I’m a third year English Literature and History student at Newcastle University. In this blog post I’ll look back on my transition into student life, interwoven with a couple of experiences and pieces of advice that I’d like to share with you.
In the lead up to coming to university, I felt incredibly nervous. I’m originally from quite a small town and was going to a school with some of the same people from pre-school, so the idea of going to a city I didn’t know with people I didn’t know was very daunting. To help with the nerves, I did lots to preparation like looking into the university’s societies, modules on my course as well as joining first-year group chats and buying decorations for my room. By the time I arrived, I felt much more excited than nervous and was really looking forward to university. In spite of all my planning, there were a couple of things that I wasn’t expecting from student life.
First of all, I hadn’t realised how much independence I was going to have. Not only was I responsible for cleaning my room, all my meals and just general household chores, but I also had to balance this with socialising and university work. I spend most of my study time independently, going to several lectures and seminars throughout the week. To manage this with all of these other commitments, I had to develop good time management skills that have been fundamental to my university experience ever since.
However, I did not do this alone. Particularly in first year, I benefitted from the support of my peer mentor. She was really great at helping me transition into university life, both in terms of the academic side and the social aspects. Having been in the same shoes as me years before, she was really understanding and helpful whenever I needed advice. Alongside this was the support I received from my tutor and other teaching staff. The standard expected of university work is much higher than at school and so it was really great to have the help from staff. One thing that I wish I had learnt sooner and would recommend to students in the future is to use office hours. Every week, staff set aside time to spend with students in their office to discuss academic or more general concerns. Whilst staff do make this clear to students, often these hours go unattended by students and yet this is valuable time available at university. So, one of my main pieces of advice is to not be afraid to ask for help and make use of all the time and help available to you.
Alongside this, I built a strong support network of friends through my subject and in societies. With respect to friends, another piece of advice that I would offer is to not be disheartened if you don’t meet your best friend on your first day. It seems as though there is some sort of expectation that when people get to university, they’ll make lifelong friends straight away. Often, however, this isn’t the case, and it takes a bit more effort to find the right friends. Some people find friends in their accommodation, their subjects, in societies, or a mix of all three. So, I would advise people preparing to go into higher education to not put so much pressure on finding friends quickly. Instead, focus your attention on your degree and other things that you enjoy and I’m sure that you’ll make great friends along the way.
But above all of this, have fun! University is a great experience, so make the most of every opportunity and you’ll have an amazing time!