New book ‘A Guide To Uni Life’ is the super squeaky helpline for your student career
Don’t drink too much beer guys
“Welcome to uni life! I’m Lucy, and when I graduated from studentville I realised how much I’d learnt.”
So goes the blurb for Lucy Tobin’s new book A Guide to Uni Life. It sets you up for the next 181 pages of translated “uni lingo”, expert advice from drippy grads called AJ and Henry, and a cotton-wool swaddled tentative guide to the next three years of your life.
“If you do opt to live away from home, the first time you feel a sniffle coming on can feel a little scary. Mum’s not there with the Lemsip! Dad’s not there to write you a sicknote!”
“You’ll find loads of tips from students who have been there, done that and got the beer-soaked t-shirt.”
“Arriving at uni for the first time, you’ll probably feel a bit like you did on your first day at primary school — nervous about the work and teachers.”
“‘Don’t expect freshers’ week to be the ‘best week of the year’ — it takes time to find your niche and settle down, so freshers’ week can end up being more lonely than you might expect’, Lucy, 21, London”.
She recommends coming to uni equipped with: paracetamol, cotton wool, condoms and plasters, as well as “some of your old subject notes or books — you probably won’t use them, but it can be comforting to know they’re just in case.”
19-year-old Adam from Manchester adds: “Pack a door stop! I wish I’d had one.”
The useful guide tells students to “look after your freshers’ pack timetable really well” and go to meet-and-greets even though they can seem super scary. At these events, the tome tells us people may be drinking booze, but it’s careful to add you don’t have to partake if you don’t want to.
Christy, 19, from Exeter, chips in: “No, you don’t have to drink that. Or that. If people judge you for your drinking choices, then they’re not really worth your time.”
Alcohol is a huge theme of Tobin’s guide to life in “Studentville”. “During one night out in freshers’ week someone told me school is the place you learn what alcohol is (in chemistry lessons, not sneaking secret sips of booze from you locker…), and university is the finishing school of ‘How To Get Drunk'”.
It’s as if we’re part of a secret society, with all this knowledge of clandestine boozing. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed by those extra units a week, right everyone?
Fortunately the author, who graduated from Oxford with a First in English, is there to reassure is we don’t all have to guzzle down eight pints every night of the week. In fact, you’d almost believe the ones who do are pariahs. “Remember alcohol contains loads of calories and if you drink loads every night you’ll get fat”, it warns us.
Even the scary sports clubs shouldn’t intimidate you into downing shots. “If you’ve signed up to a club with initiation rites like drinking games – rugby and other sports squads often have these – take part if you want to, but remember your own limits and don’t make yourself ill.
“Most people don’t drink that much, and quite a few people don’t drink at all. You just notice the ones who do because they stand out — they’re usually the ones embarrassing themselves on the table.”
There are a plethora of ways to embarrass yourself at uni in the Guide (probably more than you ever panicked about before starting). You can embarrass yourself by making yourself too available, apparently. “Don’t pull too many people too early on — it’s harder to lose a bad reputation than it is to make one”.
But one thing you shouldn’t be embarrassed about, it advises, is feeling sad. You can practically feel the clammy, supportive hand on your shoulder as it breathes against your ear: “Being a fresher means you’ll probably have some emotional baggage.”
If not, you’ll have some by the time you finish reading.
In the big bad uni world, lots of stuff happens on Facebook, but A Guide to Uni Life is a cautionary tale. It tells us: “Don’t spend too much energy in the virtual world — leaving your room and meeting people is the best way to work out what’s going on and make friends.”
You’ll meet friends like the students quoted throughout the book presumably. These people exist in real life, the Jon’s (19, from Birmingham, who advises: “Pack a pair of comfortable shoes — you’ll end up doing lots of walking on campus”), the Davids from Nottingham (“Take a jumper! You start uni in the month leading up to winter and then it gets cold”) and the Oxford Micah’s, wheezing: “Everyone uses your stuff if you leave it in communal spaces. So don’t!”
These are the gems of knowledge they’ve taken away from the past three or four years spent at uni. Like robots in their studentville bubble, they’ve packed their tissues and done crossword puzzles in their room to bond with their new housemates, and now they’re attempting to make you One Of Them.
There probably is no definitive guide to doing “uni life” right. But if there was, it wouldn’t be a condescending pat on the back, with recipes for omelettes and advice on “going for a First”. It isn’t this sanitised “one-stop guide to what student life is really like”, presumably aimed at nosey parents worried about the most infantile of potential freshers. Nobody really needs pages upon pages telling you about homesickness and how to make notes.
You’ll survive without it, save your £9.99.