This post was written by an external contributor. Beth Thomas looks back on her time as a fresher and tells us the things she wished she had known…
Starting university is an incredibly exciting experience, but not one without its worries. The three years I spent at university were some of the best – I made lifelong friends, got to study my favourite subject, and was given opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to get elsewhere. But, if I could give any advice to my Fresher self, it would be the following…
Societies are a huge part of university life, so getting involved in one or two can really contribute to your experience. I didn’t bother joining societies in my first year, claiming that I didn’t have any established hobbies – I couldn’t play an instrument, hadn’t acted since my school nativity, and couldn’t play any sports. But the best thing about university societies is that you don’t need any experience. With hundreds of clubs and societies at every uni, there truly is something for everyone. Not only do they help you make friends, but also teach you valuable skills for when you apply for grad jobs in the future.
You don’t have to read everything
You might have already been given a reading list as long as your arm for your course – but don’t be alarmed. You don’t actually have to read everything on the list. After reading every book for every module (and then some) in my first year, I soon realised I could better use my time by researching the books and topics I actually enjoyed and intended writing about, instead of wasting time on books I knew I’d never pick up again. At the start of a talk in my second year of university, a tutor even told us to stop reading books if we didn’t enjoy them. Of course, it’s important to work hard at university. But you also have to remember to work wisely as well.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not best friends with your flatmates
Before I went to university, every advice article said the same thing: ‘You probably won’t like your flatmates’. ‘Nonsense’, I thought, envisioning my future flatmates as being something like the cast of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Flash forward three years later, and I’m good friends with only one of sixteen flatmates. This isn’t a bad thing – I got on well with the people I lived with in my first year, and the stories of nightmare flatmates were few and far between. I just made friends elsewhere, establishing close friendships with people on my course and in societies. So don’t be disheartened if your flatmates aren’t your kindred spirits. Chances are, you’ll make friends for life in other places.
Start looking for internships and work experience now
The only work experience I’d had before university was working for a fortnight in a bookshop, but that all changed in three years. By getting some work experience under your belt in your university years, you’ll really improve your chances of getting a job soon after you graduate. From executive positions in societies to volunteer teaching programmes, universities have a lot to offer in terms of ‘real world’ experience. So, get out there and start building up that CV.
Check your university’s policy on recording lectures
Before you go forking out £50 for a Dictaphone, check to see whether you’re allowed to record lectures yourself. One unfortunate boy in my lecture was called out in front of 200 people for recording the lecture, not knowing that this was against the university policy. Luckily, most lectures are recorded, and put online – always a life saver when it comes to revision. But, if this isn’t the case, double check before you start recording that lecture on Chekhov.
This is possibly the most important piece of advice. University is a fresh start, and one you can use to do all the things you’ve always wanted to do. Want to dye your hair pink? Sure. Join the orchestra? Go for it. Become an editor at the student newspaper? By all means. The best way to be yourself is to do the things that interest you, and with all the opportunities out there, there’s no better place to be you than at university.