A-Level exams are around the corner which means that the prospective first year university students are all working hard to get into their firm university choices. But whilst you may work hard to cram in as much as you can about the reactions of benzene, British politics in the 20th Century or how to calculate the acute angle between a vector and a plane, nothing can prepare you for all the mistakes that you will inevitably make in your first term of university.
Everyone’s experiences will be different so my mistakes certainly won’t all happen to you and some of them you probably wouldn’t even think are mistakes but there are only so many ‘Mistakes that EVERY FRESHER will make” articles that you can read without realising that all of them are the same just recycled and reworded. They do offer a good insight into the sorts of mistakes you do make but my 14 mistakes are that bit more real and personal.
- Not going out during Freshers Week
Freshers is that first week of your university life where you are introduced to everything and everyone. You will inevitably talk to people and exchange numbers with people who you will never ever speak to again even though you know where they live on campus, where they’re originally from, what hobbies they have and also a random fact about them. Freshers Week is all about making you familiar with your university and that always seems to involve a lot of going out and partying. But when you’re not a big going out person, you’re told to ‘get out of your comfort zone’ and to ‘not be so boring’ and you may end have up having serious FOMO.
At the time, I was perfectly happy not to go out; as I say, I’m not a big going out person but I was also carrying illness and I was sensible not to make it worse. Besides I’d have a whole 2 months of illness later on in the term after recovering from 3 weeks of Freshers Flu! I’d be much more content settling into my new surroundings, watching something on iPlayer and cooking a nice hearty bowl of pasta dish because I defy any student not to be slightly homesick in their first term.
Whilst I still wouldn’t have gone out during Freshers due to illness, I hear my friends talking about experiences they had in Freshers and I can’t relate or join in their conversations because I have nothing to offer so I do wish I had gone out.
- Not properly going out until the last 3 weeks of my first term
This follows on pretty nicely from my first mistake. It took a lot of persuading to get me out into a club for more than an hour. There was a science bar crawl and I knew so many people going that I had ultimate FOMO and had to buy a ticket. I wouldn’t say that I particularly enjoyed PomPom packed so tightly I could barely move however it was good to let my hair down for a night and forget about the exams we had the week before.
It did lead me down a pretty bad spiral of going out a lot in the following weeks (3 in one week was a record for me) and while I’m not a big heavy drinker like some others, it’s still possible to enjoy yourself, whether that’s bumping into old friends of yours or going along with how someone that you don’t know knows you, letting my hair down was a good way to end my first term.
- Not joining up to as many societies as I would like
If you’ve read that EVERY FRESHER articles, you’ll know that they like to make a point of you joining every single society you see. Well in fact I wanted to join more societies that I currently am in. One I really feel like I missed out on was the cake society or the chocolate society. While more than likely it’s just all about eating different cake and not about making or teaching people how to make cakes (which, if it is, I would love to do), it’s one I wish I did join. One that I am part of, Blogsoc, was the best decision I made; I could speak for an age about how great Blogsoc is and has been for me and I’m going to be General Secretary for BlogSoc in its second year!
- Spending too much of my student finance on things I didn’t need
Okay so this one is recycled all the time but it’s true. I am a fantastic budgeter and I can find a bargain where you didn’t even know a bargain could be found (I’m the one who sweeps up all those reduced loaves of bread and keeps them in my freezer and stores them all as breadcrumbs). But even I have spent my student finance on some things that I regret buying.
One potentially regrettable purchase that springs to mind is a pair of Chelsea boots from ASOS. In the sale and then using my student discount, they came to about £20 which wasn’t unreasonable. I love them and how they look, they’re my sort of shoe and I love the colour too. Problem? Let’s just say, they didn’t survive too many club nights! I’ve returned them to their box where they lay bruised, dirty and not to be worn again until I can find time to clean them.
I also bought too many things for my blog photos like white platters, placemats, nice coloured plates and baubles, a few of which will never see the light of day again.
- Getting to know my flatmates too quickly
This was a huge downfall of my first term. I bonded fairly quickly to one of my flatmates only to find out that we were not all that compatible in actuality; a difference in personality, a difference of interests and a difference of priorities. It was entirely my fault and it certainly made things awkward between us and I do feel like I was potentially a factor in why he left uni just a month later. That shortens a long story but it’s a mistake that I think quite a few people will make.
- Offering to wash my flatmates’ things up once too often
- Cleaning the kitchen once too often
- Emptying the bins once too often (noticing a recurring trend here?)
Nobody enjoys washing up, cleaning or emptying bins but from my upbringing, I knew that these were jobs that had to be done. When we walked into our flat, there was a rota sheet on the table and one of my flatmates threw it away straight away. I thought that we would be able to have a mutual understanding that if the bins were getting full, then they needed emptying and if the floor or tables were dirty, they would be cleaned.
Oh how contrary to the truth this was. I was often found cleaning the kitchen, the hob where food has burned and emptying the bins which often stank and were overflowing; our flat played bin jenga! Coming from a takeaway background, I knew this was so unhygienic and it led me to not cooking at some points because I just couldn’t handle the filth. But eventually you give in and clean everything so it’s spotless only to find it’s just as messy the next time you walk in.
And then your flatmates will realise that “oh wait Andrew will just clean it up” and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t mind all that much because you learn to live with it and I’m the kind of person who just gets on with something and does it, however when you are the only one who does it without anyone else offering to help or saying that you shouldn’t do it all the time, that’s when it grates on you.
Don’t let people take advantage of you, even if you are doing it for yourself. I can’t live with bins which smell awful but I’m also not going to wait for them to be taken out when I could do it myself with no fuss!
- Not staying in contact regularly with friends at different unis and at home
It’s hard to stay in contact with friends when you’re all getting on with your own lives but one of my biggest regrets is not staying in contact with some of them. While it’s easier these days more than ever to get into contact with people via social media, it’s not easy to pop up to people not having spoken to them since Results Day.
- Not getting to know the area around me quickly enough
I wished I’d explored the area around me more in my first term when I had hardly any work to do. Most campuses and the surrounding areas are rich in things to do and explore and whilst I am fairly familiar with a few places in Nottingham, I wished I’d done a bit more travelling. Not only that, getting out of your room does you a lot of good and take your phone with you and Instagram the hell out of your trip to who knows where.
One thing I wish I became more familiar with was the bus schedules and maps. I knew which buses took me to uni and which ones took me to town but I wish that I knew a lot more so that I could go explore and maybe find the Iceland, the Home Bargains or the Asda that I’d been missing so much!
- Not listening in my lectures
- Not setting a regular routine and being a night owl
These are a bit more serious than some of my other mistakes. You can write down everything that the lecturer says but not take a word of it in if you don’t listen and that is certainly not helped by being tired in your lectures and struggling to keep your eyes open.
Getting into good habits is always a good idea for uni. Even though you may not have 9ams every day, if you sleep at 2am to wake up at 10am for your 11am lectures, then you will not enjoy getting those 2 hours less sleep. Of course if you sleep at a sensible time, then you get a sensible amount of sleep and will be awake and ready for those lectures (until they start and then start drifting off). That all sounds good in theory and some of you will be able to set a good routine in place. But if you’re a night owl like I am, then oh dear!
For the night owls, your friends will be shocked when you make it to a 9am lecture or when you sleep at any time before 3am, you’ll find all nighters become shockingly easy to do and well you give up hope of making any lecture before 11am. I really find working is just so much easier at night when there aren’t any distractions; I can just listen to music and work hard nonstop. And I am ridiculously productive at night which is a good thing. But when I do make those 10am lectures on 4 hours of sleep, then you take 3 hour naps when you get back from uni which just pushes your sleep time later and you get into an awful cycle.
- Not bringing enough plates, bowls and cutlery
I spoke earlier about how I didn’t mind washing up however when you have that ever-growing work pile you need to tackle, washing up is not on your priority list. So when it’s time to cook dinner that day and you’re about to plate up and find that you don’t have any plates or bowls to serve it in because they haven’t been washed up, that’s when you realise it’s time to buy some more. Just so you know, I only brought 2 plates and 2 bowls. I thought that I would keep on top of the washing up but as I have said, the unclean kitchen and bin situation meant I wouldn’t go in there to wash up. This leads nicely into my final mistake…
- Expecting my flat to cook dinner for everyone, wash up and empty the bins on a rota
I envisaged this ideal flat share where we’d all take turns to cook dinner, share the cost of that dinner, take turns washing up and emptying the bins and it would be easy to settle down. Oh how far from the truth this was!
Creating this utopian idea of university was such a huge mistake and when my experiences weren’t living up to my expectations and what I thought it was going to be like, it was a hard blow. I didn’t feel homesick helped by the fact that I insisted on Facetiming my parents each night after they finished work – so much so that when I didn’t, they asked why I hadn’t – and I certainly wasn’t finding living on my own the challenge; in fact I loved the freedom of living on my own, being able to cook what (and when) I wanted and having my own bathroom. I felt like an adult and I could flourish into my own person by the independence.
Yet the flat share not living up to my expectations was a huge shock to the system and walking into that kitchen every day was very draining. I found that I didn’t properly settle down and feel completely at ease with my uni life until February of my first year, a whole 5 months after I first moved into my flat. But I tried to fix as many of the mistakes as I could:
I still don’t go out as often as you expect students too and that’s simply because I don’t enjoy it. I’d much rather stay in with a nice home cooked dinner with Eastenders, Masterchef or Line of Duty on iPlayer. I find going out is a lot of effort, especially with how popular the nights out are in Nottingham; you have to prepare days, even weeks, in advance and then the money spent on the tickets, taxis and drinks could be money spent on a train ticket home, a week’s worth of food or a haircut. The nights out begin to add up and that’s when the money drains out of your account.
I’ve also stopped the ‘unnecessary’ purchases (as much, there’s still a bargain that I have to pick up when I see it) and now that I have a sensible number of plates and bowls, washing up isn’t so much of a chore. I’ve stopped washing up everyone else’s plates but I still clean the kitchen and take the bins out too often. It comes across that my flatmates may be taking advantage of this but I’m (perhaps selfishly) doing it for myself because I don’t want to cook in a dirty kitchen. I also know that if I don’t do it, it will never get done.
I feel pretty familiar with the area around me now (although there is still so much to explore and I plan to do that after my exams are done) however the late nights are still a recurring pattern. I should fix this soon especially with exams looming but it won’t be easy!
The moral of the story? Your first term of university will probably be a bit of a shock to the system (and that doesn’t even include Freshers’ Flu!) and there will be quite a few things that you don’t like about it. But there will be that golden moment when suddenly every piece of the puzzle fits together and you feel completely settled in. For me, that did happen much later than I perhaps would have liked but it still happened. Of course all of these mistakes have shaped my first year so I wouldn’t have changed anything that has happened.
For those former first year students, did any of these mistakes ring true for you? What other mistakes did you make that I didn’t discuss here? For the prospective students, which of these are you hoping not to make yourself? Let me know!
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