Hey there First-Year Self. So, first thing’s first:
A lot of things are about to hit you at once. You’re in a building full of strangers, your family have just driven off into the sunset (seemingly never to return), and you still haven’t quite figured out how to use that weird kitchen hob in your accommodation… but I promise you, you’re going to be alright.
The first step to getting through this year is accepting your own cluelessness, and then realising that pretty much everyone around you is pretty clueless too, even if they don’t look it. Once you accept the fact that you’re not going to have it all figured out for a while, this crazy journey you’ve just started gets a whole lot easier.
Second step: say “hi”, to literally anybody. Yeah, it can be awkward being the icebreaker, but it could be the start of a beautiful friendship, a convenient acquaintance, or the discovery of your future late-night kebab eating buddy. There’s really nothing to lose. While you’ll probably only stay close mates with about five percent of your first-year pals, spotting those familiar faces as you walk down Oxford Road is what really starts to make this strange place feel like home.
Step three: chill out… but not too much. Okay, that probably sounds kind of confusing, but let me explain. Of all the years you’re going to have, first year is the best time to explore, discover, make memories, and even make mistakes. But equally, if you start to put the groundwork in now, the next few years will be a whole lot easier for you, and I promise you, the payoff will be immense (believe it or not, you’ll be studying in Canada by next year, and land yourself a scholarship the next).
My fourth step for you, First-Year Me, and perhaps the most important step yet, is to remember that you won’t always have a good time in your first year, and that’s totally normal and okay. In fact, looking back, first year might be one of your toughest years yet. Freshers flu will (literally) grab you by the throat, deadlines will destroy your sleep pattern, homesickness will hit, and heartbreak will come. While all that might sound a bit scary for now, I can also guarantee you this: you will be a much stronger, much wiser and much braver human being once you come out the other side.
If there’s anything I’ve learned after four years at Manchester (yeah, you went for a masters, crazy right?), it is that university teaches you more about yourself than any degree, lecturer or seminar ever could. Every year you spend here, you grow a little bit more and stand a little bit taller than you did when you first walked through those accommodation doors. Even now, as I write to you, I am constantly learning and growing (…though I still sometimes have trouble switching on my new kitchen hob).
So just settle down, take a breath and embrace the newness of it all. You’ve got this.
… Oh, and don’t eat that dodgy beef mince in the fridge.
Yours truly (and literally),