Your first term at university whizzes by so fast – what could you possibly learn in such a short space of time? For a start, you’ll probably learn how to survive on two hours of sleep and how to navigate the political minefield of whose turn it is to take the bins out. However, there are plenty of other things that you pick up in your first term that will be useful for the rest of your time as a student – and probably later in life too.
Budgeting isn’t optional
When you first get your student loan, your bank account suddenly feels like a goldmine. That instalment seems like more than enough to live off and enjoy the student lifestyle to its fullest. Once the freshers’ week blowout is done and dusted, and you’ve paid your rent for the term, you quickly realise the importance of budgeting.
Learning how to look after your money seems daunting at first, but by the time you’ve lived through a term, you’ll have a good idea of how much of your loan you can spend each month without running out by separating essential costs – like rent and food – from luxuries like shopping and nights out.
Cooking isn’t rocket science
Students get a bad rep when it comes to cooking, and the amount of fire alarms that go off in halls does nothing but reinforce the stereotype that the kitchen is not a place for students. Listen we get it, some students can’t cook – but that doesn’t mean that all students struggle.
Rustling up the occasional lasagne or cooking up a Sunday roast with the rest of your flat is pretty straightforward if you can get all hands on deck. Cooking for yourself instead of eating out will help you stick to your budget too.
You have to look after yourself
Moving away from home is a big change, and living independently from your parents allows you plenty of freedom. But with all that freedom and fun comes responsibility. After the first week or so of having no house rules, you realise just how much you have to do for yourself. The cooking and cleaning are now your responsibility, and your first term at uni becomes a crash-course in independent living.
All-nighters are the worst
Knowing that you can write a 3,000-word essay the night before it’s due doesn’t mean that you should. Everyone does an all-nighter at some point in their time as a student, but you quickly realise that they’re not beneficial for your sleep patterns or your grades.
Navigating the laundry room
The laundry room is a free-for-all, where you might have to battle it out for the last dryer. Figuring out how to use the washers and dryers is only half the battle because the laundry room can get busier than Friday nights at the SU. It’s a well-known fact that students and early mornings don’t mix well, so this is the perfect time to do a round of washing because the laundry room is guaranteed to be a ghost town.
The difference a cosy room makes
Decorating your room with some fairy lights, small accessories, and items that remind you of home can go a long way in helping you feel settled in your accommodation. If you’re feeling a little homesick or anxious, photos of family and friends will add a little familiarity to your room – or remind you that they’re only at the end of the phone when you need to chat.
How to manage your time
Unlike at college and sixth form, university gives you the chance to take charge of your learning and manage your own deadlines. Your timetable might not look busy, but you’ll need to work more independent studying into your week than you have in the past. It takes a brief adjustment period, but after a few weeks, you’ll learn how to block out time for revision and assignments in your timetable.
The importance of a dedicated study space
The idea of studying from your bed – or even the comfort of your own room – sounds like a dream scenario but in reality, it’s difficult to study somewhere that you associate with relaxing. Whilst you’re tucked into bed with your laptop, it might be hard to motivate yourself to study. Turn your desk into a dedicated study space, or find a quiet communal area for when you need a change of scenery. Whether it’s the library or the computer lab, it’s important to find space to get through your workload with minimal distractions.
How to live with strangers
One of the best parts of being a first-year student is living in halls, where you’re bound to meet plenty of new people – some of whom you’ll be living with. You’ll have flatmates who you just can’t live without, and others who… well, you can’t get on with everyone. And that’s fine. But learning to be tolerant of your flatmates’ quirks and habits will make life much easier.
Knowing when to say ‘no’
Every student suffers from a serious case of FOMO from time to time, but once freshers’ week is a distant memory, you’ll realise that there is a time and place for saying yes to things, and something to be said for the value of knowing when to say no.
Despite how it feels at the time, turning down a night out isn’t the end of the world, and if you’re being honest with yourself, you could probably use a good night’s rest.
Although it sounds like a cliché, the steep learning curve of the first term sets you up for life at university and beyond. You quickly learn how to live independently, take care of yourself and get a taste of adult life.
Beatrix Matyas is a writer for The Student Housing Company, providers of modern, purpose-built student accommodation in 13 cities across the UK.
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