Today concludes my series on my experiences during my first year at university. This one’s probably going to be the most fun to write, as I get to talk about all the amazing things I got to do this year.
Contrary to the belief of many adults, you do have spare time at university! There’s so much to do on campus that the student union wants you to get involved with, plus this time also allows those who need it to get a job to support their studies. This year I had a job whilst I was studying, got involved with a couple of societies, and got to go to a bunch of amazing one-off events! In this post I thought I’d talk a little about working and studying, the things I did this year, and what my plans are for the second year of my degree.
Societies are the university version of extra-curricular activities at school. At my university, anything sport related is referred to as a club, and other activities as societies. Societies are usually extremely casual, and a great way to meet new people and try out things you may have never done before. There are dozens of societies for pretty much everything you can think of, but if you want to do something new you can also talk to your students’ union about setting up your own society! You just usually need some people to back it and say they’d be interested in attending meetings and events to get it started.
During my first year I joined the committee of the Feminist Book Club, where we choose a theme each month and read a book relating to that, and discuss topics such as sexuality, gender, and race. Along with another first year on the committee I got to set up and run a blog for the book club, which I’ll be carrying on with next year. That experience was extremely influential in me setting up this blog and has given me opportunities to collaborate with others. I also attended events for other societies throughout the year, such as film screenings and a magazine launch! These were really great ways to meet people, and I suggest joining a society and going to some events, even if you don’t join their committee or religiously attend every meeting. Societies fair during freshers’ week is usually a good introduction to what’s on offer.
I’m also excited for next year – I’ll be continuing to work on the Feminist Book Club committee and will also be in charge of organising events for the RAG society (essentially a society which raises money for various charities). There are plenty of societies I want to check out next year to see if I can find anything new I enjoy – I only have two more years to participate!
Events and the Uni Bubble
If you live on campus during first year, as many freshers do, it’s ridiculously easy to forget that there is an outside world when you have a shop, library, post office, bar, nightclub and much more all on your doorstep. It’s like a tiny community cut off from the outside world, and it can be hard to remember that there’s a bigger city, country, beyond your campus. Although this can be a nice way to ease into moving away from home, I urge you to explore your new city and see what it has to offer. Personally, Norwich is great for arts students – the city has a lot of history and there are cultural events and festivals taking place all year round.
Try and use various websites to keep up with what’s on offer in your city – Facebook events is a great way to do this – mark yourself as interested in an event and you’ll get reminded about the details nearer the time. Also find out what your significant local venues are! For me they’re a theatre and a nightclub/music venue. Throughout my first year I saw comedian Sofie Hagen, musician Dodie Clark and a live recording of the Guilty Feminist podcast amongst many other things. Students can also often get discounted (occasionally free!) tickets, so take advantage of that! You have to be brave, and sometimes you may end up going to events on your own because you don’t know anyone else who’s interested, particularly at the beginning of the year, but this helps nurture independence and a sense of adventure and doing things for yourself.
Getting a job
Before I talk about working at university, I just want to acknowledge that I was incredibly lucky in a couple of ways. Firstly, I work for a company with branches all across the country, so I was able to be transferred to a store near my university, which made it a lot easier for me to secure a job at uni. Secondly, I can’t offer advice from a financial perspective about working during your degree. I’m not reliant on my job for income to pay for my studies or my food/rent etc. Luckily my maintenance loan covers my essentials, and I use my wages to save for the future or any emergencies. I just wanted to say that as it meant I could be super flexible with my hours and was never struggling between studying and working.
I would just say, if you’re able to, balance work and university so that your studies are never suffering from you having a job. My manager was always very understanding, which meant I could pick up extra hours when university was more relaxed or cut down to one or two shifts a week when I got really busy. I also have a course with relatively few contact hours – this worked to my advantage as I was available during the day to work more and then study before/after my shifts. The main thing to remember when working is to keep an eye on time management and ensure that everything (work and study related) is still done to the best of your ability.
It’s been a lot of fun writing this series on my first year experiences. This has been partly a diary for me to think about everything I’ve achieved this year, but I hope that amongst that there was also some advice that may ease your nerves about going to university. The majority of people who go end up loving it, and even if you don’t end up at your first choice university I promise that you will soon fall in love with your university and defensively argue that it is the best who anyone who dare suggest otherwise!
If you’ve followed this series, thanks for reading, and please do keep in touch on social media – all my links are in my header.