15 Things I Wish I Could Go Back and Say To My First Year Self
In hindsight, there are many things you wish you could say to your Fresher self. Here are some of the things I’d say if I could…
1. Buy an electric blanket before you go to uni.
First of all, just please, please, please do this. An electric blanket was one of the best purchases I ever made. Student accommodation is infamous for its chaos, not its cosiness. You’ll find that a lot of places do special offers on things like this from August onwards. So if you want to do your grandma proud and live your best life literally as snug as a bug in a rug, then you should definitely invest in one.
2. Invest in a pair of sensible, waterproof shoes.
When I was younger, my mum would always take me shopping for new school shoes, and I absolutely hated that she never let me choose the trendy shoes I wanted. She always made me pick the sturdy and clonking canoes she found in the shop. When I arrived at uni, I was thrilled to wear whatever I wanted. Much to my disappointment, it rained everyday throughout my Freshers’ Week and I ruined every last pair I owned. All of my shoes had to be lined up in front of the radiator and stuffed with newspaper so they could dry out. Some were ruined forever. Listen to your mum for once and make sure you’ve got at least one pair of waterproof shoes!
3. Learn and understand how to save money.
This is your first time living away from home so you’re not expected to be a money saving expert just yet – don’t worry about this too much. But if you’re looking to watch your spending a bit, there are plenty of smart and simple ways to do it. When you can, walk to places instead of getting a taxi or using public transport. If you spend £10 a week on bus tickets or metro passes, it adds up over time. The same goes for coffee. Buy a cheap flask and make your own coffee to take out with you. If you stopped spending £3 on coffee every day, you could save yourself about £90 in a month (subtracting a few quid for your own coffee or tea bags and milk, of course.)
4. Explore your new surroundings more.
You’re moving to a brand new city or place! Take the time to get to know it more. You’ll also find that your brand new pair of sensible and waterproof shoes should be useful now. There are loads of places that I discovered later on in my time at university, places that I wish I’d known about all along. This includes the bars with music I really enjoy, the cafes that are open until midnight, the vintage clothes shops that I could spend a fortune in… It’s a great way to get to spend time with your new housemates and coursemates too.
5. Follow the three-date rule.
As much as this is dating advice, it’s useful to think of this when meeting your new friends too. Everyone is just as nervous as you to make new friends and to be living in a new place, so don’t be too quick to judge people because you’ll change as you get a bit more relaxed too. Would you want someone to write you off because you forgot somebody’s name at a party? (This happened to me. Harry never spoke to me ever again… Or was it Hayden?)
6. Learn how to cook a hearty meal.
I know that there are some scientific studies that aim to prove it, but I hope you are not shocked to hear this: pizza is not a vegetable. As much as pot noodles or microwave meals are convenient and delicious, they are not what your body needs day in and day out. The healthier the meals you cook, the clearer your mind will be for studies – and the happier you will be to socialise. It takes time and real effort to learn, but cooking your own meals is really good for you and can actually be very relaxing. I really wish I’d learnt how to cook something before moving away because it can also save you a lot of money.
7. Attend all your lectures, seminars, or workshops.
It is easy to text a friend to fill you in on what happens and sleep instead. But reader be warned! You never know what you might learn or who you might get sat down next to – a new best friend, maybe? Honestly, I can’t stress it enough; you will never regret going into uni. It is always easier to go than feel guilty that you didn’t later on. Plus, here’s some freebie hangover advice! You usually feel better if you get up, have a shower, and go out in the fresh air rather than lay in bed watching Netflix all day. It took me a very long time to learn this, but I’m glad I can pass on the advice before others make the same mistake!
8. And learn to reference early on.
This was the second best piece of advice I was given by one of my lecturers. Now that you’re a university student, you’re going to have to cite references for everything you have used in your essays. And remember, you will be doing it a lot! Study your style guide and learn how to write a correct reference as soon as you start your degree. You don’t want to lose easy marks on incorrect referencing because you will literally want to kick yourself if you graduate 2 marks away from the next classification.
9. Form some good habits.
This is a very big one. Please try to start this now rather than later on. Start as you mean to go on and get organised. Some good habits for beginners could be to wash your dishes as soon as you’ve finished eating, do a piece of work as soon as you get it, and leave a glass of water in the fridge for yourself to drink after you get in from a night out. Take the time to learn what is important for you and prioritise it. For instance, if you like to exercise, make a good habit of doing it regularly. As a child, you make a routine to get washed and dressed in the morning and to change into your pyjamas in the night. As a fresher, you can easily make a new routine and learn to stick to it. It won’t happen overnight, but if you get these new things into your routine in your first year, you will thank yourself so much later on. If I had followed this advice – especially relating to my studies – I would not have been presented with the gift of a “Get Shit Done” mug and the accompanying pamphlet of motivating quotes from my parents at my final year Christmas break.
10. When you’re in a lecture, just write/type.
This was the best piece of advice I was given by one of my lecturers. The choice is yours – you can either stare at a blank page for hours on end or freewrite. When you’re given a new piece of work, the first thing you should do is throw absolutely all of your ideas down on a piece of paper and keep writing. Scribble away for as long as you need to. It is a fantastic starting point to get everything out of your head and onto paper. This will eventually take shape in editing, and you will prove to yourself that you have a whole lot of something and not nothing. This advice helped me to get a much quicker start on different projects.
11. Keep in touch with your friends back home.
This is one of my biggest regrets from my first year. I lost a really good friend of mine because I was foolish enough to underestimate how important our friendship was. Once we got caught up in university life, she got fed up with me making less effort, and now we don’t even speak. I got tied up in my new life and I jeopardised my old relationships, which I now realise was wrong and quite naive. New friends are silver, but old friends are gold! You grew up together, they know you best, and you’ll have each other to rely on when you go back home. Don’t neglect your friends from home, because you’ll truly miss them if they give up on you.
12. Try not to get involved with housemate drama.
“Don’t put your shovel where there ain’t no shit.” This is the advice my Granddad gave to my mum and then she gave to me. Please use it. If your housemates want to fight over who bought the last lot of washing up liquid, who is taking the bins out or why their hairdryer has gone missing just leave them to it. Whatever you do, do not take sides. Do not send passive-aggressive messages other people. You are so much more mature and dignified than that. Make sure you’re doing your bit with housework and the like, then wait for it all to blow over. If you want, you can buy a 90p bottle of washing up liquid, take a bin bag out on your way to uni in the morning and find the hairdryer that will probably be underneath that heap of dirty clothes in the corner of their room. It is all usually old news within a fortnight, and if you don’t get involved you won’t have to live with the embarrassing regret that you lost your temper on a friend over a mucky plate.
13. Make use of the careers service during and after you’ve got your degree.
I’m bringing this up now because the careers service lecture is usually the one with the lowest attendance. Whether you’re not going because you think you already know what you want to do and how to get there or you don’t think there’s any point because you’ve no clue what you want to do, just go. Again, you won’t know what you’re going to learn or who you will meet. Often, amongst lots of other great advice, they give you really useful websites to visit – including their own – which I really appreciated and used to find opportunities for work experience, part-time work and then graduate jobs later on.
14. Be brave when new opportunities arise.
You are fantastic, so get out there and show everyone your kindness and uniqueness! When you truly be yourself, you open up opportunities to meet likeminded people and enjoy yourself. Go and embrace your independence, because this is the very beginning of the rest of your life – it’s exciting! Even if you have to force yourself, you should go to those society meetings, accept that invite for a night out, and get out of bed for your 9am Monday lecture. It is not always going to be easy, but smooth seas don’t make skilled sailors!
15. Finally, and most importantly, take care of yourself.
Self-care is so important, especially when you’re alone at uni and away from home. There are books available to help you, and plenty of articles online. Go out there and check it out. Going to university can be quite a shock to the system. Your first few weeks are a hurricane of meeting new people in halls and on your course, living in a new area, probably living alone for the first time ever, and balancing your studies, sleep, and social life. It is important that you take the time every now and again to do something nice for yourself and relax. A good friend once told me, “You can’t pour from an empty jug” and she is so right. Taking time for yourself is underrated – it takes 20 minutes to go for a walk or sit with a book in the bath with salts and lavender candles. In the long run, you’ll thank yourself for it.