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9 Things I Wish I Knew as a First Year

We asked second year student Charlotte what she wishes she'd known as a first year at Queen’s. Use her tips to adapt to student life on campus.

Fresher students relaxing on grass

Your first year at university can be really nerve-wracking. There’s so much to learn, both inside and outside the lecture theatre. Here are some pointers so you can avoid some common first year mistakes (NB: You don’t need to join everything at once!) 

1. Adulting is hard

Starting uni is a huge step. And the workload can, at first, seem really daunting. Not to mention, there’s so many conflicting expectations of you: to do your reading, to socialise, to join a club or society, to make new friends, to attend all your lectures, to cook, clean and live by yourself… Take a moment to appreciate – really appreciate – what it is you’ve done. You got this.

2. You will make mistakes.

With so many new adjustments going on in your life right now, it’s inevitable that you will make the odd blunder. Don’t sweat it - it’s part of being at uni. You’re allowed to mess up from time to time.

3. It’s important to be kind to yourself

Part of this is not comparing how you measure up to others on campus or to the uni experience you think you should be having. Listening to how you feel is the most valuable thing you can do. You need to make time for yourself on a regular basis and avoid criticising yourself when you do make a mistake.

4. You don’t need to say yes to everything.

When you start uni, it’s tempting is to jump at every opportunity. Join clubs, meet the people on your course, sign up to all the Freshers’ events. While that can be great, remember you’ll be at uni for a while and, though there’s a desperation to do everything at once, you don’t need to. Take your time.

5. As long as you do the primary reading, you’re OK.

Freshers often feel swamped by the amount of independent study expected of them. My best advice is to do the basic, most important readings first and the rest after. But what if the lecturer says it’s all important? Then start with the longest or hardest content while your brain’s still fresh.

6. You don’t need to network.

Another fear a lot of Freshers have is that they need to find the “right” group; the people who know people. But really it doesn’t matter who you know. It only matters that you spend time with people who interest you and who you enjoy being around. You’ll find them naturally when you follow the activities you’re interested in.

7. Everyone else is just as nervous.

It might not seem like it, but everyone is in the same boat as you. And it takes time for all first years to adjust to being in a new environment and around new people. But trust me, your confidence will grow over time.

8. You might not love ALL your flatmates.

Some people find their best uni friends living in Queen’s Accommodation, others don’t. Don’t worry if you don’t instantly click with the people in your halls. It means you will probably make friends on your course or meet them through social activities instead. Follow your passions and the right people will turn up.

9. You are not alone.

Please know that there is always help available if you need it. You can speak to your personal tutor, lecturers, peer mentors or GP. The Student Wellbeing Service (located in the Student Union) also runs drop-in sessions to discuss any concerns you may have. Or you can arrange an appointment with Inspire, which offers free counselling to students. And there is also the free 24-hour call service Lifeline (0808 808 8000), which is operated by trained counsellors and provides confidential support for people distressed or in crisis. You never have to suffer alone.


Charlotte Brice

English with Creative Writing| 2nd year | England

I’m a second year studying English with Creative Writing. I love to read as well as write. In my free time, you can find me either at the gym or in the kitchen trying out new recipes. I come from Essex in England, so I’m living away from home. I understand the move to university can be quite hard and I hope my blog posts can help ease the transition for others. If you see me around campus, feel free to say hi.