Heading to uni this autumn? Take some advice from those who've already been
Freshers Week can seem like a scary time, so we've asked the TSR community to pass on some tips they'd give new freshers, and this is what they came up with.
Moving in & meeting new people
- Get to your new digs early. Otherwise it will take you days to unpack because you'll be really busy!
- Make sure you prop your door open while you're unpacking. That way, people can see you exist - it's a guaranteed way to meet people as they wander past.
- As soon as you've met one person, go around knocking on everyone's door in your block with them. You'll much likely be less nervous in a pair, and you can meet quite a few people together - why not organise your first house night out while you're at it?
- When you first arrive, unpack and make your room your own. Then, when you get tired of unpacking and meeting people, you have a refuge that feels less alien and more homely.
- Look out for people on your course. If you meet someone, exchange numbers and agree to go to the first few lectures together. It is easier to meet new people once you're already with someone. Even better, organise a trip to the uni bar after the first lecture with whoever wants to attend.
- Don't stop talking to random people just because freshers' week finishes. Keep going and keep meeting people. As everyone settles in they'll be much more relaxed and less like they are on best 'friend-making' behaviour...
Getting to know the uni
- Many unis publish freshers' week schedules on their websites or on the Students' Union website (you might also find people who know about them on TSR).
- It's normally a good idea to take a good walk and explore the university in your first few days; you can even invite along your new housemates too.
- Check out the obscure bits of uni: what famous or old buildings are there? Is there an art gallery or museum? Where are the best coffee shops or places to eat - and where is the swimming pool?
Societies and freshers fairs
- First off - enjoy the freshers experience!
- University is probably the best opportunity you will ever have to try new sports, games, hobbies and activities. These will never be so cheap and easily available again. Have a look around the stalls and see what takes your fancy.
- Most societies charge a small fee. You don't have to pay up front, although you may receive a small discount if you do. Ask about taster events and put your name down for the mailing list or the Facebook group.
- Try something different or unusual. Smaller societies are often grateful for members and will devote more effort to each member, making them a more rewarding experience. More obscure sports are often more willing to cater for beginners, whereas mainstream sports may require previous experience of playing at a high level; some big sports societies even insist on trials.
- Sign up for as many things as you fancy; until you try a few sessions, you won't know which societies are well run and which activities you will enjoy. A sensible number is 4-5 different activities. Try to make sure they don't all clash however!
- Make sure you have some cash on your first night for drinks in the bar, there may not be a cash machine close at hand.
- Have a few taxi numbers in your phone contacts, just in case you get lost, and any phone numbers for your new friends in case you get separated.
- Don't worry if you're a bit nervous about going out - it can be a scary time for any fresher because you're still getting to know people.
- Second and third year students are helpful people to approach for advice on which events to go to. They are also usually the people who are selling tickets for the different nights, so chat to them when you buy tickets.
- You can look at the different nights which are available on the uni notice boards. Most Students' Unions will send you info about freshers week before you arrive - if not check out their website. Tickets always sell out for the most popular events, so make sure you get them early!
- If you're in London, make sure you've got enough credit on your Oyster card. The amount of valuable drinking/dancing time lost by waiting for a whole group to top up is startling.
- If you're a first time drinker, you can check out TSR's alcohol guide here.
Money and budgeting
- Plan your budget for Freshers Week. Many people spend too much on alcohol and don't have much money left for other activities or for further on in the year. Planning in advance always helps.
- Work out what you have to spend each week - and stick to it. If you do over-spend, then make sure you have a lean week next week to make up for it.
- Christmas is expensive - parties, clothes, and pressies to buy. Keep a bit of money back for this.
- Beware of portable heaters - many gas heaters are not safe of you have them on all day, and have very little ventilation in the room.
- Look for cheaper versions of toiletries etc in Pound Shops. Quite often this stuff is bankrupt stock - there's nothing wrong with it, it's just going cheaper.
- Your ordinary uni student card will get you discounts in heaps of shops, restaurants etc. Always ask 'Is there a student discount'? You really don't need to buy an extra 'NUS Card' to get these discounts despite what your Students Union might tell you.
- Agree in advance what is and isn't communal food. Most kitchen groups treat milk, butter, washing up liquid and toilet roll as communal and simply take it in turns to buy them.
- Try to keep in a few tins of beans and tomatoes and the like: they're perfect for emergency meals.
- Eat together where possible... have a curry evening or a spaghetti bolognese and take it in turns with your neighbours to host it. It works out way cheaper than cooking for one, and if you host your meal and run out of cash for food later in the week, at least you know dinner is being provided by one of your housemates!
- Market stalls are usually far cheaper for buying vegetables than in a supermarket. Vegetables are considerably cheaper than meat. Try to use them as the basis for the majority of meals. This is not only frugal but also extremely healthy.
- If you can't share, cook more than you need and freeze some for another day. It saves money, both on food and on fuel used for cooking.
- Ready meals from supermarkets may look like the answer to eating without cooking. Just be aware that they are far more expensive than making it yourself - and usually full of nasty stuff like salt and saturated fat. A healthy diet they are not.
- Just because a book is on your reading list, doesn't mean you have to buy it! You can borrow from your university library, and only buy books you're specifically told to by your tutors. (But, even then, you can usually borrow these for the library.)
- Most books on your reading list (especially for arts/humanities/social science subjects) you will either read once, or read just a chapter from each book. Next week's reading will be a whole new list of books. This is why you shouldn't even think of buying them.
- If you really do need to buy specific books, then you do not need to buy them new! For some subjects books cost £100+. Your university bookshop, Amazon, Oxfam Books, Alibris or Abebooks will have cheap but quality secondhand copies.
- You can buy good copies of most uni text books 2nd hand - just make sure they are the right 'edition' (ie. published in the right year). If in doubt, get the most up to date one.
- There's safety in numbers, so try to stick with a group of people.
- Make sure you eat before you go out - even if its just a sandwich. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is never a good idea.
- Familiarise yourself with the new area before going out. There's nothing nice about being lost, in the dark, on your own!
- Save a number in your phone for your next of kin saved under ICE (in case of emergency). If something happens, the emergency services may look for it in order to gain a contact number.
- If you're in a club, never leave your drink unattended at any time.
- Never get into a car or taxi with anyone you don't trust.
- Being at uni you want to try 'new things'. Just be aware of what you are trying. People will tell you 'it' is 'really, really safe', but is it? Think carefully. Don't let your time at uni become stuffed up by addiction.
- All unis have a counselling service, and many have a Nightline/Helpline. If you are feeling depressed, talk to someone. Some people feel very homesick when they leave home for the first time - it's normal, but it can also make your first term at uni unhappy. Talk to other people about how you are feeling, and if you get very low, reach out for help from the uni.
Are you going to uni this year? Do you have any useful tips to share?