First of all, for all you freshers – welcome to university! Uni will be the most important years of your life so far, with big expectations on you to develop academically and personally. As a veteran (after a 4 year undergrad, and now in the second year of a PhD!) I am here to give you some tips to make your life easier, help you achieve more, but also enjoy your time in (and out) of Uni!
1. Don’t worry
It is perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed and out of your depth when starting lectures, coursework and exams as a fresher. The jump from A-level (or equivalent) is huge, and nothing quite prepares you for this. The good news – it gets better! When I started my ungergrad degree, I wanted to quit because I thought I wasn’t good enough. But I got my head down, worked hard, and graduated with a 1st. That’s not to say it’s plain sailing for the rest of your degree, but you should get over this initial shock. If in time you still feel like you are struggling, if you are racked with self-doubt and feel like you shouldn’t be at university anymore, give this article I wrote last year on Imposter Syndrome a read. These kind of feelings can be tough to deal with, so remember you can talk to your supervisors, lecturers and the university has excellent advice services and counselling available.
2. Get organised!
Your first year of uni is a very busy one, combined with many of you managing your own time for the first time. It is a lot of things to remember and a lot of responsibility. As a fresher, I shunned the idea of using a calendar, and because of the amount of things I was involved with, and my poor memory, I inevitably missed meetings, appointments and social events. Don’t make my mistake! Embrace the calendar, and the wonder that is reminders. I use Google calendar because it works nicely with the university email, and also syncs with my smartphone, but use another app if it works for you, or even a good old fashioned paper diary. Get into the habit, of anytime you make any plans, quickly put it into your calendar, and if electronic, set yourself reminders. If your brain is like a sieve like mine, this will save you on countless occasions. This is especially useful if you are balancing 5 coursework assignments, sports training sessions and your weekly meeting with the Tea drinking society. Think of it as an extension to your brain!
3. Discover your new home
Sheffield is an incredibly friendly and welcoming city, one of the reasons that many graduates choose to stay here after graduating. There are a lot of things to see and do, so make the most of your time off!:
- Go forth and eat brunch – there are some excellent breakfast and brunch spots in the city, too many to list. A couple of stand-out choices are Tamper Coffee (excellent NZ style brunch), Forge Bakehouse (try the huevos rancheros – oven baked eggs) and Steam Yard (you can’t go wrong with coffee and doughnuts!).
- Pub grub – Sheffield has a superb range of pubs serving local food and beers. Again too many to list them all, but look out for your local and check out the menu. Of the local beers, try the ‘moonshine’ pale ale.
- Peak district – what more do I need to say? Be in one of the country’s biggest and best national parks in 15-20 minutes. Go by bike, bus, train or car. Highlights include Castleton (a number of excellent hill walks start in this country town, with nearby caves that are accessible for exploring!), Mayfield Alpacas (all sorts of awesome creatures and critters you can feed, and easily accessed in the nearby village of Ringinglow), and Our Cow Molly (Sheffield’s own independent dairy farm, complete with ice-cream parlour!).
- Shopping – take your pick from the city centre, West St, Abbeydale road, Ecclesall road, Meadowhall and more! Each has their own set of unique shops. Abbeydale road is a personal favourite, with great places to eat, plus antiques and vintage shops, where you can test your ability to haggle!
4. Be proactive
Always wanted to go walking in the peak district? Or how about taking photos? Maybe rowing has always interested you. There are so many sports and societies available at Sheffield Uni, that the world is your oyster. If there is anything you have ever been curious about or wanted to try, chances are that you can try it while studying here! Go along to the sports and societies fairs on fresher’s week, and get signing up! Here’s where that Google calendar will come in handy…
5. Become a savvy shopper
And finally, you should learn to shop smart. Money can be tight as a student, and especially difficult if you are learning to manage your finances for the first time as a fresher. Remember your student card doubles as an NUS card, which can get you discount on everything from bus fares to clothes and much more! Look out for special student events in the city centre and at meadowhall during fresher’s week, plus the usual student discount throughout the year. A lot of pubs and clubs have different entry/ drinks promotions on different nights. Knowing when these all are, and planning nights out accordingly can save you a small fortune! But by far one of the things most important to take advantage of is the magical yellow stickers that indicate reduced food at supermarkets! The cleverest of savvy shoppers will know when their local shops reduce food, and arrive perfectly on time to snap up the significantly discounted goodies, then have room in the freezer to store things for later.
Hopefully these hints and tips, honed from years of experience, will make your life as a fresher little easier, and your time off more enjoyable!