Arriving at University I had a 20-page list (half of these ideas completely unattainable) of what I wanted to do and expected for my four years of undergrad. But nothing, and I mean nothing, could have possibly prepared me for what First year really was. I’m a sort of perfectionist and had this constant believe that everything would go as planned, or at most, as what I had seen in the 200 chick flicks I had watched. I’m here to tell you that switching from a fashion degree to law is definitely not as simple as Elle Woods made us think it was. Here are the 20 things no one tells you about First year at University of Aberdeen.
1. Living in Student Halls
Now this may seem like a given to most of us, but its definitely not like the movies or even like boarding school if you’re like me. DO you remember seeing those Frat houses in American Pie and thinking pssh nothing will ever be like that? Well every single hall is like that but worse because you’re in the middle of it. If you’re anything like me and quite enjoy a quiet evening with your laptop, or even a nice bath, well think again! First of all if you’re living in Fyfe, Adam Smith or Wavell you’re sharing a shower with at least 15 other girls, so unless you shower after 12 pm or around 6 am you better know how to get in and out quickly. If you have the “luxury” of living in North/South/Keith house or Grand Court/New Carnegie, then you’re only sharing with a maximum of 5 people and you can definitely agree on who hogs the bathroom when. But one thing that all halls face is the fact that quite is a word that will slowly disappear from your vocabulary. Ranging from your neighbours and their friends partying at least 4 (and I’m being kind) times a week, to people exploring their sex lives at 5 am, sleeping during the day does seem like the “quietest” option. But this is the best way to meet your friends for life!
2. Cooking for yourself
If you’re anything like me and cooking seems like a chore, realising that you need to do it everyday until you go home to beautiful home cooked meals, is a definitely a blow below the belt. As you’ll quickly realise living off cup noodles is very doable but maybe not the best idea for your budget or your weight. So that’s when you start venturing into cooking eggs, maybe beans if youre feeling adventurous. 3 weeks later you’re finally cooking that rice the way the packet kindly told you how but you’re still living in constant fear of setting off the fire alarms for leaving the stove on for too long (I’m looking at you ex-TK4 kitchen girls). You’ll quickly learn that the buzz of “borrowing” your kitchen mates milk for your stale cereal and hearing them complain while you pretend it wasn’t you and blaming it on that guy ruining around each floor blind drunk yesterday, is totally worth eating them out of a Tupperware (because who even cleans the dishes) while hiding in your room.
3. Alcohol, literally everywhere at all times
Everyone that goes to UofA knows that Tuesday and Thursday is Underground, Thursday is also Nox, Wednesday is Institute, and the weekend is hard on your wallet. Even with all these options sometimes you’ll just want to stay in and party, because trust me its cheaper. But one thing you don’t know unless you’re from Scotland and have siblings in Uni, is how much students can truly drink. Tuesday is often recognised as student night out, as were lucky enough (most of us) to get Wednesdays off. The clock strikes 5pm and that’s when they transform into real alcohol chugging machines, literally anything at reach becomes the “perfect” mixer, and all mixes of alcohol are amazing, and playing never have I ever for the 100th time is still hilarious. You have the beer drinkers that can go through crates at a record time, the winers that drink Echo Falls like its water, and the ones that start hard and strong with spirits; mixed or straight it doesn’t matter they don’t have taste buds anymore. When the sun rises on Wednesday this when you can truly see the aftermath, your kitchen will often look like a dumping ground with, if you’re lucky, some half full bottles for tonight!
4. Being broke, really truly broke
It’s a worldwide student problem to constantly be short on money, because as stated above you thought that spending that 20£ on alcohol yesterday was the right thing to do, opening your online bank account will definitely tell you different. Similarly, you will always be broke at the wrong times, i.e the time when you REALLY need to go grocery shopping or your friend asks you to go eat ice cream at Shakes’n’Cakes. This is when you learn that no matter what Lidl becomes your best friend, being able to shop 2/3 weeks of groceries for just under 20£ is like no miracle you could have ever thought off. One of the most important things to keep in mind is not to feel embarrassed that you just can’t go out because there’s a 90% chance your friends can’t either and they’re hoping one of you has the guts to say that staying in halls watching Mary Berry while eating Lidl ice cream is completely acceptable (don’t forget that left over wine).
5. Feeling lonely
It’s very common, especially when you’re not living in a shared flat to feel alone very quickly. I know it may sound silly as you’re often surrounded by people, but sometimes you’ll end up in a tutorial where you don’t know anyone and that’s when you realise you can’t remember the last time you had a real heart to heart with someone you felt super close to. Just know that you’re never really lonely there’s always going to be someone in the room next door, in the kitchen, a facetime away and if none of those seem like the right person there is always the Nightline there for a chat.
6. Not liking your degree is not the end of the world
University is for discovering yourself, and that includes deciding whether what you thought would be your career actually suits you. If that’s a no, that’s ok there are so many options at UofA ranging from Divinity to Sports science, passing by Psychology and Politics. If you fall in love with something else chances are its just paper work before you can switch. If it’s not you speak to your Personal Tutor and they’ll find the solution that matches you best. It’s not the end of the world don’t worry.
7. Your grades aren’t always what you expected them to be
If you’ve been a straight A student and you reach uni and suddenly your first essay is a C, and you feel your heart sink, it’s ok most of us have been there. Don’t think that it’s the end for you, that’s a little over dramatic as it’s the first semester of the first year. Don’t start blaming yourself for going out that one time three weeks ago, it’s most likely not that either. No matter what you’ve been told or thought about uni, it is a big scholar change, and you need time (yes time) to learn the writing style and expectations of your tutors and your course, and trust me with practice those “A”s will fall onto your lap all over again.
8. You are often left to struggle on your own
This might sound a bit harsh but this is not school so you don’t really have everything fed to you. You won’t exactly know what the perfect structure for an essay is and even if you ask the answer won’t be black and white. Sometimes you’ll realise three days later that your friends went to this event you wanted to go to but no one told you. You might face problems in your dorm and it’s not written anywhere who you should contact, meaning that you know you have to wait till tomorrow to face the infinite line of students just as lost as you at the infohub. The only advice I can give you is to join every possible uni related page you can think of, they are the holy grail of questions you hadn’t even thought you had. However, as a student I still struggle getting necessary information but I’ve also learned that you shouldn’t feel like you can’t ask, just go for it!
9. Loosing motivation is OK
It’s Monday morning once again and you just don’t feel like getting out of bed, just don’t get out. That’s one of the perks of going to uni you don’t have to go anywhere, except tutorials, and if you’re really not feeling it take some you time. Your mental health is always first. I’m not encouraging you to never go so that no one even knows you exist, I’m saying it’s completely acceptable to not feel motivated to put on those shoes and walk those 20 minutes to uni. (rushing through Seaton Park it’s a skill you learn quickly).
10. Feeling under/over dressed
If you’re like me and have this constant belief that someone super important is going to walk in to the lecture and judge you for not wearing that pantsuit your grandma bought you (I’m in second year and still waiting for that VIP), it’ll be very surprising for you to see people around you dressed in leggings or sometimes pyjamas. But honestly wear whatever you want, even if it’s that lucky jumper that you should have thrown away 2 years ago, or that special pantsuit, because no one will openly come to you and ask you to leave because you’re not dressed like everyone else. Rock that oversized t-shirt with those joggers “a la Kim K”, 3rd day hair is totally trendy right now, if you sit far back enough in the lecture hall no one will even notice you’re here.
11. Being healthy is really hard
It’s Tuesday and you know what that means; Two for Tuesdays at Dominos! Your fridge will most likely be empty anyways so why not. I can tell you that it’s very easy to spiral into a cycle of take-aways and pre-cooked meals, but that’s definitely not good for you (my muffin top would love to speak out) or your wallet. Trust me when I tell you that the easiest way to stay healthy is to shop every couple days in small amounts and as fresh as you can, your basket will be healthier and cheaper. Those fake snickers at Lidl will still be there next week don’t worry. But never forget to indulge once in a while, the Kilau café on campus will be more than happy to have you try one of their amazing brownies.
12. Every thing is very expensive (even those textbooks)
In my first year of university I took Spanish for a semester, however after the semester was over I came to the conclusion it wasn’t for me, and was left with a 52£ book I bought for one semester and barely used. I say this from experience; avoid buying books from the university campus store as much as you can. There are numerous other ways you can acquire those books; a lot of students will post books they are selling on the university page as well as pages specific to your degree, which is definitely the best way to get an amazing deal. Similarly there is a second hand store just out of campus next to the Grub where you can find more generic books at a wallet friendly price! Trust me you wont use your book enough for it to give you your 52£ back.
13. Take advantage of all the student deals
Being broke is no fun and therefore getting as many student deals as you can is magical. Amazon prime for 6 month at a student discount, that’s a yes!, Free Microsoft office for any type of device as long as you’re enrolled into university, that’s the best decision I ever made. Signing up all the Groupon and Itison offers is the best idea you’ll have in a while, you’ll save so much money when you go out on a date or when you want to buy that new gym gear. Forget about that overly expensive data plan, you’ll have wifi at uni and in dorms. Have your student card on you at all times, to get discount on your coffee at Sir Duncan Rice Library, or get your day ticket on the bus for 3.50£, every pound counts.
14. Campus is a maze
UofA campus is not that huge but somehow I’m in second year and still manage to get lost more often than ill ever admit. Trying to get from MacRobert to King’s College without somehow ending up next William Guild requires some kind of power. The map on the Hub is even more confusing than not knowing where you are. King’s college is probably one of the hardest challenges you will face, for example I was looking for KCG7 and well I can tell you I walked around quite a lot before I realised the key to how our campus works. KC stands for Kings College, G stand for ground floor and 7 is the 7th room on that floor, however you need to keep in mind there’s no real order to how these rooms are arranged to you’ll still need to read those tiny letters next to each door. This system works for every single building you will ever be in. I wish I had known this before walking up and down way too many flights of stairs.
15. Learn to study
It may sound trivial but studying for university is quite different from studying at school. The content isn’t as straight forward and there’s a lot of extra reading to do. You need to find the best environment and methods for you. Whether its gathering a group, staying at home in pjs with coffee, or coming to the library and cramming till you butt goes numb, you need to try them all and find the one that suits you!
16. Managing your time is key
Whether that includes starting off the day with your 9 am tutorial, kudos to you, or putting time aside every other day to go and revise what you learned during the week, you need to get that agenda in check. Plan your day in advance so that you don’t end up getting your double shot vanilla macchiato with a dash of caramel at the uni campus, when you should have been meeting your professor about your essay. Always remember to put yourself first and take breaks when you need to even if it isn’t really on your agenda, it’s on your mental schedule.
17. Pack more than you need
That might seem like the opposite of what you’ve always been taught about packing, but trust me I regret coming with only one suitcase. Pack everything in sight, trust me you’ll need it. I spent so much money buying all these things I should have just packed with me. Bring all your underwear, because no one is there to do your laundry, therefore it becomes a once a month task (also because its really expensive). That mini fridge you got as a joke from your mate 2 years ago, TAKE IT, some things need to be safely kept in your room.
18. Free events are a gift of God
There are so many free events available throughout the year, you can easily keep an eye out for them through the various Facebook pages and emails. Most of these events are held by various societies or university itself, like the Freshers Fair. The trick is to go because of all the amazing free things you can get; ranging from discount voucher for dominos, to whistles and bags. But did I mention the free food? Yes, even if you’re not interested in the actual event (oops) go for the free food. During exam period the university brings puppies for stress relief, and even has opportunities to get massages and other relaxing options. As if you needed another reason to attend aside from the free food, it’s a great way to sign up to societies and meet new people.
19. Keep in touch with home
The first couple of weeks you might want to abstain from calling everyday, as it’ll hold you back from really getting into the uni flow and learning to live further away. But as the months drag on keep in touch with those people you love back home, because there’s no doubt they miss you just as much if not more (love you mum) than you can imagine. It’s important to schedule regular trips home so you don’t have the time to feel too lonely and caught up in the vicious cycle of being too busy, because before you know it it’s almost Christmas and you cant remember the last time you called home to remind everyone you were still alive and going strong.
20. This is going to be the best year(s) of your life
Even with all these things you need to keep in mind, the first thing you need to do is enjoy yourself. You’re only a First year once in your life, and Aberdeen uni is an amazing to fully embrace all the possible stereotypes out there while being surrounded by amazing people! Work but not too hard and play harder than you ever thought you could. First year is where you can make some of the most amazing memories and friends, so don’t waste it being at home and merging with you mattress. Try it all; take random classes, drink a little too much, meet everyone you can, try that 9am class (or don’t), go out more than you should, and spend the night in the library during exams. Do it all and remember this is about you!