While I did talk to a few people and did my research online, I still didn’t really feel prepared for my first day at university. Over the last 2 years, I feel like I’ve accumulated as much knowledge, if not more, outside the lecture hall or classroom than inside. Nothing pleases me more than passing on this wisdom to others who will be starting this autumn. A word of warning: since I go to university in Hong Kong, some of these may not apply to freshmen starting out in the UK, US or elsewhere. But I feel that most of them are relevant for anywhere you go:
1. Buy a rice cooker.
2. Make peace with anyone from high school you have an ongoing rivalry with. You don’t want that drama to come back and bite you in the *ss one day, especially when you’re back home and bump into high school people in LKF.
3. Invest in good bedding that will last you for your time at uni. You’ll want a comfortable bed to come back to after a night of studying/partying.
4. Download as many movies and TV shows as you can from home before coming to uni. Chances are the wifi at uni doesn’t allow for such speedy downloads/there is a strict download policy with severe consequences.
5. Almost everyone in uni is now mature enough to be comfortable in their own skin. So why shouldn’t you? When introducing yourself to others, be yourself. There’s nothing wrong with a little reinvention, as long as you stay true to yourself, and don’t do it just for others.
6. You might get tempted to get white girl wasted upon meeting the other newbies. Well… DON’T. There’s nothing worse than waking up the next morning with a horrible hangover and an even worse rep. Limit yourself and be responsible.
7. Especially in those first few weeks without midterms and not too many important assignments, dedicate your free-time and weekends to go exploring your new area with your new friends. You might be pleasantly surprised by all the hidden gems you find.
8. Try and have a good relationship with your roommate. You don’t have to be best friends with them, but the occasional gesture of goodwill, such as buying them coffee or vacuuming their side of the room never hurts and doesn’t take much effort either.
9. Make the most of hall/dorm life, especially in your first year. Meet as many new people as you can, be on good terms with your RA/hall tutor, and just have a great time in general. Because…
10. Like me, you might get kicked out after your first year. As soon as you find out whether you got hall for the next academic year or not, start looking for roommates and start house hunting near your university’s area immediately. The sooner, the better, because many others will have started looking too.
11. If you live in the same city as your parents, visit them every other weekend. Leave a few weekends free to spend with your friends/explore new places, but don’t forget your parents completely! They’re the ones paying you to be there!
12. Try to get at least one day off on your timetable, and look into getting a part-time job/hobby for that designated day.
13. Don’t pick courses just because your friends are in it. Really go for the ones you actually want to do.
14. You won’t have a hell lot of time to go browsing manually for new music. Stick to 8tracks for all your musical needs: there are some great study playlists their in addition to a bucketload of party mixes.
15. I’ve only ever pulled one full all-nighter for studying, and my advice to those who feel that they will participate in this more frequently is to have the following with you: great music, a toothbrush and tons and tons and tons of coffee/Red Bull.
16. Don’t buy brand new textbooks: they’re hella pricey. Try to find people who have taken the course before and buy it off them: you’ll save a ton of money. You can usually find people selling their books on Facebook groups dedicated to new students at your uni.
17. Hooking up with people you know from uni is the most awkward thing ever. Only do it if you know you can handle it.
18. If you’re having a “sleepover” with your SO, make sure you let your roommate know beforehand… you don’t want him/her barging in when you’re at your, um, peak.
19. Even if you’re not planning to join a club or society, make sure to browse their stalls for all their freebies!
20. And if you do join a club or society, make sure you’re joining because you really are interested and can make a full commitment to them, and not because your friends are joining.
21. Try to take courses starting in the afternoon/evening if you KNOW you’re not a morning person. I can guarantee you you’ll stop waking up for your 9am classes 2 weeks into the semester.
22. Your friends become your family members at uni. So treat them like one. And don’t let trivial problems ruin your bonds.
23. Keep your room clean. Trust me, you’ll feel so good when you come back to your room after a long day of classes. Start off by making your bed when you wake up in the morning.
24. Be as open-minded as possible. You’ll meet so many new and different people throughout the course of your uni life, each with their own set of values and ideals. Be open to everyone, and you’ll find people being open to yours too.
25. Go on long walks, and take a friend along with you. It’s a great way to get some exercise in, spend some quality time, and just talk. You might even stumble across a new place to chill at next time!
26. Don’t believe what others tell you, because you really can have it all: sleep, study and a social life! The key is balance, and a commitment to it. It’s all about getting your sh*t together and making the most of everyday!
27. Watch your spendings. I find that one place money is wasted for me the most is cabs, when I could have easily taken a bus or train (even if it would have taken longer). Save that money for something you REALLY want to do, like a holiday.
28. Invest in good headphones. You’ll need music, a lot of it.
29. Don’t miss out on breakfast. Even if you wake up late, try to make sure the first thing you do is have a big breakfast. It gives you the energy you need to keep you going for the rest of the day.
30. Exercise. Go out for a run whenever you have 15-30 minutes to spare. Not only is it good for you physically, it helps to clear your mind.
31. If you feel limited by what your campus has to offer you in terms of food, learn to cook yourself. It’s not that difficult to learn a couple of easy recipes, and you can even invite your friends to help and make a nice meal and catch-up sesh out of it.
32. Read the news. Download news apps that give you mini updates on your screen if you feel that you don’t have enough time to read it. Or even follow news outlets like BBC or CNN on Twitter to get updates. Make sure you know what’s going on.
33. Keep track of important dates, assignments and events on your smartphone calendar. Or if you’re old fashioned like me, buy a planner to do this. Whichever method you chose, just keep track of things, because you will have so much going on, I can guarantee you that you will forget a lot of stuff if you don’t note it all down somewhere.
34. Get ahead in the game with job hunting. Whether it’s for a summer internship or your grad job, make sure you start your search ahead of time so you know what the companies you want to work for want out of their candidates, so you can work on building upon those skills.
35. Not everyone will love you. Not everyone will get along with you, and not everyone will want to be your friend. But don’t let that get to you. Focus on the people that DO care for you, and forget the rest, because in the long run, they don’t matter.
36. Invest in a tailor-fitted suit. You’ll need to look your best for job interviews or recruitment events.
37. Use laundry time as a break. I usually keep 2-3 episodes of a good TV sitcom ready to watch while my clothes are being washed. Laundry won’t feel like such a huge chore anymore.
38. Go on exchange, if your grades/finances allow you to. I missed out on this opportunity, but those who I do know who have been on exchange have told me it’s such an amazing way to meet new people, travel and live somewhere you wouldn’t really have the chance to live in otherwise.
39. Learn a new language.
40. Take initiative. Create an host an event, throw a fundraiser, start a business… the possibilities are endless! But not only will you have fun with it, or even make some cash out of it, it will look really impressive on your resume.
41. While your studies are important, it isn’t everything. Don’t miss out on parties or events that you know you want to go to. Plan ahead and be smart about when you study, so that you make the most of your time at uni!
42. Whatever decision you make, learn to live with them. It’s okay to make mistakes, if you learn not to regret them later on. Just experience new things, and most importantly, enjoy your time there!