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Surviving the First Year of Uni: Advice from a Student Like You

From the moment you receive the news that you’ve been accepted into university, you automatically envision what’s to come, and start mentally preparing for the adulting adventures that every parent’s told you about. You also believe that the next 3-4 years at university will be some long amazing chapters of your life. You and I both were half right.

Take it from me, a student who finished first-year months ago, and is still in shock that it’s already over: you are in for a roller coaster.

From my own personal experiences, I can’t describe first-year as a whole, but I’d rather split it into two terms.

First term…

The first uni term was amazing: full of excitement, new opportunities, environments and people. It was NEW everything. As much as that can sound exciting to someone who loves change, I also know that for someone who isn’t such a fan, it may sound nerve-racking…but fear not! When it’s freshers, there is a constant flow of positive energy and comfort knowing that everyone around you is in the same position as you – they don’t know what they are doing but they are figuring it out along the way, and ultimately want to have a good time.

It’s the process that every generation of first years go through, so enjoy it. To give you a head start here are three small tips for your first term:

  • Don't stress – whether you are worried about the friends you’ll make, the degree you’re doing or the accommodation, it’s all going to be okay! You’ll meet amazing people even if it takes a little while to find them. The support system at uni is always there because everyone knows what it’s like to be in your position and they will help, no doubt.
  • Have fun – step outside of your comfort zone, don’t hold back on diving into the new opportunities presented to you e.g. societies and university events/trips. Of course, that being said, if you know who you are and what you like then to be true to yourself, nobody can force you to do something that you don’t want to do. Wearing who you are like a proud badge will grant you the best-customised uni experience for YOU!
  • Don’t slack behind too much! – Everyone says first-year grades don’t count, and whilst that is true from most courses, you still need the bare minimum to pass through to second-year (i.e. 40%). Therefore, some effort in your work is still going to be needed and when you see those grades at the end of the year, you’ll be smiling. For me, I worked like a dog looking forward to a treat, even though that treat was nothing but my own excitement of doing well in something I’m passionate in. If you are the same, trust me the outcome of doing your best is a great feeling! Plus it sets you up for second-year.

Now for the second term...

…where to begin.

I came back after a long, beautiful Christmas holiday, and I think from all previous holidays us students have had, we all know how motivation can just evaporate into thin air. You desperately want that same energy you had a few months ago to return but the real education dippy downer hits you. After all of the effort you’ve put into settling in, you wake up and realise that you’re still in an educational prison. Even if it’s been great so far, this is just the usual student mindset that we seem to end up having. And so you ask, how to do I avoid/get out of this second term slump and make the whole first-year experience finish with a bang?

  • Regain motivation – if you begin to lose energy to go out and socialise or you feel that you didn’t in the first term but want to, the first and easy way is to be the planner. Ask your friends or even people you have been meaning to spend time with to do something with you e.g. coffee dates, nights out, cinema, bowling, game night etc. There’s always plenty to do! However, if you have lost the will to be productive then I recommend making checklists if you find happiness in ticking boxes. Use post-it notes, a calendar or a diary to get organised. Change the location, if that’s the place you like to relax and watch Netflix, get yourself out of there! Find what has worked for you in the past in similar situations and do it.
  • Be positive – it’s only that negative mindset that gets you into a slump. If you keep that freshers buzz the whole year, how can you not have fun?
  • Go home and reconnect – usually during second-term, people can begin to feel homesick, especially if Christmas was an amazing period for them. All you need to do is give your family and friends from home a phone call or a visit. Inviting them over is also great too! Just because you are at university, doesn’t mean you have to stay in the same city or place all the time, venture out. Second-term is the perfect time to do that, especially if you have some money left over from the first term that is free to spend. Although if you have exams then save your coin for exploring in the summer.

Which reminds me, use the financial mistakes you made in the first term to get this term right. If you also know you won’t be working as much in summer, save that last student loan for your summer holidays because you will need it, trust me. Money flies out your purse quicker than it takes for you to click the checkout button.

And finally…

I wish you all the most fun-packed first-year experiences. Really do enjoy it as it is the only year that offers you the most freedom in your time. Don’t waste it, live every second of it!

Advice from a student like you,

Maka Mutamiri

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