Beginning life as a first-year student can feel daunting but I can assure you it will be one of the most exciting times of your lives. There are a million guides on the internet titled “A guide to being a fresher” detailing skills ranging from having the next 3-4 years of your life planned to the minute all the way to remember to not let your milk fester in the fridge! All of these are fantastic points that will be relevant to someone who reads them but ultimately, they all boil down to a few key skills which, if you take seriously, will free up your time and give you general peace of mind. And who doesn’t want more time to party, enjoy sporting activities and mould your new university life?
To provide some context I am a fourth year Computing Science student who moved to Stirling from Germany having been born in the UK. If that sounds complicated, you are not wrong! It certainly made things tricky having a differing residency and nationality. The point is, I have experienced my fair share of university life and come out the other side successfully. However, I couldn’t have done it without a few key skills I’ve picked up along the way.
I am sure you have had enough of people talking about money this and money that, “be careful not to spend it all”, “get your excel spreadsheets at the ready”, and I agree more experienced adults love to remind you of this at every chance they get. Yet, the unfortunate truth of the matter is they are not wrong. There is a reason it comes up so often in the discussion of transitioning to becoming a self-sustaining adult in first year.
Understand from day one what your financial position is. Have the conversation with your parents or guardians. Determine how much exactly you have available to spend. It is important to know this number because if you start spending like there is no tomorrow once you arrive at university you will quickly run out. And if you have spent your whole months budget by the first Friday where is the money for the next 3 weeks going to come from? Take it from someone who’s had exactly £8.23 in their bank account at one point, it is not a fun feeling!
Eventually if you work on budgeting and track what you spend it becomes second nature to spend on the right things. And who knows, if you get good at it you might even start saving! A concept not many students can say they have achieved.
It’s very easy to just throw yourself into anything and everything when starting university. Take it from me, in my first year I was doing Touch rugby on a Monday night, Ultimate Frisby on a Tuesday, Badminton Wednesday, pub quiz Thursday and the investment society Friday. All you want to do come the weekend is sleep for 48 hours straight!
The temptation to try new things is abundant and by all means do so, but also be careful you aren’t over subscribing and burning out. I will be the first to say that extracurricular activities are what make the university experience but at the end of the day you are here to get your degree so make sure you still can!
Get into the Outdoors (Exercise)
Here at Stirling, we have the Highlands right on our doorstep and fabulous hills even closer. We also have a brand new £20 million gym. You would be missing out if you didn’t at least once climb Dumyat as the view from the top is insane! My friends and I in first year made a habit of walking up every Saturday after a cooked English breakfast. Not only is this a fantastic way to socialise but it is also a great source of exercise.
The rumour that you put on weight at uni is not unfounded as let’s be honest most of us can’t cook so our food intake is sub-par to say the least, but you can mitigate this a bit by regularly engaging in exercise. There will be plenty of gym buffs out there, but this tip is more for those who don’t enjoy waking up at 5am every morning to pump iron for the gains bro. Walking or cycling are two great ways to get some exercise without really having to commit to anything. They also have the added benefit of saving you money which goes back to point number 1.
Getting into the outdoors is also fantastic for your mental health. The scenery surrounding Stirling is stunning and I am grateful to live here every day. So, get on out and explore!
I touched a bit on this in the previous point but there are infinite ways to socialise at university. Whether you are introverted or extroverted you will have no problem finding friends should you want to find them. The general rule of thumb is university is what you make of it. So, if you put even a little bit of effort into finding friends they will flock to you easily, but don’t expect them to come find you (although they still probably will).
Living in halls in first year is the best way to socialise with joining societies as a close second. Leave your door open frequently, spend time in the social spaces such as the kitchen rather than hiding away watching Netflix and you will have no problem with the social side of uni at all.
Societies are the ultimate social hack as you get to join something which you really enjoy doing and so does everyone else there. You immediately have something in common which is hard to come by. Some of my best friends have come from societies, so get joining!
Don’t be afraid to say no
Perhaps one of the most important skills which ties into all the above points, the ability to say no is your friend at university. Perhaps you are just not feeling being social and want to stay in and catch up on the latest shows, tell your friends no to that fifth night out on the town in a row. Don’t worry about whether you will be missing out as everyone will catch you up in the morning, and it probably wasn’t as fun as they make it sound anyway!
Saying no to drinking is also a brave choice. I like a pint as much as anyone else but some nights the budget just can’t handle it or perhaps, I have a meeting at 9 in the morning which I need to make. Do the responsible thing, say no when you need to, and thank yourself for it later. Same goes for eating out or takeaway. It can get expensive! Say no if you just can’t fit it in the budget.
Hopefully equipped with a few of these tips you will be all set for starting your first year. Always remember, this is your experience. You will make mistakes and you will learn along the way. That’s what makes the experience so incredible. Don’t overthink it and enjoy yourself!