Before moving to Cardiff 3 years ago to start my undergraduate degree, I was trying to think of every reason under the sun why I couldn’t move away from home. The whole thing seemed so terrifying. Now, I’m preparing to move to a new city to start my Master’s degree and it has hit me that I feel very calm about the whole thing. I think this is because I have learnt a lot during my time at university and I wish I had known these things at the start. It would have massively reduced my anxiety, and would have allowed me to relax and just enjoy my first year.
Making friends seems to be the biggest worry for people about starting university. It shouldn’t be. You will 100% make friends – most likely in your halls. However, if they’re not your best pals, friends forever type friends, that’s okay. The chances of your neighbour being someone who also likes yoga and watching reruns of The Kardashians for hours on end is slim. The best piece of advice I would give for making true friends is join a society. You will meet likeminded people, with the same interests and values as you.
In my first year, if I’m completely honest, I didn’t have anyone I truly bonded with and I felt so lonely. Everyone I met seemed so different to me. When I joined student radio in my second year, I met my best friends at university. They had the same sense of humour, they liked the same music, we had things in common! I wish someone had encouraged me to join in my first year. If you do anything in Freshers, make sure to take advantage of your Freshers Societies Fair. Sign up to anything and everything and go to taster sessions – I guarantee you will gain a like-minded friend!
As I was preparing to leave for Cardiff, a new relationship at home was something I was so worried about. I even considered not going because I didn’t want to ruin a good (relatively new) thing. I was constantly told that “no relationships last at uni”, “it’ll never work – long distance is too hard” -this is absolute rubbish. It depends entirely on the people in the relationship. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying about my relationship, because 3 years of university later and we are still going strong.
The best piece of advice I ever received about this was that “If a relationship is not meant to work, there won’t be anything you can do to stop it from eventually ending“. It won’t matter whether you’re at university or at home – if it ain’t right, it ain’t right. If it is meant to work out, it just will. I’m not sitting here saying that you don’t need to make an effort; it helps to make your other half feel included in your university experience to avoid unnecessary jealousy. What I am saying is that the energy wasted worrying won’t solve anything and is likely to cause more upset than is necessary.
It’s Okay To Be You
I have never been a big drinker – I’ll drink occasionally but never to the excess that seems so popular. For me, this is the thing I struggled with most when starting university. Walking into my halls and seeing a “Chunder Chart” already displayed in the kitchen should really have been the first alarm bell for me… I became quite isolated because clubbing very quickly became boring to me with people being sick everywhere. I also didn’t want to go out every night – my degree is why I went to uni really.
At first, I started to doubt myself and wondered if I was weird and, dare I say it(!), boring. But I soon realised that it was absolutely fine to not want to be like the majority of the people I had met. We just liked different things. And once I had joined a society and met likeminded people whose minds were on things besides making it onto the Chunder Chart, I started going out more. It was fun with people I had things in common with! So stay true to you – you’re great. Obviously, there are things to learn from the people you meet, but don’t be afraid to be different from those around you.
One major piece of advice I would give to my first-year self is go and explore your new area by yourself. As soon as your parents have dropped you off and said goodbye, go out with Google Maps in hand and enjoy your city. It sounds quite daunting, but it’s so important that you can rely on yourself and get your bearings without being needy with a new flatmate. That’s sort of what uni is for – growing up and learning to look after yourself. It will allow you to do the things that you want to do, without having to wait around for others. It sounds strange, but your new city will be a friend to you.
It’s good to have your own space and after a couple of weeks walking around Cardiff by myself, I actually preferred going into town by myself rather than with people – something I never thought I’d say!
Feed The Body
This sounds painfully obvious, but eat well! I cannot cope rationally with normal, everyday events if I haven’t eaten properly. I get so upset, so stressed and so tired, which ultimately led to me missing home so much. As soon as I’d prepared myself a lovely meal and popped on some Netflix, I was happy again.
Also, feeding yourself properly will help you to avoid the dreaded “Fresher’s Flu”. I think one of the main reasons your first week of lectures is guaranteed to be filled with hundreds of hungover individuals coughing the hour away, is because people eat such crap! The main source of nourishment for one of my flatmates was Super Noodles and Tinned Meat Pies; don’t be surprised when I tell you he had “Fresher’s Flu” for 6 months…