school, university, tips, advice, freshers

location, notting hill, london

For the past two years I’ve done a “back to school” survival guide – however, usually, my survival guides are totally aimed at everyone en route back to secondary school. Why? Well, school is a tough time. I would go into every school year with a plan of action around how I was going to totally transform with myself (and I know I wasn’t the only one), it was a time filled with a lot of insecurity and a whole lot of learning. I always say that if blogs/YouTube channels were really a thing at the time, I would have appreciated these as good sources to hear from relateable people about their experiences and how they dealt with different things. So – as an ode to my younger self, I always love to reflect once a year I write up these posts. This year, I decided to step it up just a notch, and come out with a freshers’ edition! Whether you’re just starting uni, or reminiscing, here is my freshers’ survival guide…

How to save hundreds of $ on textbooks…
In my first year of university I spent at least a few hundreds buying books that are now collecting dust on top of my wardrobe at home. Sure, they were useful to learn from, but I also learned very quickly that they weren’t at all worth the money. So, in my second year of university, I went for the first tip I’ll share: I bought second hand. Some of the textbooks I bought already had scribbles in them, some weren’t in the best shape, but man, I saved over 50% of the costs so it was totally worth it and totally all that I needed. Now in my final year of university, I spent little to nothing on textbooks. I took everything I needed from the library – and whilst you’re asked to return books (I think) after two weeks, I realised that I could just keep renewing them. Whenever my time was up, I’d renew my book, and just continue that in cycles until either the term or the year was over. The only downside to this is that i) you have to be one of the first to get the books (they’ll maybe have around 20ish copies for your whole module group and well, you snooze you lose) and ii) you can’t actually scribble and make your own notes in the books themselves, and I’m a scribbler. However, what I did find is that I could write very lightly in pencil and just rub it out in the end, to easily fulfill my scribbler desires.

What to weigh up when choosing your halls
Most people choose to move out into university halls for their first year. The benefit of this is that i) it’s way easier to meet people and make friends, as everyone in halls is so eager to do so, ii) you get a little bit of independence for the first time (I know it sounds silly but the first time I used the washing machine – I got it wrong) and iii) halls are usually subsidized in a way that they’re way cheaper than renting outside (and in London where I studied this helps a lot). It’s definitely not a must to move out into halls, and you have to do what’s best for you, but for me it was 100% the right choice. When it came to choosing my halls, I wanted the perfect balance of: i) cosey (my halls had ~200 people, there was another hall I considered but it was way too humongous and reminded me of a hotel), ii) tun up / social (self explanatory) but still… iii) studious (eventually you need to buckle down and do some work and I wanted to live with people that understood the balance). I would spend most of my days in the lead up to university looking up halls (and alumni, and people already at the university… and stalking them all on Facebook)I also went to the same university of my older brother so he was able to advise me well on what hall to pick and luckily I got my first pick!

Why your first friends probably won’t be your good friends
My first friends at university were two girls I had met during my hall’s first-night-predrinks. I was used to pretty eventful nights out with my girls from home (it’s always a good night with them), so essentially during predrinks I was on the look out for whoever seemed to be be the most up for having a really good night without holding back. We all ended up chatting away at predrinks, and walking to the club together (although, admittedly, getting split up inside the club – more on this in the next point), exchanged numbers and from then on we relied on each other as bestiez. We’d eat dinner together, walk to class together etc. Although they were lovely girls, there’s a lot more than that which comes into forming the basis of a solid friendship. It’s a relationship after all – you want to find people you can bond with and that you feel you “click” with, and you’re unlikely to find that in the first few people you meet (I literally know about 5% of people that have in uni). After a little while it started to get me down, I felt like I just hadn’t found any good friends yet and coupled with missing home and missing my girls from home, it was the first time I had started to really feel unhappy since going to uni. Anyhow – everything takes time. I think it was on another night out that I ended up meeting a girl from my halls that I became super close to in my first year of uni, and through her I met another group of guys that essentially became my first year “batch”. Circles evolve and change over the years – you also form bonds with people in your classes, people from societies (I met a lot of great people at ACS which is quite typical), and people from other unis through events and friends – you’re essentially always meeting new people!

The importance of who you go out with on a night out
I’ve mentioned this before – but it’s because I think it’s so important to reiterate. I used to go to a club and I was that girl that would somehow end up wandering away. I don’t even know how I’d do it – maybe I’d go to the toilet and forget where I started. Go to the bar and get distracted. I’d never ask my friends to “come” with me anywhere, I’d just go, and find out later that I was lost. Because I was typically in a good mood, with plentiful beverage, I didn’t really mind at all. But, to be honest, it was an annoying habit. That all being said, whether I was lost, or a friend was lost, I was used to us all coming together at the end of a night out, or at least knowing what everyone was up to before we left the club, I wasn’t used to just waking up and wondering what happened to all of my friends. There was one night out I went on during university, where nobody kept track of anyone else. When I asked one of the girls I went with the next day how she had found the night, she didn’t even realise I hadn’t gone home with them – and whilst everything was okay… that would not have always necessarily been the case. I learned a big lesson that day – go out with people you can rely on, and this is especially directed at the ladies!

Remember what’s important…
I’m not telling you to spend the whole of your first year in the library (although, at some point, probably second and third year, you’ll be very well acquainted); universities seem to understand this too as most people’s unis don’t even count first year in their final grade (mine counted for a small amount of my final degree). However, what I am saying is that amongst all the fun and new experiences, there’s only so much f*cking around you can maintain. In my first year of university I still took the time to apply to internships (I did two in my first year), which helped me get a grad job (one falls into the other), and I also sleep, eat and breathed the library once the Easter period rolled around and exams peeked their head (I had err… a lot of catching up to do). So amongst all the fun and games, that’s something to keep in mind – it’ll avoid you a lot of future hassle.

To everyone going to into uni – best of luck! It’s one of the best times of your life (usually), so just enjoy it!

  1. Beautiful write up and extremely detailed.
    I wish I started reading your survival guides on time, it would have been better as I too spent tons of money on books..

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