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Whether you’re a first-year student living away from home for the first time or a student returning to university after a long summer break, beginning the new semester is an exciting but challenging time.
As Freshers celebrations draw to a close, hopes, fears and expectations about what the academic year has in store for us run through our minds. For first-year students, the university environment is completely different from ever before and you will probably be thinking about how to tackle the semester.
Here’s how to adapt:
Embrace the change
It’s not worth investing so much money to go to university half-heartedly. Make the most out of your experience by taking up opportunities, ensuring that you don’t waste time isolating yourself, or by joining a social club or society that interests you. Exploring the city and other nearby places is another great way to adjust to this new chapter in your life, helping you to settle. Also, to state the obvious, remember that you came to the university to achieve a degree. Don’t neglect your studies simply because “the first year doesn’t count”. It helps to take advantage of the resources given to you as soon as possible—this will make studying much easier later on.
Manage your finances
When your loan arrives and money floods into your bank account, it may seem as though finance is no issue. However, making this money last the entire year requires strategic spending. It’s worth making a budget to see how much you expect to spend on groceries and living costs, textbooks, and travel expenses. From this, you can work out how much you should be spending on things like nights out, dining out and clothes.
Prepare to get sick
Freshers’ flu isn’t a myth. It’s caused by multiple factors which weaken your immune, such as stress, consuming more alcohol and eating junk food. Mixing with lots of new people also means that you are introduced to a new, wider pool of viruses. But despite being referred to as the flu, Freshers’ Flu usually is, after all, just a cold. Remember to drink plenty of (non-alcoholic) fluids, take painkillers if you have a fever, and make sure you get plenty of sleep.
Being healthy will not only help to prevent viruses like Freshers’ flu but also boost your mood. Cooking for yourself may seem time-consuming, but why spend £10 on a take-out when you can make a healthy, homemade meal within just half an hour? Budget well and you will realize how eating healthily can be much cheaper than buying processed foods. You can reuse packages of spices, rice and salads, but a £4 pizza will only last one evening. As well as eating healthily, aiming to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day would benefit your health. This doesn’t mean you have to go sprinting every day—any form of moderate to intense physical activity will contribute to better physical health. Exercise may also contribute to a better frame of mind since the chemical changes that take place in the brain while we exercise can often positively impact our mood.
Prioritize your time
Going to university is probably the first time in most people’s lives, and perhaps the only time in which they have the freedom to set their own timetable. Apart from scheduled lectures and seminars, your days aren’t confined to the structure of a typical school or workday. As much as you may be thrilled to have more control over your day, it requires you to organize your time well, prioritizing tasks to deal with demands. Creating a routine is a useful way to manage your time, helping you to become more productive- you can allocate specific times to study, times to socialize or relax, etc. Producing a to-do list, using a planner or your phone calendar are all useful ways to help you manage your time successfully. Plus, it can feel quite satisfying to check off everything you have completed from your list.
Everything in moderation!
Remember that studying, sleeping and socializing are all essential and you shouldn’t neglect one in favour of the other. It’s not worth throwing yourself into clubs every night at the expense of your studies or sleep. Some people believe that university is the “time of your life”, when, in truth, your adult life is just beginning. Don’t place too much pressure on yourself to fall in love with university life. Instead, as cliché as it may sound, learn to “grow” from your university experiences.
Learn to fight homesickness
After a few weeks spent away from your family, your bed, or perhaps a pet, the homesickness tends to kick in. Staying connected to your network back home by setting up regular times to call or video-chat will probably help you miss them less, making them feel closer to you and minimizing the feeling of being separated from them. Perhaps you could even organize a trip to visit home for a weekend if this is practical for you. Airfare and train tickets are much cheaper when bought months in advance, so plan ahead and get booking!
Set some goals
Whether you are interested in taking up another language, learning to play a musical instrument or joining the swimming team, think about some things you’d like to achieve this semester and start working towards them
Don’t worry if you don’t instantly click with your flatmates at the start of the semester. As the weeks go on, you will start to create your own circle of friends- whether that be from meeting likeminded people in social clubs or societies, the people you live with or people you meet in classes.
Finally, here’s some general advice:
For most people, adjusting to university life is not a process that is quick and easy. Successfully adjusting to living, studying and working away from home requires you to put in the effort.
It’s a period of change; some steps you cross in the process of transition may be more challenging to climb than others. If you’re faced with emotional difficulties during this semester, don’t keep them to yourself- talk to your friends, family, or welfare support at university.
Similarly, if you experience with academic challenges that you are finding hard to resolve alone, talk to fellow students on your course, academic advisor or a tutor. Remember how much you are investing to be a student—don’t struggle in silence, but make the most out of your time here!