Wednesday, 24 September 2014

♥ How To: Settle into Student Life

By now, those of you who have started first year are over the excitement of freshers week and you're into the dull routine of lecture, seminar, lecture, seminar. I guess the move to university is like most other things in life - it's not at all what you expect. Chances are you're loving the independence and be away from home for the first time, but hating that you have to cook and clean for yourself. It's a time when you're going through a lot of 'firsts' and I can assure you it'll be exciting and hard from the get go but it does get easier. You'll settle in a dream and will be hesitant to leave in December!

I thought I'd put together a little post that brings together the three things I struggled with most, and ideas on how to get through the annoying bits or how to avoid any disasters.

Living with strangers and making friends:
Unless you're off to university with a massive bunch of friends, it's so unlikely that you'll know anybody that you live with, or anybody that you have to sit with in contact time at university. Though I had met my best friend at our interview stage, back in February before we started I only knew two other people going to the same university. I lived with four girls that we're all doing different courses and two boys whom I barely ever saw. It ended up being only the five of us after Easter, and so I was lucky that instead of struggling to build relationships with seven other people, I had to only did it with four. It was a shame in a sense - it narrowed down the people I knew, but luckily had those I already knew to fall back on. It was such a relief when Grace invited me to her flat. The layout of the halls were different and it was almost two in one. So I was suddenly exposed to over ten people I ended up seeing all the time, and this year I live with Grace and two of her old flatmates!
You'll also find friends within your course. While two of my best friends are my housemates and coursemates (almost, one lecture a week with them counts, right) I still had to find my feet within the entire course group at first. I don't really have any tips on how to make friends, other than to be friendly and chatty and find a common ground with those you live with. It's funny how much you'll have in common with people you'd never thought you'd get on with. So in the beginning of the year try to expand friendship groups and get to know as many people as you can - through friends in different flats, your course and through societies!

Money and making the loan last:
Due to having a single dad, I was lucky in that I had a loan that I could just about survive on. Many people aren't that fortunate and end up in an overdraft straight away. So being careful with your loan and knowing all your incomings and outgoings is absolutely vital. You're likely to be lumped with unexpected charges or outgoings so it's important to budget and put a little money away into a different account for a time when you really do need it. You'll probably want to go out and buy all your new winter clothes but you need to make sure you're going to be able to survive until January, when your next sum will come through. I wrote a really popular post on budgeting which you can find here, and it's definitely worth reading.

Getting your assignments done:
Luckily, I avoided exams altogether and chose a university that bases your degree on 'coursework'. This was perfect for me as I always struggle and panic in exams and with a creative degree, it would be pretty stupid to have exams anyway! Even with the lack of exams, first year was a shock.You have a lot of reading and extra work to do every week and lectures can really baffle you sometimes. I find it best to write up notes for each lecture while I'm in them and then go through them afterwards too, so I can note or highlight anything I don't quite understand. Then, when you're in a smaller seminar group with the module leader, when they ask questions you know exactly what you didn't understand...
These notes will then help when you choose what to do your assignments on. Chances are your lecturers would have included vital quotes or theorists within each weeks topic and if you were noting down important stuff and their references you know exactly where to find them - it saves you that bit of time you'd spend tracking down the right lecture notes online.
It's also really important to give yourself enough time to do every assignment, come January I will have three modules worth of work to hand in, and probably two pieces of work per module, so it's crucial I'm on top of it all. You're likely to be given loads of guidance in your first year on how to write essays and how to reference correctly, so you won't be thrown into the deep end... However, having ten thousand words worth of work to hand in isn't something you can leave until the night before and will take a few weeks to get done. When assignments are first mentioned, go home and start gathering references, notes and plan out each essay or piece of work!

I know it's all a lot to take in but I really struggled with my first year and getting into the swing of things. You're probably doing great but if you do feel like you can't cope there are tons of options available. Phone Mum or Dad, get in contact with your personal tutor if your university has assigned you one, students from the years above will always be willing to point you in the right direction and there are specialists within your institution that are there for the times you don't think you're doing very well. It'll probably all be super easy to figure out though.

Hope it's all going well for you and if you have any concerns or questions at all, I'm right here!

Em x


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