Starting university in March may seem a daunting prospect but here are 5 top tips to ensure you make the most of your first few days as a student.
1. Talk to everyone and anyone: Insecurity is a great leveller. This will never be more apparent to you than on your first day at university. In those first few heady days you will see things that you won’t ever have seen upon the elitist grounds of your school playground. You will see the flabby and the spotty treated with respect. You will see those who have pickled their hair into strange shapes, feted and charmed. You will find the short and the weedy courted and made much of.
You will even find that your fellow students are eager to befriend you!
In short, there is no such thing as rejection on your first day.
Act now! By the end of the first week, a new social hierarchy will have formed and the gap in the market to be best mates with that cool guy with the stripy trousers will have passed. Speak to anyone and everyone. Nobody will shun you; they will be grateful and grasp your friendliness with both hands.
Remember, it is far easier to gently “lose” some of the friends you make on your first few days, than to try and make new friends at a later date when groups have already formed.
2. Be aware that the social structure has changed: If you were the hunky class stud or the social queen of your school, get ready to feel uncomfortable. For here is where the social structure starts to shift and you may find yourself descending rather dramatically in its ranks. Wake up to this new reality. It won’t necessarily be the fashionably skinny girl in skinny jeans or the broad shouldered chap called Hugo that will be running the world of the future. The next Mark Zuckerberg, could be the puny fellow sitting in the corner on his own – that you think you’re too cool to speak to.
The fact of the matter is that at university, those who suffered a lowly status at school often come into their own, without the jocks and class clowns around to mock them. Everyone you meet will be intelligent, even if the guy running around the student union with a bag on his head and a tequila in each hand would suggest otherwise. Give them all a fair chance or risk getting left behind.
3. Join in: There will be a huge range of free or cheap student activities during Freshers Week. Most of them will involve copious quantities of alcohol and varying levels of inanity. Screw up your courage and get involved with as many of them as you can. If you stay in your halls of residence each night of your first week buried under a pile of books, you are not investing your time wisely. The enthusiasm for student events is short lived and intense and does not need to be maintained. In their first week, people will claim to have a passion for fencing and then spend the rest of their university life on their real hobbies: socialising and drinking. This is just about meeting new people – at the right time – while they’re vulnerable prey, and you, fox like creature that you are, can pick and choose. Your first week is that time and study can and should wait a week.
4. Don’t go home every weekend: If you are planning to travel home each weekend to see your old school friends or a boy/girlfriend, think again. It is only by taking the plunge and spending time socialising outside of your lectures and tutorials that you will get to make new friends.
And without those new friends you are destined to spent your whole time at university missing your old friends and not enjoying university life. Encourage your old friends and home town girl/boyfriend to visit you instead.
Introduce to them your new friends so that they stay a part of your future and don’t see them as a threat.
If you are living at home with your parents and travelling into university, try and hang out with those in a hall of residence – at least for each evening of that first week.
The price of not racking up huge debts by living at home is often paid for in missing out on the main point of university. More than an academic education, it is a chance to break away from your childhood, and all the assumptions family and friends have made about you – to find out who you really are. This is best done with a neutral audience of people who have no preconceptions about you and will not raise an eyebrow or snigger when you experiment with Buddhism.
5. Start living the life you want to have: Those who simply turn up to lectures and classes and have no further interaction with campus life will be missing out. Should you socialise with your peers you will discover people with lifestyles, religions, sexualities and ambitions that you may not have even considered as a possibility for yourself. Start considering them now. No options are off the table for you if you want to live a life of your own choosing. Your generation will be running the show tomorrow. You will be writing the laws and running the country’s businesses, so think carefully about the kind of person you want to be – and never set any limits to what you could be capable of. This is the crux of your responsibility to yourself in your first week; you need to meet as many people as possible in order to broaden your horizons as much as possible. That loon with the paper bag over his head and two tequilas in tow, may also be a mathematical genius – and your future business partner.
If you do nothing else during your first few days as a student, do keep an open mind…
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