I think we can all agree in claiming last year as ‘incredibly challenging’. Whether you were trying to finish your A-Levels, have an enriching gap year or just attempting to get through a year of university. Everything felt different. Everything felt that little bit harder. To be frank with you, if I hear the phrase ‘these are unprecedented times’ once more, I’ll have to start screaming into my pillow.
I am presently in second year and spent my first year of university online and without any contact-time. I found this really difficult, especially given the hype of freshers and just how ‘brilliant’ your entire university experience is supposed to be. I know I am not alone in feeling this way.
Alternatively, now everything has (almost) assumed a state of normality, there are another set of difficulties we are having to get through. Have you tried queuing for a bus for your 9AM recently? Might as well walk it. My friend started queuing in Fallowfield for the bus once at 7:30 and was late to their lecture. Unbelievable. I genuinely believe issues such as these are stemming from there being ‘two sets of first years’ this year. Collectively, as two year groups, we are having to navigate university life, which has meant there are twice as many people adapting to the newness and unfamiliarity of university this year. As second years now, I think it’s fair to say that we were and are continuing to have very similar struggles as first year students: with no in-person teaching last year, figuring out university life this year has seemed slightly embarrassing. It is new territory for a lot of us. “Where is the Samuel Alexander building?” one first year asked a second year. “I have no idea”, they replied. How strange that first year must have felt. How strange that second year must have felt. We are all evidently and conspicuously experiencing the same struggles as each other; learning and adapting to university life as it once was before the pandemic. I believe a few things need reiterating…
My tips for the ‘two sets of first years’:
Accept every invitation
If someone is inviting you out somewhere, whether it be for a couple of drinks at 256, a trip to the cinema or a clubbing night out- say yes! It will aid you with the inevitable feeling of loneliness and mixed emotions you’ll feel during your initial university experience and you can grow and expand friendships with the people around you too.
If you wish to grow a friendship with someone, ask them to join you in a social activity (even if it feels nerve-wracking at first). Remember, in life you regret the things you don’t do rather than the things that you do.
The feeling of unfamiliarity with your surroundings can feel overwhelming and daunting. Make a conscious effort to wander around the city and see what it has to offer. At the end of the day, you have moved to a new city, which is just as important as starting university itself. You don’t have to explore the city alone either!
Decorate your room properly
It’s very easy to view where you’re living for the year as something temporary and not worth the effort of being properly decorated. This is a really damaging mindset to have, your room is your safe space: it’s there when you need to work, sleep, spend time alone and to process your busy university lifestyles. Most importantly, it is four walls where the space within them can contain your identity, your hobbies, your interests and your personality. Make it your own!
Don’t let your work get on top of you
It is worth making weekly plans/schedules for your university work and sticking to them as best you can. It is very easy to fall behind, especially when you have three modules to focus on during each semester- each with different deadlines that can end up being close together.
Be patient with yourself
Last year was very unique and challenging and now your mind and body is trying to adjust to the usual ‘swing of things’ with the little experience it has of normal university life. Go easy on yourself and don’t get too consumed in where others are in their journey of adapting to normality and don’t get consumed in ridiculously high expectations of yourself either, just do your best.
Take time out
It is vital to recognise when you feel like you need a break and when you realise this you must make sure you rest. Whether that be taking a break from your university work or resting from social activities for a short while. Do whatever you have to do to recharge and don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) ruin your well-deserved resting time.
Join a society
If there aren’t any societies that you feel as though you can affiliate yourself with, I will be very surprised! There is a society for everyone and they can assist you in finding friends and growing friendships with people that are similar to you. Societies are also very important for joining minoritised people together. For example, if you are queer and join the LGBTQ+ Society, you will be surrounded by people who share the same pride and struggles as you regarding being part of the LGBTQ+ community. Similarly, if you are Black or mixed-race, you can join the ACS (African-Caribbean Society) and partake in events and socials that are devised just for you.