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Eight things all new students need to know about university life

By Luke Rix-Standing
Enormously disrupted by Covid-19, this year’s intake of students will be arriving on very different campuses to those of their forebears, as social distancing, remote working, and quarantine protocols all take their toll on the famously free-spirited student experience.

New students could be forgiven for feeling apprehensive, as even in ‘normal’ times, uni marks an intimidating change, and the pandemic has masked many of these daily difficulties. Here’s a few things everyone should know when going up to university, regardless of coronavirus…

1. They might not be ‘the best years of your life’
A myth perpetuated by older graduates reliving their rose-tinted ‘glory days’, this irritating phrase is a case study in how not to manage expectation.

University can be liberating, rewarding, and enthralling. Or it can be confusing, stressful, and desperately lonely. Take time out for self-care, and remember that if you do find university life tough, you’re in very good company.

2. Sign up for as many societies as you can
There’s a common misapprehension among freshers that if you sign up to a club or society, that somehow means you have to go. You can jump on 100 mailing lists, attend 20 taster sessions, follow up on five of them, and finally settle on two – and those lucky two will be happy to have you.

No one leaves university saying: ‘I wish I hadn’t signed up to so many societies during freshers’ week.’ Loads of people leave saying: ‘I wish I had tried more new things.’

3. Everyone else is just as nervous as you are
He may not look it, but the guy tearing up the dance floor with a routine from Footloose is just as nervous as the girl leaning awkwardly on the bar. Everyone is bricking it when they arrive at university – it’s just that some people are much better at hiding it.

4. Clubbing becomes less and less important
Freshers’ week can be hard for introverts, teetotallers, and anyone with respect for their own wellbeing, and after seven straight days of degeneracy, it’s easy to assume that that’s just what uni is and will be.

By third year, you’ll be splitting your time between the library, clubs and societies, and maybe the occasional house party. The meek will inherit campus – just not in the first few weeks.

5. Get your kitchen in order early
Suddenly self-catering is a system-shock for most teenagers, and there’s at least one person in every flat that ends up living on Pot Noodle. It’s not good for your health or reputation – and nor is the mould that accumulates on a lively percentage of student kitchen crockery.

The washing-up wars rage in every communal kitchen, and mess is an easy proxy for unresolved flat tension. Neither nagger nor naggee is a good look, so do your dishes promptly and keep your head down.

6. Remember there is life outside uni
People talk about ‘the uni bubble’ for a reason, and campus life is so full-blooded, so all-encompassing, that the outside world can quickly feel like a distant memory. Your home friendships have been years in the making, and if you don’t neglect them, they will be there for years to come too.

7. Don’t expect too much from yourself
School is a small pond compared to the university ocean, and it’s much harder to stand out in institutions often tens of thousands strong. A school sports captain might only make the campus B team, and being top of your class is tough when your class can number in the hundreds.

8. All things in moderation
By the time you arrive on campus, it’s odds on that someone will have mentioned ‘the uni triangle’. Supposedly, the triangle represents the three main aspects of student life – work, play, and sleep – and holds that you can only do two out of the three.

Ignore this completely. Of course you can do all three, and the more effectively you do so, the happier you are likely to be.

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