A – Z of University Life

As a university student returning for my third year, I feel I am somewhat justified to be knowledgeable (ish) on this topic and have comprised an alphabetical guide highlighting all of the main aspects of university, complete with tips on making the most out of it…

A – Accommodation

If you are going to a university far from home, chances are you will require student accommodation. Prepare to share a living space with a bunch of newbies, cook meals for yourself every night, jazz up your standard bedroom but above all, have an amazing time. You are starting a whole new chapter in your life which will bring you many memories and experiences.

B – Booze

Before I attended I wasn’t aware of any drinking games, but after the first couple of months I could introduce my mates at home to several. They are plenty of fun and perfect for pre-drinking before a night out because they create the perfect party atmosphere – lots of laughs, banter and embarrassing behaviour.

C – Courses

Choose your university and course carefully as it will shape your future. Asking for advice from staff at your prospective universities will help, as they are experts in their fields and will be happy to provide information on their subjects. However, it is you who must make the final decision, so consider your strengths and career aspirations and you should be able to choose your topic and course accordingly.

D – Dissertation

Ahhh, the scary, ridiculously lengthy essay you have to write in your third year…don’t get crazy stressed about it, just make sure you are organised, prepared and writing about a topic you are comfortable with and knowledgeable about – and the rest will fall into place. Your lecturers will be on hand to provide guidance – after all, that is what they are there for.

E – Experience

University is an experience. Forget school bells and teachers mollycoddling you, at university it’s all about sophistication; being proactive and independent. But it isn’t just about being scholarly – your social life will blossom, naturally. Involvement in communal events may lead to a mistake or two, for example, getting drunk and kissing someone rank from your course and then having to face them during class the next day, but like I said, at least you can just put it down to experience…

F – Freshers

Fancy dress, cheap drinks, bar-crawls…expect all of this and more at Freshers, which is basically a week of dancing, drinking and socialising. Dignity will be lost as you shake your booty in a cowgirl outfit singing drunkenly to songs you probably don’t even like – but hey, it’s all part of the fun. Also, who said Freshers was just for, er, Freshers? My advice is to attend the party period every year – when else can you enjoy a string of themed nights out with heaps of other students? Make the most of it, and take plenty of pictures for memories.

G – Groups

Living in halls, it’s important to realise that you can’t get along with everyone. Gobby Gabby in the room next door may not be your ideal roomie, but she is, so just grin and bear it. Messy Matt might do your head in, but if you politely ask him to tidy up, then he may just do it. The point is, you can’t be best friends with everyone, but you can be civil. It’s like Big Brother, but on a smaller scale. And without the cameras, of course.

H – Hangovers

Urgh. The dreaded H word. Waking up next to an empty bottle of wine in the bathtub with a raging head is definitely NOT desirable, but after wild partying and excess drinking, is quite probable. There are ways to combat this horrible aftermath though – pints of water will quench your thirst, and ice-lollies are effectively soothing and hydrating. Some people find greasy fry-ups do the trick, but when I’m feeling a little dodgy I prefer to have something which slips down a little easier, like soup and bread. Sleeping it off is also advisable!

I – Independence

Living in student accommodation will open your eyes to what it’s like being completely independent. You get to call the shots on your daily routine and have so much more freedom, but with it comes a lot of responsibility in the form of household chores. From vacuuming to food shopping to merely refilling the tissue roll holder, it’s essential that you become accustomed to holding accountability for such domestic duties. Your maturity and independence will strengthen, but unfortunately, so will your hatred of dirty bin bags and impatience with an iron.

J – Jobs

After your course is over, you’re off out in the big wide world to find a job. Making sure you have plenty of work experience under your belt will set you in good stead for future applications, and broadening your skills early on will help you adapt to your chosen field.

K – Keeping Contact

You may be living it up having the time of your life at university, but don’t forget to keep in touch with those you care about! A daily phone call, weekly Skype or even a Facebook message or Tweet to friends and family will show that you are thinking about them.

L – Lectures

University is all about lectures: group work, essays, presentations…prepare to get your head down and get grafting, because top-notch results aren’t easy to attain, and you have to be motivated and willing if you want to get the job done to the best of your ability.

M – Mates

One of the most exciting parts about university is meeting new people. You will make friends who you can party with, study with and chill out with – those with similar interests as you. Being introduced to a sea of new faces will inject excitement into your life, and getting to know them is all part of the fun. You never know, after three years of spending lots of time with them you may even remain lifelong friends.

N – Nostalgia

When packing to move into your new pad, you may feel slightly homesick and initially, flying the nest may be an emotional experience. However, there are things you can do to keep your new room homey and personal to you. For instance, a few special belongings (teddies, posters, ornaments etc.) will give your room more character. It’s also a nice idea to create a montage of photographs filled with those who mean the most to you, so you can have a look at it when feeling sentimental.

O – Organisation

University is great fun – making new friends, partying till dawn, gaining independence – but you have to keep on top of everything! It’s advisable to complete that hefty essay before going out because then you don’t have to stress about it (you can concentrate on downing your glass of pear cider instead). Write a to-do list, with the most urgent tasks at the top, and this will help you prioritise your life.

P – Partying

Student discounts and cheap nights are just too tempting to resist. Many a time I found myself getting invited out by my friends to go clubbing late in the evening, and caving in to the suggestion. Going out with your group to a local hotspot and having an amazing time is certainly too attractive a prospect to decline, so just accept! (And moan at them later).

Q – Questions

Beginning university is a daunting and exciting experience and you are bound to have many questions – what will my roommates be like? Will I enjoy my course? Who will be in my classes? There are websites you can visit to help you form connections with people attending your university (e.g. YouGo) – even just “liking” groups and pages on Facebook will give you the necessary prod into finding people in the same position as you.

R – Resources

Your university will be brimming with all sorts of useful resources which you should take full advantage of. If they have a library, pop in and take out a book which may be of use to you, or use their computers to get started on coursework. Using journals, university websites and equipment will aid you in reaching your full academic potential.

S – Students

As a student you can get away with being messy, scoffing pot noodles and all the other stereotypical, student-based stuff, as well as enjoying the perks of student discounts and cheap nights out. Make the most of your student card whilst you have it, because it will save you lots of money in the long run.

T – Travel

Unless you are planning on hibernating in your student accommodation all year, then you are going to need to know your way around – whether that may be all the way back to your hometown or simply just to the nearest convenience store. Getting hold of a map would be wise, and finding bus and train timetables would also be beneficial.

U – Ups and Downs

You may experience home sickness, bouts of stress and niggling anxieties but this is natural. Surround yourself with people you care about, talk about it to those you trust and it will eventually clear. University is an emotional rollercoaster, but you just have to ride it out and remember that it may not be a smooth journey and you will have down moments, but you will always bounce back and have an absolute blast.

V – Volunteering

After university getting a job will be of the utmost importance – and volunteer work would enhance anyone’s CV. Okay, so working without getting paid isn’t exactly the most tempting of prospects, but employers will be impressed that you gave up time and effort to contribute to a project without receiving financial payment. Check out any opportunities that your university may offer – from charity bake sales to fashion shows, your involvement will widen your skillset, work wonders on your resume and you will probably have fun along the way.

 W – Work Experience

My advice would be to apply to job vacancies early on. It’s so easy to procrastinate and distract yourself from sorting out work experience, but it’s essential to move quickly if you want your dream placement. The more work experience the better; even if you find yourself on constant tea duty you will still learn skills and make new contacts, which will prove useful in your career.

X – Xtra Curricular Activities

Joining societies will keep you busy, extend your social circle and broaden your skills. Whether it’s a specific sport, a debate team or an academic contribution, it’s always beneficial to have an interest, and it shows potential employers that you are outgoing and open to new challenges.

Y – Youth

It’s easy to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of university, and stressing about your studies can be exhausting. Yes, university is hard work and you have to put in the effort if you want to achieve great results, but you mustn’t forget that you need relaxation time too. By all means, take your education seriously, but remember to appreciate your adolescence – learn from your mistakes and enjoy your experiences.

Z – Zzz’s 

University can zap you of energy and after seminars all you will want to do is flop onto your bed and go to sleep. It is a likelihood that napping will become your new favourite pastime, but this will at least compensate for the lack of sleep you get when you are out till the early hours partying. Basically, your sleeping pattern may get messed up, but hey, that’s nothing a quick afternoon snooze won’t fix.


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