Surviving Your First Year: 8 Golden Rules I Learned The Hard Way

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OH, you freshers, with your shiny new student accounts and enthusiasm, eager to experience all that university can throw at you.

For many of you, this is the first time away from home. You’re anxious to assert your independence, and mostly this will come in the form of consuming far too much exotic-looking alcohol and being in pictures that you definitely won’t want your parents to see.

Now, I’ve been a fresher twice – yes, I made a Poor Life Choice (hereby known as a PLC) when I first applied to Portsmouth University, but I made up for it tenfold by switching to Swansea as soon as I could. So it is with my wisdom and experience of making some serious PLCs that I am here to guide you through the next year. I want you all to make a point of learning from my mistakes. Alternatively, you could make some even bigger ones so that mine look good in comparison.

1. Firstly, do not attach yourself to someone within the first week of university. You’re here for three years, and they won’t seem half as attractive within six months. Don’t rush; you’ve plenty of time to find someone your parents will hate.

2. Secondly, your student loan is finite. I know, it’s a horrible realisation. You also have to be aware of your priorities: first comes your rent and bills, second to that is food, and then it’s important things like books and shoes that will see you through the winter. Only when you have managed to negotiate these hurdles is it appropriate to spend the rest of your loan on new clothes and alcohol. You will soon learn to budget and shop around – for example, buy fresh food in the market where you only buy as much as you need for cheaper, and then go to JC’s for a pint rather than one of Wind Street’s fine establishments. If you can, try and save yourself some money for over the holidays – right now, it is the end of August, and I am sat here with precisely £9.86 to my name, with three weeks to go until pay day. Remember what I said – learn from my mistakes.

3. Pace yourself. In small to medium doses, alcohol is not necessarily that bad for you – although what is said for your body is not necessarily true for your wallet. However, getting completely obliterated four times a week is bad for you, and you will do well to avoid doing so, else you will be making a PLC. I conducted a personal study this year by getting drunk very regularly for a fortnight. My body held a small demonstration, and I was unable to eat properly for a month. I felt disgusting, looked awful, and my mum was furious, but my housemates were overjoyed by how much food I gave to them – every cloud has a silver lining, I guess.

4. Fourth, eat properly. Please don’t make a point of eating only potato smileys and turkey dinosaurs for every meal just because you can. Eventually, you are going to get sick of beige-coloured food, and you will want some vegetables. Beat your body shutting down on you by learning how to cook. Waterstones in the Taliesin sell some basic student cook books that are brilliant for learning the staples of home cooking, and if you can’t be bothered to buy them, you can just take pictures of the recipes on your iPhone.

5. For this one, make sure your parents are out of the room… Gone? Excellent. Boys and girls, you may have heard of sex. You may have heard that university is a brilliant place to obtain it. Let me tell you, Swansea may have gone up in the University Sex League (up to 12th place, from last year’s 60, woo!), but university is not one massive orgy. Or at least, if it is, I’ve not been invited. Anyway, if you are going to do it, your Students’ Union provides thousands of free condoms per year. Make use of them – and not for balloon animals. Also, make sure that you have enough money the next morning for the taxi of disgrace, rather than having to humiliate yourself with the walk of shame. Alternatively, if you’ve awoken being able to remember their name, you are entitled to take the stride of pride. Congratulations.

6. Join a society. I really, really wish I’d done this in my first year. Since joining The Waterfront – not technically a society, but you know what I mean – I have had the best time at university. I’ve met friends for life, learnt new skills, discovered what I want to be when I grow up, and had some awesome experiences. No matter what you’re interested in, you’ll find a society for it, and if you can’t, don’t be afraid to form your own.

7. Do some work – everyone knows the freshers’ mantra of ‘f**k it, 40 percent’, but organising yourself to do some work from the off is a really good habit to form, and it looks a lot better on your transcript. Learn to organise yourself so that you’re not working right up until the deadline, too. There’s nothing worse than sleeping through the hand-in deadline and waking up to your face in your keyboard, smothered in drool.

8. Perhaps the best and most useful piece of advice I can give you is to enjoy yourself. Don’t forget that you’re here to work, but university is also about a whole new lifestyle and learning about yourself and the world around you. Forget school being the best days of your life – your time at Swansea will definitely beat it.

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