You’ve arrived in Manchester and are starting a whole new chapter of your life. There really is a lot that goes on in your first year and a lot to get used to in your first semester too. Because you might have a lot to get your head round this year, including the newness of being independent away from home, these early weeks of your arrival can be a really good time to set some foundations for yourself as a student. Here is some advice based on my experience as an undergraduate settling into study life in Manchester.
Do what’s best for you
There are so many opportunities flying about around societies, new places and where to study. I didn’t realise I was neurodivergent during my first year of undergraduate studies but really struggled mentally with going out and doing much. I look back now and realise it is because I didn’t want to go to lots of the same places that my housemates did, or I was very specific about the activities I wanted to take part in. And that was completely okay. I wish I had respected my own needs more than I did at the time.
Cosy and comfy space
While you are likely to be sharing your overall living space with others, your room is your private sanctuary for you. Taking the time to make this cosy was something that really made my bedroom an oasis away from the noise on Oxford Road. This really helped during the darker colder months too. Having lighting that helps your mood can be a great way to start, such as a lamp with a dimmer or a brightness you like…and fairy lights are always a good shout. Ornamenting your desk with your favourite things and memories is a nice touch. Accessorising a pinboard not just for your study notes can remind you that this is your place. If you are lucky to have some small additional space, having a beanbag or cushions in a corner of the room can be a nice place for yourself away from your studies away from a shared facility with your flat mates.
Being on a budget
Budgeting is something that can be quite tricky to get used to unless you have had experience managing your money prior to being at university. If you are self-catered, one of the things I regret not doing more was getting some food staples each week (such as tinned and dried foods) and basing your meals around these. This can be a healthy and cheap way to eat, not break the bank and be creative with food without having to think about lots of new recipes. Similarly, to reduce any pressure of spending on others, having some gatherings with your flat mates and getting in a ready meal each could be a cheaper option than a takeaway but equally a nice time to get to know each other. Finding out about free places to visit across the city is always good way to think about things to do. Whether that’s one of the free art galleries on a rainy day or some of the canal and basin walks during nicer weather (whenever we get this in Manchester!). Though if you can, definitely plan some time for treats and fun. It’ll make it much easier to enjoy yourself knowing you’ve budgeted for an event or takeaway!
Some of you may be on campus before a lot of the other students arrive, giving you much more time and space to check out the University’s facilities. Whether you are or not, getting used to library layouts, student services and local amenities such as restaurants, shops and parks as soon as you can is a great thing to do early on in the semester in case you suddenly need help with something or need a break somewhere. Trying the shops at different times of the week can also help you suss out the times to avoid crowded places and big queues (a nod to shared laundry facilities as well as Lidl on Oxford Road).
Whatever you have going on, these have been some of the most helpful pieces of building a great experience for me personally at university. It can feel like there is a lot to figure out when you start. Putting a few things in place and remembering you are your main priority in this experience can help to get you through some of the tougher times.