Sooooo it’s almost THAT time of the year again👀 – for some people, there’s the prospect of starting a new phase, for some it’s time to reconnect with a long-lost chapter of their life – everybody is feeling different yet all of you are starting anew. My dear freshers, this is for you.
First off, congratulations for making it this far – for passing high school, for getting accepted to university, for having the courage to devote yourself to a degree and an institution for 3-4 years. If nobody has told you this by now, I’m proud of you. This might be a time when you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused by the magnitude and intensity of emotions – intimidated, happy, anxious, excited, and everything in between. Let me just pause you there and affirm that almost every other fresher is feeling the same way and it’s 10000% okay. Here’s some advice from someone who’s sailed this boat before…
Here’s a task for my Instagram and TikTok savvy people- check out your university’s socials! It will give you a really good idea about student life and events at your university. Have a look at what societies are available and which ones you’d be interested in joining; if you can’t find any, you can even start your own. For Durham, we have @thedurhamstudent- go check it out on Tiktok, Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest for some awesome and informational student-led content about colleges, balls, formals, facility tours, etc. The more knowledge you take from these, the more confident you’ll be. Also, don’t forget to chat with some current students on Unibuddy and ask for any tips on starting your specific course.
This is your opportunity to make online friends and then actually get to meet them. Find freshers groups for your university – check your spam email folder because that’s where I found the link that Durham sent me for offer holders groups. If there’s nothing of this sort, use The Student Room to your advantage. Connect with other students in the applicant/offer-holder threads in Durham’s forum so you have a few known faces when you’re at the freshers’ events.
Mental health check
It’s okay to miss your loved ones, shed a few tears, cry a bucket of tears or not cry at all. Everybody else around you is probably away from home too, so you already have something to bond over! These feelings can last up to a month or even more, but if you think it’s hindering you from exploring your true potential and spreading your wings at uni, seek help. Approach your college’s welfare team or the university’s counselling service. There is always someone you can talk to so don’t be afraid to reach out. Samaritans and Nightline run free listening services too – just dial a number and rant! Plus, I probably don’t need to tell you this, but you can always Facetime whoever you’re missing.
Socially awkward butterflies
To all the people out there who are like me when I was a fresher – young, dumb, broke and socially awkward – I feel you. I didn’t find this at the time, but I’d highly recommend this podcast called ‘Nobody Panic’ on Spotify. These two women give you advice on how to start conversations (and keep them going without it getting awkward), and just be open to meeting new people in new social settings. I know it can be very difficult but try to attend as many events as you can (especially during freshers’ week) and get yourself out there. Don’t worry if you can’t – you can join societies, clubs and play sports to meet new people throughout your time at university.
Pro tip: bring a door stopper with you – you’ll realise how easy it makes initiating conversations with your hallmates 😉
Getting your finances in check is something you shouldn’t ignore or put off. It’s important to have in mind a weekly or monthly budget at uni and stick to it. Start by making a list of your potential expenditure – monthly rent (if you’re living in private accommodation), grocery shopping (for self-catered), night outs, books, shopping and miscellaneous (buying gifts for birthdays etc). Your expenditure could vary each month, but having an average would help you establish your monthly budget – here’s some information to help you figure out how much you might need as a student. After expenditure, check out the incoming money – loans, scholarships, bursaries, overdraft, salary from part-time jobs – and see if this is sufficient to take care of your expenditure. This will get easier over time but if you do this, you’re off to a good start!
The welcome and orientation webpage on the university’s website will list the formalities you have to complete once you formally accept your offer and before/after you arrive on campus. This will generally include online registration and enrolment, collecting your campus card, registering with a GP, seeking disability support (if applicable), collecting your BRP (for international students) etc. Check that list and make sure you’ve done everything you’re supposed to.
Yes, yes I know you’re here to study and some of you nerds might be looking to start reading your prescribed books. My initial suggestion would be to just chill and wait for the impending disaster that is Michaelmas term but if you really can’t wait, then you can find the reading list for your course on the library portal. You can always visit the Billy B, find your course books and flip through some of them.
Also, you don’t have to buy all your course books brand new – try to buy hand-me-downs as they’re much cheaper and even if they are an edition or two down, there usually isn’t much difference. If you’re not a fan of hard copies, almost all books are also available online for free via the library database I’ve linked above. I spent about £130 on buying books and ended up only actually using them 3-4 times because online copies are much more accessible plus you can find the latest versions for free.
This can be a lot to absorb in a short period so just take baby steps. You’ll eventually reach there and if you follow this advice, you’ll probably feel more ready to conquer the world. Take care, stay safe and have a blast <3