A Quick Guide to Surviving Your First Semester at Uni



October 11, 2016 - bellvue-admin - Student Life

There are, arguably albeit, three major aspects of a student’s first semester and in fact first year at university that, own them and you are pretty much guaranteed to have an amazing university experience and achieve your full potential. Quite simply, those three aspects are how to deal with study, money and homesickness. Hence, here is a quick guide that covers how to conquer (or at least survive) all three.

1. Dealing with Study

Here in the UK, most undergraduate BA Hons degrees (the most commonly undertaken first degree here) involve taking a first year which does not contribute in terms of grades and exam results towards your overall degree award. This is partly to permit students to acclimatise to student life and study without penalising them for partying a little harder than they are likely to in their second and third years.

On the flip side, this can also make it very tempting to not take one’s first year and especially first semester studies very seriously. After all, secure a pass grade and all is good, right? That is certainly the thinking of many and it is a common saying in the UK when talking of undergraduate degrees that: ‘the first year doesn’t count’.

In fact, and as any graduate (or drop out for that matter) is likely to tell you: if your first year or semester at university doesn’t count it is because you failed to make it count. Every moment at university should matter, regardless of whether it translates into a grade or goes towards your degree award.

Then, rather than shirking the books, having ‘yolo’ drunkenly (and rather ironically) tattooed to yourself and failing to remember what exactly happened only to be confronted by a mountain of work in your second semester or year even, remember; university is as much about learning the life skills you will rely on for the rest of your life as the study skills you will need to rely on in order to complete your degree.

Whilst your first year and especially your first semester might feel like an easy road, remember: calm comes before the storm and if you want to survive or better yet ride that storm like a pro, now is the time to start preparing.

2. Dealing with Money

You have just moved out of the family home, probably for the first time, are settling into student living, have a student loan sitting in your account, are surrounded by bright lights, new shiny people and pubs and clubs all offering students pound pints and pitchers for the price of a shot and there is nobody to tell you off for going wild.

Suffice to say, most students during their first semester at university will have a couple of nights out during which they have no idea how much they are spending and quite simply do not care. This is normal and provided you at least keep track of what and how much you are drinking, not going to result in catastrophe in most cases. The trick is to know when to draw the line and do so before the bank does it for you.

Then, whilst it is not perhaps fun, it is well worth budgeting for your first semester and allowing yourself some extra cash to go a bit crazy with to prevent simply going crazy with take away withdrawal and lack of funds come semester number two.

For more advice on how to budget and manage your money as a new student, head over to The Complete University Guide website. In fact, for all matters money related, this is one website you might want to bookmark, as it really is about the most comprehensive one currently out there and is likely to make a valuable resource to refer to throughout your studies.

3. Dealing with Homesickness

Whilst some students seem impervious to the blight that is homesickness, far more students will find they experience it on some level during their first semester at university. Not only common, home sickness is completely normal and even healthy; when so much has changed in such a short timeframe the mind necessarily needs to adjust to these changes. Therefore, it is perfectly understandable to have moments of doubt, experience the blues and even find yourself feeling downright overwhelmed at times.

Further, being away from friends, family and all the familiar and favourite places you turn to in times of stress is likely to result in feelings of loneliness and isolation, at least for many new students. Hence, home sickness rather than being something to hide or feel embarrassed about is something worth being brave enough to discuss with your new housemates, fellow students and new friends; chances are some if not all of them are feeling very much the same and being able to discuss this openly is not only the best way often of feeling better, but can forge friendships of the strongest kind.

Meanwhile, those worried about experiencing homesickness or currently struggling with it can also get advice and support via the Mind Mental Health Charity website. It is also worth speaking with your university as most operate enabling and / or support services, recognising that even second and third year students are not impervious to homesickness and that student life, however rosy it is made out to be, has its hard times.

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