Starting Uni Student-made

First year as an undergraduate: what I wish I’d known

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Starting university is a very varied and new experience. There is a lot to get used to personally and academically. This can include the management of living arrangements, study schedules and part-time work alongside studying. Reflecting on my first year as an undergraduate ( I’m currently a postgraduate researcher so admittedly it’s a while ago now!), this post highlights a few things that I wish I’d known when I started my studies.


Gather all the information you want and need, but don’t put the pressure on yourself to follow through with opportunities. From university-based activities to long-term career plans, there are likely to be so many opportunities open up to you when you begin your studies, but the overwhelm to commit to multiple things can be a lot to take. For example, there can be a focus around your future career and jobs from the day you start. Whilst it’s always good to note down ideas if you have them, notice if things become too much for you and that you don’t have to take on everything at once. It is totally fine to explore your options with opportunities and to still not know what you want when you graduate. Similarly, feeling like you have to get involved with many extra-curricular or networking events on your course can be a lot to take too. See what comes up for you then give yourself permission to pick and choose what you want to do, even if you change your mind.

Enjoy your time how you want to

It is common for the ‘student life’ around Manchester to be portrayed as a time to go out and drink lots of alcohol on a regular basis. While this is fun and downtime for some, it is not what everyone will want to do to relax. There are so many places across Manchester to socialise in different ways. Societies as part of the Students Union can be a great place to start to look for different social events that will suit your interests and meet different people that you feel comfortable with. There’s also so many places across the city and beyond to explore that have great places for food and different events that will be just right for you.  

Do not underrate the importance of rest

Rest is important…research continues to say this in many variations. However, in practice it is still often not the norm amongst student communities or a lot of academia to actively rest from work due to various study and life circumstances. It can be a real challenge to not feel guilty about taking rest but it is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. It might feel strange to prioritize this if others aren’t or feel like they can’t, but it will benefit you and others tremendously when you take this time regularly.

Engaging with academics

When I first started my undergraduate course, my sole intention was to complete the assignments to then be able to get a graduate job as quickly as possible. Whilst it wasn’t that I didn’t engage with the content on the course, it took someone to encourage me to actively ask questions and speak to the lecturers about the topics I was particularly interested in. When I did this, they were extremely encouraging and helpful in allowing me time to discuss where I wanted to explore career-wise as well as directing me to appropriate services that could support my health needs. You never know what might come up in conversations with your lecturers, and many of them particularly love it when you have an interest in their research area!

Course-related jargon

Whichever course and field you are studying, you will have a lot of specific terminology and jargon to get used to. This can be very alienating and a lot to get used to. Very often though, the terminology is not as complicated as your brain may make you think and consistently taking steps back from your work can be really helpful in letting yourself make sense of things and maintaining an amount of detachment from your studies. Equally, don’t be annoyed with yourself if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of jargon within your work. You will get used to understanding it but may also find opportunities to influence better practice around jargon and knowledge in your field. This could even help others in the long-term who find certain fields inaccessible through the professional language used.

There will be a lot to take in during your first year getting used to things during your time at university. Hopefully this has provided you with a few helpful things to remember but equally permission to remember to let yourself do what you want and need for you. All the best for your first year and start to your study journey!

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