Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but unfortunately we don’t always have as much of it as we’d like. Certainly there are plenty of things I wish I’d known before starting university.
First off: do not buy plain white crockery under any circumstances. Everyone has white plates. And everyone has an aversion to drying up. Your crockery will eventually get muddled up in the drying rack and will end up in someone else’s cupboard which is also full of mouldy potatoes.
When it comes to important things, cheap isn’t always cheerful. If I’d known that after two or three uses my wok was going to make everything taste of burnt onions, I’d have stuck to Tefal pans. The same goes for accommodation: what my basic en-suite room had in cost-effectiveness was immediately lost by the state of the kitchen. I don’t think the oven had ever seen any Mr Muscle. The ants, silverfish, and spiders weren’t too pleasant either.
Don’t buy fitted bedding. Apparently Chancellor’s Wharf was under the impression that it would be accommodating insanely tall students. Gone are the fitted sheets (now full of holes after trying to stretch them over the longer bed) and out goes the cash for flat sheets.
Have mountains of clothes. Did anyone else notice the sneaky 30p increase at the laundrettes this year? When coming to university I seriously underestimated how many clothes I’d need to avoid doing washing more than once a week. My wardrobe has virtually doubled in size to avoid doing endless loads of washing at £2 a go. Lazy, I know.
You don’t have to buy specific editions of texts. As a fresher I ended up buying an expensive version of Hamlet just to get the “right” edition, but unless you’re buying a poetry anthology, go for the cheapest edition available and save yourself some cash.
Make sure your laptop is truly portable. Unless you’ve migrated to the iPad/tablet era, you’ll still have to carry around your laptop, particularly if you live off campus. My laptop, despite being “portable” by definition, is an absolute nightmare to lug around. Not only is it unusually heavy, but the battery lasts a mere 20 minutes. With hindsight I would definitely have bought a smaller laptop with a better battery.
Degree choices actually matter. One thing I wish I’d been aware of before starting university is which degree would have been the best for my chosen career path. I’m one of the lucky/annoying ones in that I’ve always known what kind of area I wanted to go into – namely journalism or publishing – but part of me wishes I’d chosen to do a specialised discipline rather than English Literature. I don’t regret doing English, but I think it would have been easier to get a job had I chosen to continue with Chemistry at university. Publishing companies in particular are keen to hire scientists and often discount English graduates.
Coursework is more stressful than doing exams. I might be in the minority, but I’ve come to realise that coursework is far more stressful and time-consuming. Given that my degree is at least 50% coursework because of Creative Writing, I certainly haven’t been wise enough to decrease my stress levels at university.
Being sociable doesn’t mean going clubbing. Having never set foot in a club in my life, I thought that on coming to university, everyone would see me as unsociable. I wish I’d known that there are so many different ways of meeting new people and making lifelong friends before starting university. It certainly would have saved me a lot of misery during Freshers’ Week.
Take every opportunity. As I’m coming up to my final year, it’s beginning to dawn on me that despite all the wonderful experiences I’ve had so far, there are always more opportunities to take advantage of. I wish I’d made more of my time here, because the end of my education will come quicker than I think.