From a very young age I’ve always been very interested and amazed by the magic of film. When I found out that I could make a living out of something I like so much, the famous question of “what am I going to do when I grow up” was quickly answered. Through my personal journey to university as an international first year student, I picked up some tips along the way. Hopefully the things I have learned will help other international first year students with their fears and expectations of uni.
1. Make sure that you are studying something that you truly like.
I know that a lot of young people feel pressure from their families to study a certain thing in order to have a very specific future, but don’t let this pressure sway you from your passion. You can and should be selfish and do what you love. Take a stand and fight for what you want to learn.
2. Research multiple universities in multiple countries.
As college was coming to an end I had to start my research and find what university would be the best for me. I knew I had to stay fairly close to home due to some family problems, so film universities in America quickly became a “no” in my hunt. I applied for four universities in the UK and got into all of them, eventually deciding on Bournemouth University to study script writing for film and television.
3. Know the good (and the not so good) about your university so you are prepared on what you’ll need to cope with.
When I made the decision to go to Bournemouth University I was aware of all of these. For me, the selling points were: the curriculum of the course, the teachers, the opportunities, and the location. The not so good: being so far from home and the different teaching methods in the UK from what I was used to in Portugal. This “negative” point actually became a positive one; the amount of support I received from BU as an international first year student was amazing.
4. The first weeks at uni are both exciting and terrifying…but try to meet everyone you can.
People at uni are extremely friendly (most of them anyway). For the first time in our lives, we are all in the same place at the same time experiencing something new. So, lose the fear and just talk.
5. Make sure you know where all the important places are.
Like the buildings where your courses are held.
6. Find somewhere that makes you feel close to home.
Get out and explore the town! Search for somewhere nearby that make you feel as close to home as possible. For me, since I grew up near the sea, the Bournemouth beaches quickly became go-to whenever I felt a bit homesick.
7. Attend as many events at freshers’ week as you can.
These events are not all just drinking and going to clubs (although there is a fair share of those). These events are designed to help you meet people and introduce you to your new life at uni.
8. Get to know your flatmates.
Whether you are in a house with people or in university halls, make sure you get the know the people you are living with. In most cases you’ll end up creating great friendships.
9. Decorate your bedroom in a way that will make you feel closer to home.
Living alone and away from home for the first time is always difficult; bring your own books, your photographs, a pillow or sheet that you love.
10. Roughly sketch your meals for the week and cook them all in one day.
For me, one of the biggest challenges of living alone for the first time was grocery shopping. I always bought either too much or too little food. If you plan out and cook your meals ahead of time, it makes everything much easier. For me that day was Sunday, I would cook everything and freeze for the week, just remember to take the food out of the freezer the night before.
11. Speaking of groceries shopping, determine which shops have sale days and when.
Work around these days. It will make a very big difference in your account, trust me.
12. Speaking of food, make sure you try to eat as healthy as you can.
I know for a fact that it isn’t easy, but it does make a very big difference in your energy and ultimately performance at uni. So ditch the Starbucks and fast food every day (it’s very hard I know) and try to make healthier options.
13. Pack snacks.
Going off of the last tip, a good way keep yourself from constantly ordering junk food is to bring your own snacks to class. This will save your health and your wallet!
14. Create a routine week to week.
In my case, my lectures and seminars weren’t always on the same day at the same time, so it can be difficult to create a routine. My advice and what worked for me is: create a routine from week to week to make sure you are using your time wisely.
15. Learn to manage your time wisely.
Something that was very surprising to me (and for a lot of other national and international first year students) is how much independent study and work you have to perform. This is where learning to manage your time becomes essential.
16. Make time to exercise.
I love going for a run near the beach and enjoy the sea and the sun. But more that just keeping you fit, regular exercise keeps you healthy mentally, gives you a stability and makes you think more clearly. Whenever I get writer’s block I go for a run. I always come back feeling inspired. Use the time to exercise!
17. And always make time for your friends.
The first step to feeling happy is to surround yourself with people that you care about, so make sure you make time to be with your friends.
18. And always, always make time to talk to your family.
They want to know how uni life is going!
19. My mum says it best, “just enjoy it.”
University is that one time of our lives when we can (and should) make mistakes that will build our future. This is as young as we are ever going to be, so enjoy it, have fun and make yourself proud.
20. Do whatever you need to do so that when you wake up in three years you will say, “this was hard, but I’m proud of myself. I did it.”
Then go ask your mum what’s for breakfast.
I’m kidding! To be fair, these tips are what helped me in my specific case. University is something that is different for everyone and each individual should learn what works best for them…but hopefully these tips for international first year students (or any students, really) provide a little help to get you through!