From making friends to getting registered at a local hospital, first years could spend months preparing for their first semester at uni and still probably forget some things. Starting university is daunting in so many ways, but it can also be some of the best years of your life. To avoid some of the stresses about preparing, these are 10 things you absolutely need to do or pack in order to prepare for your semester at uni.
1. Facebook account
As annoying as Facebook can be, in this day and age it’s arguable that you cannot have an enjoyable time at university without Facebook, and if you do manage without it, it’s definitely a struggle. From event invitations to chatting with friends, nearly everything other than coursework and academic announcements is communicated through Facebook, so if you don’t have a Facebook account yet, you should definitely make one before your first semester at uni.
Additionally, I would also recommend making a “mandatory” welcome post in your university’s class Facebook page. Though it’s definitely cringe-worthy and will end up haunting you years later, it’s a great way to get excited about starting uni and possibly meet some people before the term starts.
2. Playing cards
If you’re at all nervous about making friends, love to drink, or enjoy being a good friend (aka nearly everyone), bring a pack of playing cards to uni! I cannot recommend this enough — there will undoubtedly come a time during your first semester at uni when you’re with a group of people wanting to play Ring of Fire, or another drinking game that requires cards, and you become the legendary friend who pulls through and makes this possible.
Bonus points go to anyone who brings other games to play to uni, including Cards Against Humanity, Mario Kart, or anything similar.
3. Practical home skills
Though your first semester at uni is definitely a small stepping stone to the real world, it’s still a big leap into your newfound independence. To make your transition to university as smooth as possible, I would suggest spending the summer to brush up on some practical home skills.
Whether it’s cooking more meals for your family, doing your own laundry, or learning how to properly deep clean a space, this will come in handy when you’re suddenly living on your own and taking care for yourself and realise you have no idea whether towels and clothes need to be washed separately or how to clean a mirror without leaving streaks.
4. Fancy dress (both types)
I don’t want to include a packing list in this article because this should be quite evident — bring some shoes, shirts, and pants that you like to wear. However, often in the frenzy of packing your life away for a year people forget that university isn’t just going to class and going out at night. Depending on your university, you’ll probably be attending some crazy costume parties and some formal events, especially ones that you don’t yet know about or have tickets for when you’re packing.
To prepare for all situations, I would bring at least 2-3 wacky outfits you could wear, or props you could bring, to a themed party. For formal occasions, like balls or dinners, bring at least one pair of nice shoes and then at least 2 outfits for these events.
5. Pocket money, or a part-time job
No matter how careful you are with your money, university is expensive, and your first semester at uni especially will be accompanied by a lot of unexpected fees, whether that be loading up on silverware for the year or paying membership fees to societies at the Freshers Fayre. In the summer before you start university, it’s crucial that you save up as much money as you can and try to find a summer job to make this easier.
You can always get a part-time job in university as well, but unless your financial situation is dependent on it, I would not recommend working a part-time job in your first semester at uni, or your first year, as it’s helpful to have some time to adjust to your new home and way of life.
6. All important documents, and copies
Especially if you’re an international student like me, the beginning of your first semester at uni will be filled with countless appointments to get your documents checked — passport, medical records, bank statements, etc. You’ll likely already have your passport and another form of ID with you, but it’s important to remember that you’re (likely) moving to a new town for the next few years all on your own, and naturally this comes with various checks to ensure that you’re able to be a resident of that town, including registering with a local GP and opening a local bank account.
Before you leave home, make a checklist of all these appointments you’ll need to attend or organise yourself and what will be required of them, and make sure you not only bring those documents with you to uni but make copies of them as well.
7. A hobby
This isn’t meant to sound sarcastic — I’m assuming (and hoping) that most everyone reading this does have a hobby, but it can help to spend the summer before your first semester at uni reflecting on what you love to do and possibly learning a new hobby or skill. During Freshers Week, you’ll be flooded with society after society pleading for you to become a member, and it can be overwhelming to decide what you want to get involved with and spend your time doing if you don’t quite know what you like to spend your time doing.
Having hobbies you love will not only make your university experience more enjoyable, but it can also connect you with like-minded people and lead you to find some of your closest friends while at university.
If you don’t have a railcard yet, I highly recommend signing up for one before you head off to university! As an international student, I didn’t realise how much travel by train I would be doing in uni or how much a railcard would save me on tickets. Plus, now that you’ll be living in a new place and travelling home at least twice a year, it’s a great idea to organise a railcard now in order to save money on these travels back and forth while you’re at uni.
9. Gym membership
Whether you swear by a good workout at the gym or you’ve never lifted weights before, it’s important to consider getting a gym membership before your first semester at uni. No matter your previous diet or workout routine before uni, it will all change once you arrive and adjust to a new way of life, especially a way of life that is on your own terms.
A gym membership can be an investment, but purchasing this before you arrive will encourage you to go to the gym more often and get your money’s worth, and it’s a great opportunity to start your uni years off right by implementing the gym into your routine early on.
10. Reminders of home and who you are
University can be a lonely place, and it’s natural to be homesick, especially during your first semester at uni. Though it’s nice to redesign your bedroom decorations and theme when you move in to your new place in the first year, having touches of home and your identity will mean that your new room and comfort space won’t feel completely foreign, and it will ultimately allow you to feel more at home while studying at uni.
Whether this is your favourite blanket or photos of your family and friends, these reminders of home and yourself will allow for a smoother transition to feeling like your university is your home, too.