Going to university can be a daunting experience, and living away from home for the first time is both a blessing and a curse.
Luckily, for most of us, our first year in higher education doesn’t count towards our overall degree qualification, meaning Freshers’ Week is usually a blaze of partying and glory, swiftly followed by the harsh reality of second and third year.
However, just because first year doesn’t count, it doesn’t mean it has to be a year wasted. There are plenty of things to keep you occupied at university that don’t involve questionable decisions, sticky nightclubs, and greasy kebabs.
Here is a list of five things you really ought to look at doing in first year before your life descends into a cycle of late-night library sessions and early-morning lectures:
1) Cook a flat meal
Leaving behind the joys of a mother’s cooking is one of the worst parts about going to university and, of course, the temptation upon arriving in halls as a fresher is simply to live off takeaway Dominos and microwave meals.
However, in the long run, both your bank balance and your waistline will struggle to maintain this sort of lifestyle – and the pots and pans will have to eventually come out.
A major problem I found whilst living in halls, however, was that I was constantly throwing away food that had passed its sell-by date. Cooking as a flat together is the perfect solution to this issue, and is also a great way of bonding with your flatmates that doesn’t involve awkward confessions and downing shots. Try and aim to cook together at least once a week, or take it in turns to make a meal for everyone in the flat.
2) Join a society
A common theme among students, particularly first years, is the idea that as a fresher, you are contractually obliged to spend the majority of the year either hungover in bed – or just blind drunk.
Whilst I admit there were numerous occasions when this was the case during my first year, I’m so glad I actually got up off my backside and got involved with some societies throughout the course of the year.
University is such a diverse and exciting place, there’s bound to be something that takes your interest. Societies are first and foremost a place to meet people – who aren’t on your course – and to socialise and have fun. However, they can also be a great way of networking and gaining skills that might just help you get a job after you graduate, so it’s well-worth getting involved straight away.
3) Play some sport
Playing sport at university is another one of those things that probably couldn’t seem less appealing when you’re lying in bed feeling like your head might explode at any minute – but also another one of those things you won’t regret if you do decide to get involved.
The great thing about university sport is that your sporting prowess has absolutely no bearing on your ability to participate. Whilst university-level sport can be expensive and appear daunting at times, intramural sport is open to anyone, is cheap to take part in, and is a great way of making sure you don’t pile-on-the-pounds during your first year away from home.
4) Explore your surroundings
One of the greatest things about going to university is the opportunity to explore a completely new place which, as someone who has lived in the same town all their life, I was desperate to do.
If you’re going to a campus university, it can be too easy to stay within its confines, particularly when everything you could ever need is within walking distance. Nevertheless, it’s important to take the time to get to know your town/city, even if this is only so you can find your way back to halls after a night out.
If you’re willing to go even further afield, there’s a whole host of things to see and do. One of the best days I had last year was taking the train with a group of friends to Newton Abbott and winding up in an absolute gem of a pub I never would have otherwise visited. University life is about far more than just your campus and the city it is located in.
5) Visit another university
Every university is a totally different experience. Some are self-contained campuses, whilst others are dotted across sprawling metropolises. Therefore, visiting another university during your first year is something every student should do. Seeing the contrast between different universities is an enlightening experience, and one that can easily be combined with visiting old school friends.
In my first year, a group of around seven of us all converged on one university and I can honestly say it was one of the best weekends of first year. However, it is advisable to book trains early in advance to save money on fares, and make sure your friend and their housemates are aware you are coming in advance – or they might be in for a big surprise.