In so many ways I’m glad I’m not a fresher anymore! I really hate awkward small talk and your first year is full of it. So, what subject are you doing? What halls are you staying in? Where are you from? It gets a little repetitive. You can be a maverick and open the conversation with a curveball question like “So what type of dragon would you have, if you could own one?” But, as much as I like pondering such scenarios, in my experience, people don’t like to be caught off-guard. You will meet a lot of people trying to act ‘normal’ (although, everyone’s weird on the inside) therefore you might play at being ‘normal’ yourself.
A friend that I work with is starting university this October and so I’ve been thinking of various tips and pearls of wisdom I might give her. I found the first 3 months really hard but I don’t want to tell her, or anyone, that for fear of putting her off. She’ll have a great time, I know that for certain, but not everyone will have an amazing experience. So here is what I have to say to you, my fellow misfits. Firstly, I’ve already written about finding your kin and this takes work. Nothing in life simply falls into your lap; you have to work at it and actively seek out situations and experiences. If you feel that you and that girl really into country music had the tender beginnings of friendship then you should take her number, add her on Facebook (or any other social networking platform), and arrange to go to a barn dance (or something like that.) Go to societies and events that correspond to your interests – you know for certain then that you must have something in common with everyone else in the room! I went on a historical walking tour of Exeter and had a good chat with a fellow history enthusiast who had happened to have heard of my home town. That was an exciting moment – someone actually knows where I’m from! After having to tell a hundred people that it’s in Kent and about an hour from London you would have been excited too.
Secondly, the people you meet in freshers’ week aren’t necessarily going to be your best friends for life. I don’t even remember half the people I met! The same goes for your flatmates. Unfortunately, I had very little connection with most of them because I am, what I have termed, a ‘day dweller’ and they were ‘night dwellers’. Meaning, I liked to sleep at night and party hard during the day while they were the opposite. In fact, one of the only people I’m still close with after freshers’ I am now living with, and I refer to her as my husband because we bicker like a couple. But, again, that friendship took effort (and a whole Easter holiday together). I met all of my best friends through my friends I knew from school and we couldn’t be a closer bunch. When I started university, I was determined to be independent and establish my own group all by myself but I think this is what caused me to struggle so much – I had cut myself off from everyone I know. If there is one lesson you can learn from me it is that you should maintain the relationships you already have; I probably wouldn’t still be at Exeter without my school friends.
Lastly, money-wise, I have a few tips to share. I learnt from the best; my Exeter parents, (what I call my friends), have shown me all their tricks to eating and living cheaply. The pound shops in Exeter (and they are abundant) should become your best friends – there is nowhere else on the planet you will find Maryland cookies for 29p! Also, I have lived off the basics ranges from all the supermarkets and have not, as yet, caught food poisoning. Some of it is actually pretty tasty. I recommend Tesco’s onion and garlic pasta sauce (with some bacon, if you have the cash to spare.) I have a weakness for Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference sausages, but if I can resist so can you! In our flat we like to batch cook our meals and freeze them, and if you do it right (unlike me who ended up eating chilli every night for two weeks) you can happily feed yourself for up to a month. This is really handy over exam season (or when you eventually catch freshers’ flu) and you just can’t be bothered to cook.
That’s it, I think. Hopefully I have helped you on your adventure through university. Remember to embrace every opportunity, and good luck!