Being a freshman in a new place is never easy, but when you have some advice to help guide you along, it can make a world of a difference. Here are 20 things I wish I knew as a freshman at Ulster University in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
1. Join the Christian Union.
Whether or not you’re Christian, the CU is the best way to meet some of the nicest people at the university. And there’s almost always free food.
2. Join CASS.
CASS is the arts group on campus and one of the most welcoming, next to the CU. They have everything from drama and dance to music and comedy, with the potential of radio and television coming soon. So get involved and don’t be afraid to make suggestions and talk to the committee.
3. Talk to your professors and become friends with them.
This is crucial at every college, but at Ulster we’re especially lucky because most of the professors are completely down to chat and talk about life, as well as school. So let yourself become friends with them. They’ll become invaluable resources in later life.
4. Get a Translink card and explore Northern Ireland and Ireland.
These cards are great, getting you up to one third off your fares in Northern Ireland on buses and trains, and cross-border into Ireland. They’ll save you a lot of money in the long run.
5. Beware that Kelly’s is going to be packed.
Kelly’s in the only nearby club, located in Portrush. It’s a generic club, with some token oddball things, like an ice cream truck that occasionally serves as a DJ stand. But it’s packed almost every week. So be prepared for that.
6. Go to the karaoke nights in Portstewart.
Some of the pubs in Portstewart host karaoke nights every so often, and they’re so much fun.
7. Have at least one Morelli’s ice cream.
Morelli’s is a Portstewart institution, and is the oldest ice cream shop in Ireland. It’s done up like an old-style ice cream parlour with modern twists, and looks over the gorgeous bay at Portstewart. It’s super yummy too.
8. Learn to cook for yourself. Especially stews and soups.
Stews and soups are great because you can cook them in big batches, and then freeze individual portions, giving yourself food for weeks. I always do this at the start of the year, cooking up something every night for the first week or two, and freezing the rest. Yes, it takes up a lot of space, but it’ll save you a lot of money; especially if you take advantage of the discount sections at Tesco.
9. Have clothes for every weather, especially cold and wet.
Ireland’s weather is notorious for being all over the place, and Coleraine embodies that. You’ll need everything from snow and rain gear, to shorts and tees to deal with the changes. It’ll go from summer to winter over the course of a day too, so be prepared.
10. Explore the local cafés in Coleraine and Portstewart and find the little gems.
There are some really amazing little cafés around Ulster with great food if you just look past the Starbucks. Coleraine has some great little hidden gems, but you’ll see them packed with the locals. And everywhere will have a great soup to warm you up on the cold winter days.
11. Take every opportunity to get cheap flights with Ryanair around Europe.
Ryanair is notorious for being a cheap airline. The planes are fully functional, but the flights are just cheap. It’s great. Take every opportunity to explore every inch of Europe you can get to. And if you have the time to go Interrailing across the continent, do it. It’s something you won’t ever forget or regret.
12. Take advantage of your professor’s office hours, and talk to them every time you need anything.
The professors at Ulster are pretty cool about office hours. So talk to your mentor about anything you need. Whether it’s advice on where to take that cute girl out to later, or trying to deal with not understanding what you’re supposed to be studying. Talk to them. They really want you to, and you’ll both appreciate it and get a lot from it.
13. Explore the many charity shops in Coleraine for all of your clothes (and other needs).
Ah, my favorite haunts. I get everything in these, from new clothes, to costume stuff, to props for plays, to presents for friends and family. They are really good shops that usually get a lot of donations in. It’s great.
14. Moka coffee tastes better than Streat, but Streat gives you better value, so pick your poison carefully.
Moka is located on “the bridge” at Ulster, which is the main, giant corridor after you walk up the stairs of the main entrance. The Streat is straight down the end of that hall. Both are great for a pick me up. I prefer the Streat, because I usually get food while I get coffee, and the Streat has much better food options. Or, if you want to go even cheaper, and are okay with pretty mediocre coffee, head on down to the Student’s Union, or the SU. It’s a little slow, but the food is good, and it’s a nice place to park yourself and work or study.
15. If you have to live on campus, try to become friends with your housemates and neighbors.
But don’t forget to try to do the same if you live off campus. Whether you’re living on campus or off, you’re almost certainly going to be surrounded by students. So take note of it. And don’t be afraid to say hi.
16. Do the readings for your classes.
They’ll make life so much easier. This is a given. You can get by without them, but your grades will skyrocket if you do them. So it’s your choice, but I’d recommend it.
17. Start to plan if you want to take a year out and study or work for your third year.
I’d recommend looking into ISEP programmes. I’m currently on my year out, studying at Eckerd College, and I’ve had this planned for a long while. The ISEP process is long and arduous, but if you find people who did it last year and talk to them, your professors, and the ISEP coordinators at Ulster, you’ll fly right through it.
18. Join the gym.
The gym at Ulster is a little pricey, but if you can get yourself to go, it’s nice. It’s a small gym, but it has pretty much everything you might need (except a punching bag). It’s good to have the membership, and you’ll thank yourself if you manage to work to avoid the freshman fifteen.
19. Get yourself to Wetherspoons.
Wetherspoons, or Spoons, is a chain around the U.K., but they have great deals every day of the week. For example, £5 curry, or £5 steak, along with really cheap pitchers of cocktails.
20. Participate, explore and have fun.
Find the people and places you like and love them forever.
What are some things you wish you knew as a freshman at Ulster? Share in the comments below!
Featured image source: scmp.com
Sarah is a 21 year-old student, studying abroad for her junior year in Eckerd College, Florida. A girl of many interests, she is majoring in Marine Science, but shares a deep interest in fashion, travel and helpful tips to give life a little sparkle. Hoping to travel the world, Sarah hopes to one day build her own energy company.