Things I Wish I'd Known Before Starting University
Sunday, 27 July 2014
So this year has been the best year of my life. People say uni is the best period of your life, although I do like to think that it will only get better from here. There's been ups and downs, I've made some incredible friendships and this is what I've learnt over the past year at Durham university...
My beautiful best friends at uni
1. It is almost physically impossible not to make friends
Speaking from a shy person's perspective, the thought of being surrounded by hundreds of strangers at university terrified me. The structure of stability that comes from your closest friends and family is taken right from beneath your feet, forcing you to begin again with nothing. But you soon realise that everyone is desperately clinging on to each and every person they can make any small connection with to begin to build friendship groups. If you're lucky your flatmates will become your second family and support network, but if that doesn't work out course friends, or friends made through other friends, are your best route to finding like minded and brilliant pals.
2. New friends will (usually) be nothing like the friends you have at home
I started at uni in a flat with 5 people who I literally thought I had nothing in common with whatsoever. 9 months later and 3/5 are my closest friends at uni, and I couldn't imagine Durham without them. University is mainly about opening your mind to change and really broadening your horizons, learning new things from people you would never normally expect to have a connection with. One of my most interesting relationships is with my Chinese flatmate, who I learn so much from. Make the most of your connections with people outside of your little bubble of comfort.
Clearly having too much fun here
3. Building friendships isn't an overnight thing
Generally you cant bowl into a friendship and expect your new pals to be your soul mates for the rest of your life. The first term is crucial for putting work into relationships, so make some time to actually get to know people without the layer of alcohol hanging over your brain, clouding your judgement. Choose friends wisely and try you hardest to avoid drama.
4. Cheese is bloody expensive
And so is meat. And alcohol. Depending on your financial situation, you need to take into account the important things to spend money on, and the things which could maybe wait until you earn a little cash. Online shopping is a very dangerous thing; be super careful with your cash and only spend it on what you actually need. Yes, that means I had to swear off the FeelUnique browsing all year... sob sob.
This is where Harry Potter was filmed in Durham cathedral!
5. Things are really different up north
People are friendly. Bus drivers talk to you. Heaven sent chips and gravy exist. So do triples... and (dangerously) quaddies.
6. Uni summers are not particularly 'fun'
Those 3 months of blissful freedom you've been dreaming about all year? Yeah, they will be filled with 9-6 of being screamed at by irate customers in your part time retail job, or pretending to be interested in your work experience while all the while regretting your choice of degree... or maybe just lying in bed all day watching endless hours of Netflix and stalking your ex's holiday photos. Come September you will be salivating at the thought of uni life.
7. Social status is irrelevant
There isn't really any such thing as 'the popular people' at uni, just a lot of different, intermingling friendship groups. Its much better to find people you have things in common with, or just click with naturally, than forcing relationships based solely on improving what you may perceive to be social status.
A montage of hazy fresher memories
8. Fresher's Week is a load of shit
Best week of your life, they said. Nobody seems to tell freshers the truth about Fresher's Week. Its a whirlwind of emotions, from homesickness and crying on your own in your room, thinking you are alone when really everyone is feeling down, to being blind drunk and giggling with randoms whom you will probably never speak to again. You will be asked the triple question over and over and over again until you head spins... Name? Location? Course? You will probably be drunk or hungover in a constant cycle for a week, wondering if its all downhill from here. Uni only gets better, I promise.
9. Make memories and remember them
I kept every wristband, every tshirt, every fancy dress item, every club promotion, every train ticket, every picture and stuck it up on my noticeboard at uni. All of these memories remind me of days or nights out and I will keep them for a long time yet. Freshers is potentially the year when you you have the most fun, make the most mistakes and have the most learning curves... so remember them. We had a board in our kitchen full of posters where we literally wrote down everything that happened that year; confession chart, pull chart, chunder chart, rejection chart, best and worst of the flat, quote, goals, interventions... you name it, we documented it. Don't let your first year go by forgotten.
10. Procrastination is the devil
Discovering the elusive world of Breaking Bad right before my January exams was probably a mistake, however a mistake I do not necessarily regret. Sure balance your time wisely, but spend time with people who matter in your life, rather than hiding yourself up in your room the whole year, whether that be buried in books or entranced by Netflix. Work is important, but so are building relationships which could last a lifetime.
♥ Facebook is the messiah at university; to make friends and keep up to date with events.
♥ Make friends with the porters and cleaners or whoever looks after your accommodation, you may need it in future!
♥ Join one or two clubs and devote yourself to them.
♥ Try your best to keep on top of lecture notes and uni work, I know your bed is calling.
♥ Get a doorstop, seriously.
♥ Choose housemates and houses for next year as early as possible to grab the good ones, but don't stress if you don't find your place at uni early on, there are always rooms available.