Students explain what the first week at university is really like

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Discover what awaits you...

As your parents' car recedes into the distance, you look down at your scattered bags and possessions. And then it hits you that the time has finally come. It's your first day at university.

But what comes next? When you've never been to uni outside of an open day, it's pretty hard to imagine what life as a student is really like. So, we caught up with three uni veterans to get their take on the first week of university. Here's what they had to say.

student being attacked by seagull

"You don’t have to go out every single night"

Summer studied English literature at the University of Sussex.

Before I got to uni, my expectations were that I would spend autumn evenings hanging out in the campus coffee shop with a book and some girlfriends, in between 6am ragers. I also told myself I would finally get into a regular, weeks-in-advance revision and study plan, ha.

In reality, most evenings were spent hanging out with my housemates, almost all European and all male, plus friends who would swing by to watch movies and Family Guy. I went to a couple big Freshers events and skipped the rest, and I don’t feel like I missed out by not going to every single one.

They’re definitely fun and a good way to make friends but they’re not essential and can often be pretty pricey (though my housemate did meet his current girlfriend in the queue at a Freshers pier party). I recommend going to society welcome events, checking out the on-campus bars, meeting your block and playing drinking games with your housemates to gauge who’s going to be sound and who’s going to play Silent Night on a trombone at 4am...

On my third day I was walking to a welcome event and went to take a photo of the campus. By 'happy' accident, as I took the photo a seagull attacked a student! I submitted the photo to the uni newspaper and they published it alongside my pun-heavy letter. Turns out he lived in my block, saw the photo and we laughed about it three months later when we met.

Everyone hears stories of some student who went to every event and didn’t sleep for 53 hours; you might feel like you’re missing out, or that everyone is at some party you haven’t been invited to. They’re all new too and are most likely watching Netflix and cooking pasta. Pick some events that interest you, but you don’t have to go out every single night and you don’t have to feel strange for not doing so.

student having a party

"Don't be surprised to see cartoon characters walking around"

Lee studied Film and English Studies at the University of East Anglia (UEA)

My first week at uni was a little bit different from most. I chose to live at home, and commute in as I wasn’t all that far away. I remember being excited to start classes, but really confused as to where to find them. I’ve always tried to locate buildings BEFORE classes start since then.

I think the best thing about the week was the events and stalls that were put in place; a ton of freebies that you should hold onto for the rest of the year. Except for the free food – get that in you ASAP. If your university is anything like mine then don’t be surprised to see cartoon characters walking around offering promotional incentives (I think I hugged Pikachu...)

Freshers Week is especially busy, with a lot of wide eyed newbies walking around. Remember you’re not alone, and people are around to help you. That said, be careful who you shake hands with as freshers flu is a real thing and you have a solid 80% of contracting it within your first few weeks (this statistic is not supported by the NHS). Have tissues, orange juice, soup, and cold and flu tablets at the ready!

club with purple lights

"Go to at least one Freshers event with your house"

Hannah studied English literature at the University of Sussex.

I arrived at university aged 20, having gone clubbing five times in my life. One of my biggest expectations was that that number would dramatically change in a short space of time. Another of my expectations was that everyone would be hooking up all the time.

There was a huge Big Top party put on (that was DJ-ed by someone from Game of Thrones?!) that my 11 new housemates and I weren’t going to attend. Instead we planned to play card games and 'never-have-I-ever' to get to know each other...but you know what? You will be having nights like that throughout university. The nights put on just for your year won’t be so frequent. My advice is to go to at least one Freshers event with your house. Let some of your first memories be screaming Let It Go alongside thousands of students with Hodor DJ-ing.

One of us ended up in the medic’s tent throwing up for an hour and was taken home by a housemate, who later returned, and two of us lacked enough judgement to consider the awkwardness created by hooking up with each other. No one else hooked up with anyone in Freshers and we all laughed about the amount of sex we didn’t have, so that expectation of uni life was immediately broken.

Some of my favourite memories are from after nights out. One housemate tried to drink tea while lying on the floor and spilt it all over his face and up his nostrils, ensuing a fit of laughter from everyone as he spluttered and tried to blame me for putting the tea the wrong way?!

One tip for freshers: most of you will pretty much only buy alcohol during your first week. Don’t. At least also buy some pizzas and teabags for after a night out. Even for those of you who will fall asleep before the pizza’s cooked, you’ll be grateful for something to eat when you wake up! That is if your new housemates haven’t decided that by falling asleep you have forfeited your slice...

Watch more videos about student life

Our vloggers are sharing their experiences of student life direct from the campus. In this video playlist, we've collected their vlogs about first year accommodation, to help you get an idea of what it's like when you first start.

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