President 

“I was a mature student with kids when I started studying, and I wish I’d known before I started college that there would be loads of other students like me! I worried that I’d be the oldest student there, and the only one with caring responsibilities, and the reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. Going to college and university introduced me to some amazing people who have become lifelong friends, as well as giving me an education in a subject that I’m really passionate about.

“I also wish I’d joined more societies!”


Fflur Elin, NUS Wales President 

via @FflurElin on twitter.com

via @FflurElin on twitter.com

“I wish I’d known that if you’re passionate about something you should enjoy it and not worry what other people might think.”


Carmen Smith, NUS Wales Deputy President

photo provided

photo provided

“I wish I knew that you don’t have to be great at a sport to join a team and that signing up to clubs and societies is no automatic commitment. University is a place to try out new things and meet a diversity of people that you would never have met previously. You’ll probably make friends with such a wide range of people just by trying out new things. Give it a go!”


Ellen Jones NUS Wales Women’s Officer

photo provided

photo provided

“I regret not having the confidence to set up my own society, there was no Feminist Society in my Union and I wish I could have built that space for other students. If there is something you really enjoy you should build a space to meet likeminded people.”


Fergal McFerran, NUS-USI President

photo provided

photo provided

“For me, leaving home and going to University was actually a huge transition. I’m from quite a rural area in Northern Ireland so meeting so many new people, getting involved in clubs and societies, fundraising for charities and working alongside my course in a city I’d never spent much time in before was a hugely new experience. My time as a student really has shaped me in a way that I’m not sure I can put words to.

“It was the opportunity to meet people with hugely different life experiences, developing a network of friends I wouldn’t ordinarily have had that allowed me to really accept the fact that I was gay and actually develop the confidence to come out to my family and friends.

“If I was reflecting on my time as a student and asking myself what I wish I’d known in advance, it would probably be the message that challenging yourself is really healthy. Whether that be challenging the views and opinions you hold, or challenging yourself to question the plans that you have. I arrived at Queen’s University in Belfast in 2010 originally to study Theology in the hope of becoming a Religious Studies teacher. A year and half later I had switched to Politics, Philosophy & Economics having realised that the reason I volunteered with charities and societies was because I cared deeply about specific issues, and that making the choice to support those causes was actually deeply political.

“My message to new students this year would be that just as much learning can take place outside of your lecture halls and seminars rooms, and to grasp that opportunity to learn with both hands.”


Finally, VP for Higher Education Sorana Vieru has put together a list of advice for freshers this year. 

“The moment you get your module reading lists, check the library for copies of the books as well as e-book copies so that you save on having to buy book. Book sharing with course mates is also a fab idea – it’ll help you get used to group work and discussion groups too.

“Register with a GP as soon as possible. I forgot to do that in my first year, then I got injured and wasted quite a bit of time before I could access care before an exam.

“Bulk buy things like rice, chickpeas, lentils and batch cook curries for packed lunches for the entire week. It’s healthy and cheap and will leave you with more money to spend on stuff you enjoy.

“Online banking and online budgeting tools will genuinely help you adult. And you might not actually need a phone contract if you don’t use your phone much for texts and calls – so see if there’s a cheaper pay as you go deal. There’s wifi almost everywhere so you don’t need as much data as you think. Swapping the gym for free exercise apps or a great running route around campus is also something to look into.

“Use a diary – paper or online, your pick, but you’ll need one unless your memory is extraordinary.

“Make sure you join at least one society or sports club – don’t be afraid to try something new.

“Lastly, visit the Students’ Union and check out their campaigns. Get involved – it’s changed my student life!”