Surviving and Enjoying the First Year

Freedom, new friends and of course some studying...making sure you get through it and have a great time

You may be feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety at the prospect of starting university. If youíre living away from home for the first time donít worry about not knowing where the nearest corner shop is or whether youíll like your room. The other new starters are in the same situation as you, so take comfort in this fact and look to the positives: freedom, new friends, studying what youíre interested in, and well, more freedom.

This year could well turn out to be one of the best youíve ever experienced, youíll form new and exciting bonds with people, have countless adventures and most of all youíll feel deeply satisfied at knowing you can fend for yourself. The tips below might help you along in the beginning.

The First Few Weeks

If youíve moved into a new area, find out where your nearest GP, supermarket, post office and corner shop are in the first few days.

Keep all correspondence you are sent relating to you degree, student loan, tenancy agreement, etc in a safe easy to find place, you never know when you may need these.

Join clubs and societies to make friends. Also, simply by going out and socialising in the evenings youíre bound to meet people. Check out the Student Union bar and other Uni events.

Tempting as it may be try not to spend your entire student loan at the beginning of your course by going out every night. You can save money by using your Student Union card to get into places. Think of cheap activities; a bottle of wine and a DVD round yours, house parties, or scout events listings for free things to do.

Exchange numbers or email addresses with a few people in your class so you can get notes if you miss a lecture. Find out whether there are handouts available, or whether the lectures are available online.

Be disciplined about your study time. As boring as it sounds, it makes sense to dedicate a little time to your coursework/studying right from the beginning. Cramming it all in on the eve of exam day means a stressful sleepless night and not feeling your best the following day. If you find you start off on the right foot and then slowly let your social life take over every evening take a step back and plan your time. Perhaps you have a couple of free hours during the day at the weekend, or an evening when you donít go out like a Monday night? Halfway there

Donít let the winter blues get you. Itís cold, itís dark and you may be missing home, but remember why youíre here. Take up an indoors activity or some exercise to boost your Ďhappy hormonesí. Avoid catching colds and missing mumís homemade soup by taking Vitamin C tablets to aid your immune system, and eat well.

Look around for work experience. Your Uni may have a list of employers willing to take on students for short periods of time. This might be especially useful if youíre undecided about your career path. There may volunteering opportunities you might want to take part in and there are plenty of these around, just do a quick search online. Youíll be doing a good deed whilst adding to your CV.

The winter doesnít need to be dull. Sign up to bhangra dancing, street dancing or even cheerleading, check out Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden. If dance isnít your thing, there are fun activities aplenty in Londinium, from cookery classes to paintballing, origami lessons to learning how to DJ, have a look at Your Uni may also have extra-curricular activities.

You may begin to have the odd niggle with housemates now that the honeymoon period is over. If there are issues over cleanliness, bill paying, or guests staying over talk them through before they escalate. If itís simply a question of compatibility donít forget youíre halfway through the year already and youíll be able to move soon.

Donít be disappointed if some of the friendships you made in your first few weeks havenít stood the test of time. In the beginning people are meeting each other and finding their feet, itís later on that the real friendships start to form.

If money is starting to run out, make use of the student financial advisor, they can help you with your loan and even with budgeting.

Be organised about bill paying. Get a folder or ring binder and keep all the bills together, especially if youíre sharing with others. Scribble down the dates on which youíve paid on each bill to avoid confusion, and any reference numbers youíre given in case you need to query them with the utility company.

If youíre disappointed with your first set of marks fear not, its early days. Speak to your tutor if you are concerned, and try and set aside some extra time for revising if needed, i.e. go out an hour later on Saturday night.Towards the end

Exam time is around the corner; make sure you get plenty of rest so you feel alert. If youíre having trouble sleeping do some physical exercise. Certain foods are known to boost your memory: spinach, broccoli, apples, and fish.

If youíre concerned about having to look for new accommodation next term donít be, you managed last time, so thereís no reason you wonít do it again! Start looking a couple of months in advance to get an idea of how much youíll be paying, and sit down and speak to your potential flatmates about it. Your Uni might also have an advisory service to help you.

Look for summer jobs to supplement your loan in the Evening Standard and Loot newspapers, register with temping agencies and hand your CV into shops youíd like to work in. Alternatively you might want to travel or volunteer abroad for a couple of months. There is a wealth of possibilities available to you before September rolls around again and itís back to Uni time, except this time youíll be a little wiser.

Written by Leila Hawkins