1st Year Survival Guide
I’m now in the 2nd year of my degree course, so I have officially survived my 1st year at university! I remember, all too well, just how challenging the 1st year was. I wanted to write this blog to offer some advice and ideas on how to survive your 1st year at university (Note: ‘survive’ is a bit of a strong word, it really isn’t that bad!).
The 1st year at university can be challenging, whatever your situation or circumstances. For me, the 1st year was more difficult than expected. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I didn’t realise just how much work would be involved, and I wasn’t prepared. I’m a CLL student, so I’m a mature student juggling family-life and student-life. Some of you will relate to the family-life/student-life struggle, but also there will be students reading this who are starting university straight from college or school. Whatever your circumstances, the 1st year brings with it many demands. In some instances, our struggles will be different; however, we will also face a number of similar challenges, such as – being in a new environment, being out of our comfort-zone, adjusting to university life, learning to cope with the amount of studying involved on a degree course, learning to write in an academic style (incl. the dreaded referencing!), meeting new people, and so on. It can be quite daunting. I would say that I’m quite a confident person. I’ve worked for various companies, I’ve travelled significantly, and I’ve taken on a fair few challenges in my life. However, I still found the 1st year tough. I think that, no matter who you are, the 1st year can be make or break. You will question yourself – Is university life right for me? Am I ready for this? Is it the right time for me? These are just some of the questions that may go through your head in the 1st year (and possibly beyond). All I can say is, you know yourself better than anyone else. You have to do what is right for you. However, there are a few things that you can do to make this journey a little easier. My advice would be:
Put in the effort – This is really important. There’s a lot to learn in your 1st year, and the reading lists are long! Don’t put things off. Put in the time and the effort and you’ll reap the rewards. Plus, you’ll have a less stressful time.
Make time for yourself – This is another important one. Allow yourself time to do the things that you enjoy, whether that’s spending time with your family, going to the cinema, meditating, catching up with friends, painting, going for a walk, or checking out the local area. If you enjoy it, make the time to do it. You need to create a good ‘study/life’ balance.
Start up a class Facebook page – This really helped my Early Childhood class to gel. We use it for things like – asking questions, offering each other support, sharing news, and sharing interesting links. It’s a great way to communicate outside of the classroom, and to keep in touch with each other. And it can be quite a good motivation/support tool.
Use the support available at the university – Warwick offers so much support for students, from workshops to wellbeing support. There is so much free help on offer; make the most of it. In my 1st year I attended several workshops; I learned new skills and got to meet fellow students. The library also offers ‘study happy’ sessions, which cover things like mindfulness and ‘deskercise’!
Wellbeing Support Services – https://warwick.ac.uk/services/supportservices
Undergraduate Skills Program – https://warwick.ac.uk/services/skills/events/ugworkshops
IT Services – https://warwick.ac.uk/services/its
Library Services – https://warwick.ac.uk/services/library
Don’t panic – You’ve got this! The lecturers, personal tutors, and support staff are all here to help. If you are unsure about how to use the library, speak to the staff there, they are very approachable. If you have an IT problem, go to the IT helpdesk (in the library) or contact one of the digital skills mentors. If you need support with your academic writing, loads of support is available (click on the following link for more information: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/skills/academicwriting). Whatever you need, don’t panic and don’t suffer in silence. There will almost certainly be someone at the university who can give you some guidance and support.
Support each other – be kind, friendly and supportive to your fellow students. We’re all on a journey, and we’ll face many challenges along the way. Support each other. The support from your peers can make a huge difference to your university experience.
Most of all, embrace university life. Try and enjoy your 1st year (and subsequent years). In no time at all, you’ll be wearing your cap and gown and you’ll be embarking on a different journey.