How to navigate your way around university

student navigating the city

Worried about finding your way at university? Find out how other students have cracked it here

If you’re planning to move out and head off to uni soon, the idea of finding your way around and getting your bearings in a new place might be filling you with dread...

But that’s understandable; when you’re in a new city, everything will look alien and confusing at first. But everyone that has moved away for uni has been through the same thing, so we’ve gathered some pointers from TSR and current UEA students to help you stay on the right track - literally.

From hometown to big city

If you’re from a small town, the idea of moving to a big, unfamiliar city can feel daunting.

Whilst your favourite pub may no longer be a five-minute walk away, living in a new city is really exciting; you’ll get to mix with a much bigger range of people, and there’s always something going on nearby.

Getting out and exploring during Freshers Week will help you

get to grips with your city, whilst taking a few trips on the local public transport will help you suss out how it all works. You could even try using Google Street View to figure out nearby landmarks for easier navigation.

You also might be moving to a much smaller place than you're used to. If you've grown up in a city, relocating to a smaller area can mean adjusting to a new pace of life. But wherever you're coming from, getting out there and meeting new people will certainly help in your adjustment to your new neighbourhood. 

Try pushing yourself out of your comfort zone by attending local or university events in the first few weeks. As TSR member theonecenter says: “Going outside of your comfort zone will prove really crucial for you later on in life” – and they’re right! It’s always worth getting out there and exploring, even if it means taking one or two wrong turns for a few weeks.

small town to a big city moving out
mobile moving out

Getting to know your university as a first year

If your uni offers an orientation session, take it!

Often, there are general orientations as well as departmental orientations, so go to both if they’re available – many students actually claim they regret not taking a guided tour, so they’re definitely worth it. These will help you suss out where the most important things are (like the Student Union bar), whilst familiarising you with important places to look out for if you get really lost.

You could also explore your local area with your flatmates during Freshers Week to help you feel more at home. As TSR user MagicNMedicine says: “When you arrive in a new place for uni, you’re thrown together with lots of other new people who don’t know the city and are looking to make friends. You have a ready-made social network!”

getting to know your university
mobile getting to know uni

How different is it navigating around a campus uni to a city uni?

One benefit of a campus uni is that everything will be in walking-distance and within a contained student community, from your halls and lecture theatres to any facilities or shops you may need. TSR user Brouhaha says: “Campus unis have a safe atmosphere and are easy to get around, while city unis are livelier and often have more choice of where to go out – but it’s definitely easier to get lost!”

Going to a city uni may require a little more reliance on Google Maps at first, but this will also mean you’ll get to know the city you’re living in much quicker. Looking up routes ahead of time and doing trail-runs can also help you feel more confident – and it means you won’t show up late to your first lecture!

Whatever type of uni you go to, it's always worth checking out opportunities beyond the city or town that you live in to see what else is happening in the surrounding area. At UEA, for example, they encourage their students to head out to the local coast, or explore the famous Broads National Park where they can get involved in a range of outdoor activities - definitely worth the trip!

Campus and city university navigation DESKTOP
Campus and city navigating mobile

Familiarising yourself with the transport system

Checking out the bus times probably isn’t high on your list of uni priorities, but mastering the transport system will be super useful to you later down the line.

Whether you want to hop on a tram to ease your arms after a big supermarket shop, or need to hop on a bus to get to rowing practice on the other side of town, you should take a look - or even have a Google - about local stops and services.

TSR member rainbowdragon also suggests a trip to your city before making the big move may help you get up to speed: “I'd suggest visiting your new city a couple of times before you move, to help you get used to being in a city and the pace. Plus you can try and familiarise yourself with the public transport, so when you move there you'll know what you'll be doing”.

Make sure to look out for student discount - which is usually available on a lot of public transport in various cities - plus weekly, monthly or season tickets, which will save you a lot of money if you’re going to be a frequent user. 

Student on public transport desktop
Student on public transport mobile

Who can you turn to for help?

If trusty Google Maps leads you astray or you need to get to some obscure building that you just can’t find, it’s always worth asking another student to point you in the right direction. As TSR user rainbowdragon says, “There are always people you'll make friends with who'll help you into the flow of city life.”

If you're feeling lost, you could also pop into a uni building like a library, café or Student Union to ask a member of staff for help.

And if you know you’re not a natural navigator, you can look into your uni's buddy schemes to pair you up with an older student. Not only will they help you find your way around, they’ll also probably know all the lesser-known spots so you can really get to know your city.

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