Sunday, 13 November 2016

University Life

I think life at university is probably one of the most surprising times in a person's life. Before you go to uni, there's all these expectations about what it will be like, everyone you know who's at, or has been has something different to say. I don't think you can really prepare for the social side- it differs so wildly between universities, accommodations and totally depends on the friends you'll make, but you can do a few things that should make day to day life that little bit easier.

1. Food
We all have our priorities in life, and mine happens to be my dinner so I'll start here. I'm in self-catered accommodation, so most of what I talk about will be in regards to cooking all of your own meals. The choice between catered and self catered is completely personal, there are ups and downs to both, but do your research and talk to a few people from each type at open days or through friends to get a good feel for both before making a decision. Anyway, onto the actual food...
The most important thing to do when you're cooking for yourself is to plan your meals. For me, recipe books are an absolute godsend (my favourites are this one and this one because they're specifically aimed at students). Every week, I spend about 10/15 minutes picking 5 or 6 recipes and making a list of what I need to buy. Then, all it takes is one trip to the supermarket to get all the ingredients and I'm sorted for the week. A tip is to make the meals with the freshest, unfreezeable ingredients in them early on in the week so the ingredients don't go off. Also, don't pay too much attention to sell buy dates, unless they're on things like meat. You'll be able to tell when something is going off- veg in particular is usable well after it's gone out of date in many cases, Freeze as much as you can. Putting things into my freezer drawer is like Tetris it's so full- I freeze everything! If you end up making too much of something, a quick google should tell you if it's freezable and then you'll have a quick easy meal to defrost if you forget to go shopping. It's also good to make extra of things like pasta sauce, the amount of Bolognese I've made and eaten in the time I've been here is bordering on unhealthy, and again, it's something to eat if you've run out of everything else.

2. Study
No matter how much people tell me that studying isn't the most important thing to worry about in the first year of uni, I will worry about it nevertheless. I think the pressure of A-levels has made me think that anything below about 80% is rubbish, but in reality I only have to get 7/20 to pass each of my modules this year, and nothing is counted towards my final degree. I think this is similar at most uni's, and even if not, the pass percentage is definitely lower than at school. This is definitely something I try to bear in mind when I'm working on and handing in assignments but it can sometimes be hard to remember. Comparing yourself to other people can also be an inevitable part of academic life. Especially in the first few weeks I wanted to know how my marks and understanding compared to everyone else, not in a competitive way, but more to reassure myself that I wasn't lagging behind. In doing this, you will definitely come across people getting better marks than you, working harder than you and who understand that that thing you've been struggling with straight away. In English, people stand outside the lecture hall reading the book we'll be studying in about 2 weeks time, while I'm still struggling through that week's reading. For me, this is definitely the most intimidating part of my course. I feel like if I'm not reading weeks head, I must not be passionate enough about my course and be spending too much time watching Netflix. It is soooo important to try and stay away from this mindset! The people reading far far ahead either live and breathe their course, or are trying to intimidate everyone else by showing their superior reading stamina- I've definitely met both kinds.
In terms of actually studying, I'm not sure I can tell you anything you haven't already heard. I try and make a list of things I want to get done everyday, and try to stop working once I've got those done, or if not I stop at 10pm. I know that seems really early for a student but I am definitely more of a morning person! I think that trying to work out some set hours to study, and then sticking to them is important.

3. Living on your own 
Before coming to uni, I worried that I wouldn't know how to live by myself. I was kind of alright with cooking so I didn't really worry about that, but I had absolutely no idea how to work a washing machine no matter how many times my mum showed me, I had no idea what to do with banks, how to manage my money or sort anything out. Then, the first month of uni happened. In the space of about 3 weeks my online banking stopped working, my phone broke, I had a parcel delivered to a non existent person, another they just didn't even try to deliver and £60 worth of train tickets lost in the post. It was probably one of the most stressful times of my life as I had absolutely no idea how to sort everything out. The one thing I cannot reiterate enough while sorting things is to try and talk to real people, you can ask exactly what you need to know, and 9 times out of 10 they're able to sort it out straight away and give you a definite answer. Also remember to be polite- people working in customer service get a lot of angry people to deal with, so if you're really nice and patient they're more likely to help you out.
Budgeting is another thing consider- I divided my total student loan by 12 to give me a budget for every month of the year, rather than when I'm just at university, meaning I have emergency money saved up, or something to spend when I'm at home. It's important to work out a budget that's going to work for you and to stick to it!

So, I hope that was somewhat useful, or at least gave you a few things to think about when going to uni!

E x


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