It’s halfway through the second semester of uni and it seems like a good time to reflect on the first term here at UEA. It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago I was frantically trying to pack everything I would need and worrying about if I would be able to cook for myself, and here I am, halfway through my first year, feeling like I’ve been a university student for all of my life.
Before I left home for university in September I was pretty scared – would I make friends? Would I be able to cope with the work on my course (history)? Could I survive looking after my own finances, washing and cooking?? The good news is, I’ve successfully survived the first term – I’ve made some great friends, I managed to submit my essays on time, I didn’t have to go into my overdraft and I didn’t starve. Not bad. So I thought I’d share some of my initials worries with you, and the reality of them at university.
One of the hardest things about leaving home was leaving all my friends behind. It can be easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by not knowing anyone at university, but it’s important to remember that literally every fresher is in the same boat. This means it’s really easy to make friends, especially in the first few weeks, as everyone is really friendly and inclusive. Fresher’s week is one of the rare times in life where you can approach random people to say hi without it being a bit weird. If you’re living in halls, your flat is a ready-made set of possible friends, and then you’ll meet loads of people through your course or through any societies you join. My advice would be get involved in things you love, then you’re likely to meet people with similar interests. Don’t worry if you don’t immediately find a brilliant group of best friends – it can take a while for friendships to emerge and settle, so in the meantime, enjoy the chance to meet such a diversity of new people.
Another scary aspect of university is the independence it gives you. This is great because it means freedom, but it also means organising everything for yourself. For a lot of people, university will be the first time they haven’t lived with their parents, and it can be a bit of a culture shock. But I quickly realised that all this wasn’t as scary as I expected. The joy of a campus university like UEA also means there’s facilities like laundrettes, a bank, shop, bar and medical centre just a quick walk away from where you’re living to make your life a lot easier. In terms of food, there are plenty of supermarkets nearby, and cooking doesn’t have to mean a 3 course meal! To make things easier, I had planned what meals I could cook and what ingredients they would require before going to uni, so food shopping became a lot simpler. I would also suggest buying easy to cook frozen food for the first week, because there’s so much going on you won’t want to have to worry about cooking!
Although you might not want to accept it, you’re not paying £9000 a year just make friends and go out – there has to be some work involved! But hopefully you’ve picked a course that you will enjoy and are interested in, and this means that work doesn’t have to be all bad! I have really enjoyed studying history at university so far, the breadth of knowledge that we’ve covered in the first term has been amazing, and it’s exciting to have lectures and seminars with leading historical researchers. However, no matter how much you enjoy your subject, you will have to work hard at whatever you study. UEA has great support available throughout your studies, such as your academic advisor, department staff or the Dean of Students. I’ve found the staff at UEA are always more than happy to help with any questions or academic struggles you have, so there’s no reason to be worried about coping with your course.
Going to university is a big step, and it’s natural to feel anxious. It’s important to
remember that everyone else is in the same situation, and probably has the same worries as you. In reality, university is not at all as intimidating or scary as you may think it sounds and your first term will be filled with exciting and unique opportunities.
My best piece of advice would be to throw yourself into student life and make the most of what UEA has to offer, but perhaps most importantly – enjoy yourself!!