Wednesday, June 12

Fresher Survival

So you are close to finishing school, university is looming on the horizon, and you can feel the electricity of change fizzing in the air.
The prospect of this at some point or another is utterly terrifying. I know how daunting this can be; packing up all of your belongings, saying goodbye to your family, and journeying off to an unknown, grown up place all of a sudden.
Questions begin to flood your mind: 
"Am I ready?! What if it is hell!? What if I don't like my flat mates?!"

But do not fret my friend! Keep calm, make a cup of tea, and carry on reading.

Yes this change might be scary at first, but soon you will begin a year that you will never forget. You will change, meet a million new types of people, and truly discover yourself.
What's more, you will love it!
So here we go ladies and gents. I've done some research, pestered all my friends for their views, and made a million mind maps.
Here is a post on things that I wish I had known on day one, advice from myself and my friends, and a basic survival guide to a truly magical year.

Time to say goodbye...No more lessons, no more Sports Days, no more school!

Pre- Uni Prep:

For those out there choosing a university, it might seem like a daunting task which you would rather avoid when in the sheltered, snug bubble of school. My only advice would be to choose a uni for you and follow your gut instinct when you visit.
I knew Leeds was for me. I felt comfortable, excited, and its perks matched my priorities. Don't choose a university based on the choices of your friends/boy friends- these can last with distance, but your happiest at the right uni is what truly counts. Visit an open day, have a venture around, and think about the conditions (e.g. distance from home- if you are a home bird living in Devon, maybe the trek to Edinburgh isn't for you!).
Follow your instinct!

Enjoy your Leavers Ball and have an epic summer. Earn some money, go on holiday with your friends, and get excited for a new beginning!

Take everything you can't live without. Pictures, comfy duvets, hot water bottles... Don't worry if you over pack, this can always be taken back home after- I bought at least 6 pairs of heels before freshers, convinced they were night life essentials, only to find that no one wears heels out in Leeds!
Make your room your own- posters, pictures, fairy lights. You are living here for a year so pimp it out to make that empty room more, make it a home!
Here is a little example of a few bits from my room:

A map of the world to show where I have been/would like to go, and my famous Post-It wall. Every time there were intoxicated friends in our flat before a night out, writing a post it on my wall was compulsory- I can't recommend it enough purely just for the giggles!

My Dad's idea was a priceless essential.
My "Where the Hell is it?!" box saved me multiple times!
Basically it contains the little things you take for granted at home.
Scissors, glue, paper clips, plasters, matches, torch, cards, screwdrivers... Absolute life saver!

When all packed and ready, it is time to jam pack your car, pile it up high, and hit the road with your family in tow.

Freshers Week:
This will be one of the oddest experiences of your life! Getting drunk and becoming 'best friends' with someone after a few apple sourz, late lie ins and laughs in the morning as you swear to never drink again, and a whirlwind of introduction fairs. 
Arrive at your halls, say goodbye to your family, and unpack yourself. Go find your fellow flat mates, help them unpack, have a natter, and see if you have any mutual friends on Facebook (you will be scared how many you do!)
Be friendly, understand that everyone is just as terrified as you are, and share around that chocolate bar your Mum hid in your suitcase. 

Take a million photos- there is no better bonding than a drunken selfie over a local takeaway's cheesy chips! Plus, it is the perfect excuse to add everyone on Facebook!
Invite new acquaintances over for pre-drinks, hopefully they will bring their flat mates, and you instantly widen your circle.
Whack out a pack of cards, learn/create your own rules of Ring of Fire, and crack open the vodka bottles.

- Ignore promoters. You do not need to pre buy tickets before university, wait to see what your flat fancies doing (the tickets don't sell out until the week itself anyway).

- Be open minded. You are going to meet people of different cultures, places, and beliefs. There will be some people who you do and don't get on with and that is just part of halls and adult life. 

- Do not worry if you don't like your flat at first or struggle to get on with the others. Chances are the people you are best friends with in Freshers won't be by Summer, and the whole point of joining the societies is to meet people with similar interests. 

- Enjoy yourself, it will fly by! Bond over some sourz, cheesy chips, and crazy dance moves. 
But with hindsight... DO NOT WORRY IF IT IS AN ANTI-CLIMAX. 
All of my friends that I asked and myself agreed that Freshers was good, but it was by no means the best  time or nights out in our first year. The best is still to come my friend, so do not panic if it is average!

(Oh and Berroca and bacon sandwiches is the best hangover cure in the world!)

I can not recommend this enough.
Clubs are where you meet like minded people, go on crazy socials, and get stuck in. Not only is it a lot more fun, but future employees want to see you did more than achieve a 2:1 grade. Join the Stitch and Bitch sewing society, RAG (raise and give), Sports Teams, or even Quidditch!
With fancy dress, go full out. It wins you higher brownie points as it shows you're dedicated to the society and want to get stuck in! (Oh, and is also wayyy more fun!)

Expect a bit of 'fresher' abuse, it is a right of passage but one which you control the limits of. You do not always have to do or down the drinks which the older students demand. One thing I found with hockey was that as long as you tried, they respected your limits when you said no. (Have a look at my hockey post here for more info).
Join the clubs which suit you, the beauty of university is that you can try the things at school you knew that you would be mocked for. At university, you are with others on the same wave length, everyone has their own niche, everyone can openly be themselves!

Lectures and Work: 
University is not like school, don't expect to get the same A*'s you had at school instantly, the professors do not expect this at all. The whole point of first year is to adapt from school and this is why most marks in first year do not count towards your degree.
Go to tutorials and lectures if you can, it really does help for exams, but don't fret if you miss a couple here and there. Most of the info is posted online to view after in case you do.

Don't fret if you have '1st year doubts/blues', most of my friends and I had points where we thought: "Why on earth am I doing this?! Do I even like this topic!?", and truth be told, for most courses the freedom of study really only emerges in second year. 
Just Keep Calm and Carry On!

I'd recommend being a catered student for first year as I found that it was the set social point every day when you sat down, nattered with your friends in other blocks, and planned the evenings out. It also meant you didn't have to worry about the time of cooking and after a dodgy day there was a meal ready, piping hot and waiting. The only problem is that the food wasn't exactly my cup of tea, it was all hearty meals and I'm a girl who loves fruit and veg. You don't have to eat unhealthily at uni, I kept my fridge stocked up with fruit and veg every week by finding the cheap local market stalls. It's amazing how by just buying a few bits each week, you instantly brighten up a little and avoid the dreaded fresher flu! 

Be careful what you eat while on campus, a few friends all said they wish they had prepared more meals in halls and brought them in as the cost of lunch each day quickly builds up.
If you have a kitchen, freeze a couple of portions of your favourite home meals. They will appear as a gift from heaven after a dodgy day and you are craving your Mum's famous chilli con carne!

Everyone gains/loses a few pounds during the semester due to the takeaways, hall meals, and alcohol. But don't worry, this is only temporary and as soon as you get home in the holidays it will even out again. Accept a little change, I went for damage control and hit the gym to counteract it a bit, but its only a short term thing.

University has a beautiful way of showing you yourself. I know it is cliché and expected, but you do become more mature, more independent, and can really embrace the interests and tastes which suit you as a person. It is an environment where you can reinvent yourself and be who you want to be. If you didn't like that nickname which stuck at school, that is absolutely fine as no one here knows it. You decide how to be seen by your peers and you can be the person who you truly are. 

Here's some cheeky before shots of the crew on our first nights out in Freshers Week:

And here are some after shots of how much we have all changed:

Just a little bit different here and there!

To top it all off, below is the top comments from my friends when I asked them for their experiences: 


1. Find a way to organise your money. I made a separate account to move a weekly budget into each week to try to keep in line with funds, accept that some weeks will be more expensive than others. Enjoy the student funds while they last!

2. Be sociable. Go out to the pub or on a night out, especially in the first few weeks. Only you will gain!

3. Do not panic if you are feeling down. All of us had one or two weeks where we really struggled and wanted to throw in the towel, it is a part of life so just keep soldiering on!

4. Explore the area and city. Listen to the older students for their advice or favourite hot spots of the best cafes and nights out. It is easy in Freshers to go to places simply because the advertising is great only to find that the place itself, really really isn't!

5. Make a big deal out of birthdays and events. It creates something to look forward to, the wackier the better! Bake a cake, go for a meal, throw a surprise. It is these little things which make an epic memory.

I absolutely loved the Mary Berry style Great British Bake Off surprise my friends organised for me, seen here. It is these small things which you remember!

6. Get a printer if you can. Using university printers is expensive if you have a couple of ten paged essays due.

7. Relationships: Do not get a boyfriend in the first few weeks or hook up with someone in your crew, unless you are absolutely positive. One of my friends strongly emphasised this and said that the rest of the year was incredibly awkward after they called it off three weeks in to the first term! Plus it also isolates you in the early weeks from the rest of the group.
Also, be careful. Some freshers are just interested in playing the field and some older students up for using the 'fresh meat'. Just keep your wits about you, be sensible, and you do not have to sleep around to fit the 'student stereotype'- definitely not the case! 

8. Look after yourself. Don't put yourself in a compromising position, especially when drunk, (e.g. In Leeds walking through the central park at 4.30am in the morning when it is renowned for attack and rape). Think carefully and try not to do what I did by ending up in A + E with a broken thumb after less than 24 hours in Leeds!

9. Bring toilet roll! (Especially if you are sharing a loo with others, it is these little things which you really need!)

10. Ring home! You might not miss your parents every single minute, but trust me, that one text every other day or so lets them know you are alive and well. They worry because they care, make their day and keep in contact.

So little Fresher, enjoy yourself, have a wild time, and have no regrets. You are only a Fresher once and I promise you it will be a year you will never forget. Try new things, go that extra mile, and most importantly be yourself. It is going to be epic!!

(Obviously this is all my own view/that of my friends, so your experiences might be a bit different! Add any further advice in the comments if you like too!)
Everyone that I asked for their views- THANK YOU! Your advice was unbelievably helpful in writing this!



  1. Ahh thanks so much for doing this Emily! Loo roll wasn't something I had thought of bringing and the "where the hell is it?" box is such a good idea, I'll be pinching those I think! Luckily CCCU isn't hours and hours away from Suffolk, but I was wondering did all your friends drink, I don't go abundance on alcohol, I know it might seem trivial to think about! Xxx

    1. Your welcome :) I know it is a bit of a long post, but I would rather put in everything I could think of than doing it half heartedly! It is those small things that you think "Damn, I wish that I had that!"
      Alcohol wise- Don't worry. In my Freshers every one drunk what they wanted to and how much they wanted to. In fact one of my hockey friends does not drink at all and always has a whale of a time! (She wrote an article on it here if you want to see:)
      Honestly, don't worry about others. As long as you are bubbly and sociable, no one will care if you aren't hammered, they just want you to be up for a night out too! Hope that helps! xx

  2. This is a really great post Emily. Particularly for those going into their first year after the summer - I wish I had read something like this beforehand!

    I really like tip number 8 - it's terrifying looking back at thinking how some girls I knew were lucky to get home some nights... If I were giving advice to freshers it would be to bear in mind that you are living in a city, with all the usual dangers and worries. Too many people feel like they're in a uni 'bubble' and that some special safety miraculously extends all over the city - it doesn't!

    Also tip number 7 - I broke this rule and met my boyfriend on freshers night #1..! We are still together, three houses, countless essays and two degrees later, but even if we weren't together now I wouldn't have regretted coupling up so early on. No one has a crystal ball, but I would say if it feels right then roll with it. I'm so glad I did! I went to uni determined to be single and free to enjoy friends and exploring; but I met Jonathon at a cash point before we'd even got to the first nightclub. He is absolutely my best friend and we've relied on each other for so much throughout the uni experience. I don't regret it for a second. But I one MILLION percent agree with the no need to sleep around - uni really isn't like American Pie. I think so many people regret sleeping with too many people in a bid to 'find' their new-self!

    I love the last photo. I've been at the train station too many times with a suitcase like this. It makes my stomach feel so weird looking at it - FAR too many emotions at these stations!


    1. Thanks Flora, I wrote this thinking that if it helped just one person or two people then it was worth it!
      Yeah I think it really opened my eyes as to the dangers some girls got themselves into when drunk, I mean I have a laugh, but some girls go to scary lengths! So looking after yourself is crucial since not everyone is nice enough to not take advantage!
      That is one of the cutest stories ever, it must be fate to have met then! You are lucky to have found some one like that so early on!
      You can't beat the 'looking longingly into the distance' shot!

  3. This is perfect Emily! Such cracking advice, I really couldn't agree more. I've got one of these posts in the pipeline, but you seem to have said it all!! XX

    1. Thanks India! I hoped at least some of it will be relatable and help someone out there at some point! Haha I'm sure yours will be epic too, I know what you mean in the pipeline, took me ages to do this one! xx

  4. such a great post - making me even more excited for the next year!! chosing my hall is becoming a huge problem for me though! they obviously all have their own sort of reputation for being fun, quiet, posh etc. but how did you chose?? its so difficult!!
    ce xxxxx

    1. Ahhh which uni are you going to? Don't worry, I had the same issue, I didn't know whether to go for the brand spanking new hotel like halls on campus, or the very sociable, further out, and character filled halls. If you know anyone at the university, it is well worth asking them for advice. When you look around they might say things which convince you to join a hall, but first hand advice is great to clarify this! Choose your priorities- i.e. distance to campus, food type, ensuite, and then find halls which match these, inevitably there will be a compromise somewhere.
      I found that the older but further away halls with a high social life were better for me than the dulux on campus blocks. (The new ones were usually filled with a lot of international students too).
      Overall- Decide on your priorities and try to find a halls which match as close as possible. Don't worry, it is only for one year! xx

  5. Ahh love this post, I'm a finalist and it made me SO sentimental! First year is the most exciting time of your life - everyone def needs to make the most of it!


    1. I totally agree! I'm so sad my first year is already over, I can tell the next two years will go so quickly..! xx

  6. Just thought I'd let you know that you're the 8th up and coming food and drink blog on bloglovin', I'M SO EXCITED FOR YOU! X

    1. AHHHH no way!!! I just saw this! Thank you sooo much for telling me Lottie! This has just made my day! (Big thanks to everyone reading my blog! :) )

  7. Emily, what an amazing blog post thank you!! I am starting uni in September and am so nervous about what to expect and how to go about preparing for the first few weeks! This blog post could not have come at a better time! I am so pleased that I stumbled upon your blog, I love how similar you are to me I adore cooking and am also rather a healthy eating and exercise fanatic! Sorry I'm rambling now Ijust wanted to say a massive thank you (I am not known to comment on blogs but felt this post definitely deserved it)

    1. Thanks Henrietta! Honestly don't fret, it is daunting, but will be the best year of your life so far, you will LOVE IT! If you have any more questions just ask :)
      Haha don't worry about rambling, story of my life that! I'm so happy you enjoy my blog, hope you stick around to discuss our joint obsessions!
      Such a sweetie :)

  8. This is such a fantastic post! I wish I'd had been aware of information like this and the stuff that Rose (The Londoner) wrote about Uni before my first term as a fresher. I'm looking forward to putting together a reflection on my university experience in a years time (eeek!) I hope you are enjoying the holidays. I wish you many sunny days full of baking, relaxing and spending time with loved ones. Looking forward (as ever) to your next post :)
    Love Isabella x

    1. Yeah I saw Rose's post and that really helped before I went to uni last September, that's what inspired me to write this, I thought I would do an up-to-date version of my experiences. Awww thanks Isabella! I can assure you that that is exactly how I'm spending it (but with work inbetween!) Hope you have a cracking summer too! xx


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