What it's really like starting uni: a third year's perspective

Luke Salter is about to start his third year at the University of Sussex. He explains why starting uni isn't as scary as you think...

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Going to uni is a huge new experience and, as with any major life change, it can make you a bit nervous. I know all about getting the freshers fear - I've been there myself. But getting the butterflies about starting uni is something that any former fresher can relate to...and it's also something that you'll get over pretty quickly. Before you know it, you'll have forgotten you had any worries about uni in the first place.

Don't believe me?

I'm just about to start my third year at uni and I can't wait to get back there. But I can clearly remember those nervy feelings ahead of Freshers' Week.

Here, I'll go through some of the things that worried me before I started, as well as some of the common concerns that get talked about by the TSR community. I'll show you how, from my own uni experiences, what actually happened was that all those fears turned to excitement.

Fresher worry #1: it's all going to feel really awkward

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Yes, there were some awkward moments in the first few days at university. But I wasn't alone in this, and it wasn't even a big deal.

The classic cliche about starting uni is that 'everyone is in the same boat'. As with most cliches, this one is actually true. Every fresher rocks up to uni knowing absolutely no-one. It's the one thing that every single new student has in common with each other: everyone is meeting for the very first time!

Make that your starting point. Remind yourself that, no matter how easy the conversations seems between two freshers, the reality is that they met each other for the very first time about 30 seconds ago. Start talking to people and you will have the same experience. You'll quickly find more things in common with the people you talk to, and the awkwardness will drift away.

Meeting lots of new people with different personalities and interests is actually really fun, so mix in as much as you can.

If you're not going to be living on campus or in halls, some extra advice would be to 'get your feet wet' before you start lectures. Find the freshers events going on around campus and locally and get involved with as many as you can. Turning up solo is no big deal, just get talking and you'll quickly make new friends.

For everything you'll ever need to know about Freshers, check out our Freshers' 2017 Guide!

Fresher worry #2: people won't accept me as me

Lots of people worry themselves about this, thinking that they're going to have to put on an act or change their personality in order to fit in.

A really common concern is around drinking. The thought that everyone is going to be hammering the booze non-stop can be intimidating for those who don't want to drink much (or, indeed, at all).

And, yep, the hard-drinking student does exist. But they're not the only type of person at uni - and even those party animals do other stuff as well.

Boozy nights are one part of university and a part that lots of people find fun. Once you're there, you might even find them fun, too.

But if you don't, no-one is going to be fussed. Whatever you're into, whatever constitutes a good time for you, you're going to find lots of other people who feel just the same way.

Fresher worry #3: I'm going to get lonely

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This is a pretty natural and common concern; after all a lot of people are moving away from home for the first time.

A good way to keep any homesickness in check is to make sure you don't completely sever all ties with those you know best: your close friends and family.

Want more advice? We have all the uni life hacks! Check 'em out!

It's a pretty bad idea to immediately drop everyone just because you're now a fresher, and keeping in touch with people close to you will help you with any times you feel alone or insecure in your new surroundings.

Feeling at home is also easier if you make your accommodation feel homely. After all, this is your domain for the year. Bring along some home comforts, pack it with things to keep you entertained when you're not studying or partying and get some pictures of family or holidays to put around the place.

Fresher worry #4: the course will be mega-difficult

Whatever course you're taking, the work isn't going to be easy. But you're used to that. You've just come out the other side of two years of solid study at school or college, and you did well enough there that you've now got a place at uni. If you weren't able to do the work, you wouldn't be on the course.

The good news is, for many courses, the first year is about finding your feet and getting your head around your course. You can use your fresher year to settle into uni and a new way of working. Universities are packed with student support: from online resources to cavernous libraries to support classes.

If you ever feel like you're struggling with the course, the very best advice is to talk to someone. Universities are set up to give help to those who need it. By talking to someone at the outset, you can prevent a much bigger problem from arising when it comes to exam time.

Fresher worry #5: I won't have time outside of studying to have a life

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Your course will certainly keep you busy at uni, but there's one simple truth. Once you've graduated, you will never have as much free time again.

Use that time to do the things that interest you - and if you really can't find any time, take a look at how hard you are working yourself. There will be times when you will have to stay in and work to meet a deadline or to revise for an upcoming exam. But you can also make time to get out and enjoy yourself.

Get all your summery goodness for Summer 2017 here!

The bottom line

If there's just one thing you take away from this article, please make it this. Don't stress!

Your time at uni is what you make it. Study hard and make the most of the opportunities you will have there. You may have some minor setbacks along the way but that's just how life is. You'll soon realise those setbacks won't be the things you were worrying about before going to university.

Plus, freshers' week events are brilliant.

Already a student yourself? Add your own advice for freshers below.

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