Tips & Tricks for Hacking Freshman Year

Millicent Machell

(8 months ago)

To all the new fresh of Hatfield frantically scouring this website for reassurance, I am here to give you your answers.

Moving to university will be a Big Deal TM. Your parents will probably cry, you might forget to bring something important (like a toothbrush) and you will have to make new friends. But what else are tissues, corner shops and multi-packs of biscuits (which you will obsessively offer to anyone who comes to your room) for?

In my mind there are four big changes which are about to happen to your life - you will have to make new friends, you will have to manage your own money, you will have to motivate yourself to do work off your own back and you will probably miss home and the people that you're away from.

I'm aware that this sounds super intimidating and a good enough reason to drop out - but try seeing it as an opportunity to really make the life for yourself you've always wanted. You worked so hard to get here, make the most of it! And of course, enjoy these tips from my friends and I (who did it all last year) on how to glide right through freshers.

  1. Making new friends

A member of your family has probably whipped out the phrase "you're all in the same boat!" already by now, but try to appreciate what that means. Everyone is worried about making friends, everyone is nervous, everyone starts pretty much alone. This means that, during first term especially, you'll find yourself constantly introducing yourself to anyone and everyone. A friendly atmosphere settles over Hatfield which makes it not at all weird to chat to anyone who you might come across in college or in a society you have joined and people will appreciate you being confident and approaching them far more than you'd think.

One thing that I did was get the phone number or Facebook of anyone who I had more than a 3 minute conversation with. You'll end up with a few that you never use but it's a great way to confirm someone's name and always leaves you with the option to text people asking them when they are going to dinner or if they're going out.

In any case, it's not something to worry about. Just remember to ask lots of questions and appear interested at their answers - everyone likes to talk about themselves.

  1. Managing your own money

Until uni most people's parents have varying levels of control over their finances and the shift towards independence can feel dramatic. Luckily, for livers in (which will be almost all of you) you are in catered accommodation meaning that whatever happens you can always have food on your plate.

The best advice around finance is always to have a plan and stick to it.

The most important things is to remember when you are paying rent/accommodation fees to college and to set the payment up.

Plan a weekly budget by factoring in things like money for going out, clothes, snacks and whatever your hobbies are. You should definitely leave some room for emergencies - such as a broken phone which needs to be replaced urgently. Additionally, don't forget to factor in extra fees during freshers week that are incurred by joining societies and your JCR membership.

Some of my friends have found bank accounts where you can track what you spend on (such as Monzo) very helpful. And since you'll probably end up owing people money (or being owed money to) for things like drinks or snacks I'd recommend getting the free Splitwise app, which allows you to tally IOUs up very easily and avoids squabbles with your new pals.

As long as you have a realistic financial planning and some sort of impulse control things should be absolutely fine. And should something go wrong in either of these departments, there are jobs in the university or around the town which you can apply for to supplement your student loan.

  1. Self-motivation

In my university friendship group I have found that those of us with fewer contact hours (such as people studying English or Philosophy) have to self motivate more than most. However it is a skill that is required by all university students - there are no parents or teachers to be on your back so it's all on you.

Once again the best way to manage this is to be organised. Make sure you are aware of your timetable and have it stuck somewhere obvious. Put reminders in your phone or diary for all those pesky tutorials and seminars - these sessions are often quite irregular so it's different from school. And of course, do your best with the reading list ahead of time.

The best way I've found to get course work done is by implementing roughly a 9-5 system in which you try and get up at a decent time and spend at least a few hours a day in a space where you'll be forced to work, like the Billy B (library).

Obviously, it is your first year, so the aim of the game is also to settle in socially and get into the heart rhythm of uni life. Therefore, there will be some days when getting up before 12 is impossible or you'll have to miss the library for a sports practice. It's important to remember that both sides of first year are important - skipping too much class will make the rest of your degree harder but so will skipping every meet up you're invited to.

  1. Missing home

In most cases, homesickness is more of a problem in theory than in practice. I was so worried I'd wish I could come home but be prevented by my 4 hour train journey. However, in the end the bustle of freshers - new friends, new hobbies, a new home - kept me far too busy to think about it much.

There will be times when you'll feel sad about it and inexplicably end up crying to a very new friend. However, you'll find that you and your new group will be able to work together to lift whoever is upset out of their misery. Don't forget that in our wonderful age of technology calling and texting your loved ones can really help. I'd try to avoid visiting home excessively, especially towards the beginning when you could miss out on making friends, but anything up to a couple of times a term can also really benefit you.

On the other hand, don't completely forget your home friends. Most people I've spoken to agree that they wish they'd kept in touch with more people, especially considering that Durham has long holidays which you may be spending at home. Try and look for the balance between cutting off communication with people who negatively impacted your life and remembering those you'd hoped would be your friends for life.

So, with the new academic year approaching the best thing you can do is relax. Freshers is a whirlwind of newness and that can make it very tiring. As long as you organise yourself realistically and remain open to all the experiences coming your way you should have the time of your life. Or at very least, a lot of fun.

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