Pointers for freshers (a nowhere near comprehensive guide)

A few weeks ago, I lost the title of ‘Fresher’. Second years will no longer have the legal standing to exclaim “down it, Fresher!”, during tedious small talk at the bar, and I’ll have to actually think of a reason as to why I chose English sometime within the next two years. Both of these are mindbogglingly colossal changes to my life as a student, something which I’m not sure I’ll be able to cope with.

Despite my predicament, I can now pretend that I too, am a wiser, more knowledgeable student. It will now be acceptable for me to drunkenly dictate to freshers which places are the best and which to avoid, (that pub with the police-tape around it might be in a sticky situation now, but give it two weeks and you too can enjoy the cheapest pint in Lincoln). That being said, some bits of the conveyed student life have been great. Some have been unexpected. Some have been an unfortunate learning experience.

So before I start treating this article as a place to confide in, let me attempt to tell you what to expect, and what may actually happen. Of course, everyone’s experience differs, so this haphazardly constructed guide may be of absolutely zero use to you.

Do your bloody work

And I don’t mean to sound like an arse, but it was easier than I expected. Before going to uni, everyone was saying how it’s the most difficult thing to do, and that the workload will be huge. That just wasn’t the case for me, and others on the course, because if you managed your work and started researching, you could handle three or four assignments at a time.Just in case you’ve already forgotten, I do English. While all my grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and occasional bit of written dialect may fool you otherwise, my course mostly consists of writing essays and trying to make rants look professional; essentially what I’m doing now, but against my will.

Hence, if you post a status complaining about how many hours you’ve spent in the library, and how many cans of Monster you’ve consumed, I’ll have very little sympathy for you. Yeah, the social side of uni is great, it prepares you for the real world more than any course or job can. But, people would kill to be at a university, and it’s kind of the reason for you being there. So just get your work done, then you can proceed to have ravenous banter with the lads, (I would say a cheeky Nandos, but you’re a student and on a budget here).

Broaden your social horizons

If I would’ve remained the same, stubborn person that I was in Sixth Form, uni would’ve been a series of awkward encounters and acts of passive aggression. Granted, I’m still not the most sociable of people, but my first year went better than I imagine it would, and I’d put that down to being slightly tolerant.

In halls, I was with four women and another man, all of who were worlds apart from the personality I believed I had. Granted, two of the ladies were also from the North, but neither cared for the likes of Royal Blood or Biffy Clyro, so that went downhill very quickly. 

I remember one of my initial thoughts when I began meeting everyone at uni for the first time, and I ran down my new flatmates in my head. The other lad was from Essex, a snapback and vest away from being a Southern stereotype. One lass was a fashion student, and cared very little for the repercussions her actions had on others. Another was a cheerleader from an unremarkable place in the middle of the country, and one of my fellow northerners was an emotional lady doing something based around childcare and psychology, which was pretty much a prerequisite for a teenage lass in my town. Subsequently, I thought to myself, “This is going to be a year of selfies, vanity and clubbing. And I know I’ll hate every minute of it.”

If you hadn’t already guessed by the earlier statements in this article, I was wrong, thankfully.

And how did I avoid an academic year of misery? I stopped being a dick.

Granted, here I am now writing a passive aggressive article about my flatmates, but it’s all necessary to make a point. Simply put, you deal with people; don’t take too much to heart, get to know these individuals you’ll be living with, and look over the small gripes you’ll develop rather than focusing on them.

Do new stuff

It’s all well and good doing what you’re expected to during your stay at university; good on you for studying, meeting new people and drinking. Granted, these aren’t worthy of singing a song through the uni village at midnight, letting everyone know that you’re socialising (good on you, simmer down mate), but regardless, it’s grand that you’re doing new things.

But, come on. Everyone’s doing that. Sitting in McDonalds in a suit at 4 in the morning? Yeah, that’s a night out pal, congratulations. Nicking a traffic cone and thinking you’re up there with the likes of Bonnie and Clyde? If I had a quid for every time I’ve said “simmer down” to someone…

But given that everyone, at least once at uni, is going to be that person who posts on Snapchat to let everyone know how much of a swell time they’re having, you need to do something else in order to convince yourself that you’re getting the most from the expected university experience.

For example, societies. These are great, and I joined two this year, the Rock Society and the Jamming Society, although the first is boring and the latter is full of less-than-sociable individuals. So, as you can only rely on yourself to be happy, I just did different things instead. And in addition, at least I tried. It’s not my fault that some societies are just a bit crap, there’s only so much rock music you can talk about before meetings devolve into half-arsed sessions of Guitar Hero, with one guy who insists “If you can play a song on expert, you can play it in real life.”

People are horrible

Remember the entire idea of broadening your social horizons? Bettering yourself as a social somebody? Well, I’m sorry to say, but don’t go overboard with the concept. 

During my many nights of standing awkwardly in a pub, drink grasped in my hand, I’ve made a few observations. I’ve seen fellow students at the height of intoxication, and in the pits of desperation, and regardless of their emotions, (and what you’re used to in your hometown), people have the potential to be absolute arses. 

Now, before you fret and ring UCAS, screaming down the phone to cancel your application, this definition varies wildly. An arse can be someone who you meet once in a smoking area, and invites you to a house party without following up on the matter. That makes him an arse. An arse can also be a guy (or lady) who is extraordinarily drunk and is after a scrap. That makes them a massive arse. 

The latter example is often a consequence of people’s transformation at uni. What’s that? Your still the exact same person that you always were? Alright pal, I’m sorry but everyone changes to some degree. Those who were a bit unsociable, like myself, become a bit more comfortable with meeting people, doing new things, and being an adult. As a general rule of thumb, those who are already good at being a sociable person, they tend to get a bit more confident, a bit too confident, resulting in the kind of big-headed ass-hattery that you thought you’d leave behind in year 11. 

But don’t fret. You can often spot these people from a mile away, the type who’ll knock your drink over, or the type who’ll barge into you, (because he’s part of the rugby society and that somehow makes it alright). And for every dick, there’s two decent people who become merry when drunk, and just want to be friendly with everyone, simultaneously. 

Watch yourself, but don’t let cautiousness get in the way of enjoying a night out.  

Do adult things

I could try and make an independent list solely on what constitutes adult things. As a really vague guideline, it involves fraying away from stuff that your mum might give you a guilt-trip inducing talk over, for example, here are a few things right off the top of my head:

  1. Get a shower, and show your face by 3 P.M: 

I mean, you’re of legal age to drink, is it really so hard to keep your personal hygiene up to scratch? Those jeans you’ve worn for two weeks straight don’t smell ‘fine’ by anyone’s definition mate. Keep them on for a week, tops, just in case. 

  1. Don’t blast music out at ungodly hours:

Sorry for nagging, but you managed just fine before coming to uni, didn’t you? These paper thin walls aren’t much solace for those with an early lecture and/or seminar, and everyone may not be as fond of endless 80’s pop as you are.

  1. Do your part:

If you leave that solidified pasta-bake out on the counter for over a week, I am going to contemplate binning it. I can only keep the flies at bay for so long, I am just one man, after all. 

Don’t be an arse and skip the bins, it is your turn, and if you didn’t want it to be this difficult, you should’ve done it earlier. Plus, if you do all your jobs, you can nag people to do theirs, and subsequently label them as lazy slackers. And nagging people is pretty great. 

  1. Budget everything:

I mean everything. Well, as much as possible. Everything would be very tricky, I guess. 

Here’s a quick run down of my ‘budgeting’. I got from SFE and a part time job, around £65 a week to spend, (after rent had been taken out). Considering I didn’t really need any supplies after the wonderful Freshers Fair, said currency was for food, and alcohol, and anything else I may need. 

As an average, this was sorted into the following vague categories:

Food: Around £20 a week (£30 with alcohol)

Toiletries: These were needed around once a month, and went in with the shop, averaging around £30 when included, so see above for the potential price. 

Piss-Ups: Turns out it’s cheaper to drink before you go out, so a night out can usually average around a tenner if you do it right. Have two of these a week and you’re sorted, splash out if you’ve saved elsewhere. 

Course Stuff: Mate, scour the internet and use your initiative. After the first half of the year, I didn’t pay for any materials. PDFs, printer-credit and the Library are so underrated. At the very worse, I forked out a tenner for some books, a tenner which was saved from the previous week. 

Washing: If you’re one of those posh people who insist that Febreze and a really good shower just aren’t good enough, you may have to spend some of your potential Jagerbombs on cleaning, (welcome to the real world, mate). If this is the case, I’d put a fiver aside just in case. 

So, let me break that down for you. After a big(ish) shop, two cheap nights out, some resourceful scouring of the internet, and a round of washing, I’d often be left with £10. Which would then go towards one of three things: Clothes shopping, (because working in retail has done something to me), Entertainment, (because Steam has great deals and I’m too lazy to work), or a better night out. 

Just don’t forget to treat yourself in these tightly-organised times. And preferably leave your bank card at the flat on a night out, otherwise you’ll go mental and broke at the same time. 

Yeah, turns out being an adult is quite the task. Who’d a thought it?

If you’ve made it this far, you probably won’t need a summary. But ah well, I’m here now. To ensure your survival as a student, just keep these few things in mind, all the time. Yes, all the time:

  1. Do your work, you’re not paying a few grand a year for the sake of it.
  1. Be sociable, and do things slightly out of your comfort zone. Preferably when intoxicated. 
  1. People can sometimes be dicks, so watch yourself.
  1. Be an adult. Or at least pretend, you’ll have to learn sooner or later. 

So, follow those rough guidelines, and you can do your part in both bettering yourself, and living up to a social stereotype. You can proclaim that you’ve survived these horrendous conditions as a student, and that you’ve also simultaneously done some really, really hard work. Really, it’s harder than Sixth Form, honestly. 

And if you do make a tit of yourself, just remember that it’ll make for a grand story or icebreaker one day.  

Photo Credit: ucluphotosoc via Compfight cc

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Currently attempting English at the University of Lincoln. I also apparently sound like I know what I'm on about...

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