The things I wish I’d known in first year
From surviving at uni to thriving at uni x
My first year at UCL was excellent, there is no denying. However, to this day there are some things that I still wish that I had done differently. In an attempt to help other people I have collated them in a list here.
1. Student Oyster Cards
I spent the entirety of first year using my contactless card and racking up HUGE TfL charges everytime I got on the tube. Regrettably, it was only in second year that my brother pointed out to me that I could get a student Oyster that I could link up to my rail card and that in doing so I would save myself so much money. It will save you 30% on all your tube and bus travel so it is an absolute steal.
2. There are other study spaces aside from Main Library and the Student Centre
I would say, aside from procrastination, my biggest time waster when it came to studying last year was finding somewhere to sit. I made the mistake of narrowing my gaze to the Main Library (and when the student centre opened, the student centre) alone, when I wanted to work. Unsurprisingly, going to the two most obvious workspaces are going to get incredibly busy.
Since then, I have branched out to other study spaces including: the Archaeology Library, the Great Ormond St. Library, Phineas and my departmental common room.
Another side point I would like to make about the library is: don't be a fool like I was, and be scared to sit in sections that weren't your department sections. Sit wherever you feel most comfortable, where there's the most space, where its warmest. Same applies to libraries, don't feel uncomfortable using a library because its not your department, if SSEES Library is on your doorstep, why not use it?
3. Student Club Specials aren't always good
Just because an event has the words 'Freshers' or 'Biggest Event of the Year' in front of it, doesn't necessarily mean it will be amazing. Likewise, just because something isn't advertised as a student event, if it seems cool, then just go!
Unfortunately, though, with these MASSIVE student raves, the clubs hike up the prices to the point where people end up paying between £15-£20 per ticket and then the night is just quite disappointing. This is not to say the events won't be good, but more often than not, with these specials, drinks aren't student night prices and the events don't live up to the hype they receive.
4. Be Organised with your Nights Out
This sounds ridiculous- how can you be organised on a night out? I'm telling you now it really does help.
If you see an event that you want to go to thats 2 months away, just buy the ticket now whilst it only costs £3 rather than waiting until the day before when it will cost £15. Not only are you saving yourself £12, but, if you decide you don't want to go, you can always resell your tickets on student forums and groupchats for higher than what you paid. Everyone's a winner !
Also prior to going out, check CityMapper, to see what travel routes are available to you, in a distant hope that maybe you'll get public transport on the way back. If you do it before you go out it means that you do not have to trust your drunk self to try and navigate central London and possibly prevents you from just rinsing your bank account on yet another Uber/Bolt.
5. Except for Meal Deals, Tesco is a Rip Off
In all honesty, most of the supermarkets round and about campus are SO expensive. However, the dearest of them all, by far, is the Tesco Express. Having come from a place that wasn't London, I assumed that all tescos were the same and did not realise that there were these different subdivisions of Tesco Metro, Express and Extra. Normal Tesco is nice and cheap but the likes of the Metro and Express stores are more expensive than their larger outlets. I cannot tell you how many times I paid over £1 for a bag of pasta in Tesco when I could have got it for under 60p anywhere else.
However, I do appreciate that when its 4am, and Warren Street Maccies is closed, and your drunk self just needs feeding, than Tescos is a lifesaver.
6. Anything school related DOESN'T matter
I wasted so much time in the first term of uni stressing by comparing myself to everyone else in my halls and on my course. I was worried that because my school wasn't as good as theirs they wouldn't like me, or that, because my A Levels weren't as 'respectable' then I wasn't worthy of my place at UCL. I cannot stress this enough, it DOES not matter where you went to school, what A Level subjects you took, and what grades you got. What does matter is whether you're a dick about it or not, so don't be, appreciate the fact that every single person got into UCL on individual merit and we all did a bloody good job to be here.
7. You don't have to do ALL the reading
I'm a humanities student- this might not apply if your studying a science. 3 points on this:
1. Don't try and read all the reading listed for class that week, unless it has the word 'essential/required' near it, don’t force yourself unless it’s a personal area of interest!
2. Don't put off writing essays or revising for exams by doing reading that is potentially going to be pointless, PRIORITISE!
3. For essays, read smart, don't try and read whole books. Choose chapters, and articles, and specific parts of larger texts in order to maximise the time you spend actually writing your essay and developing your own thoughts.
8. Museum Lates Exist
Regretfully, I did not discover Museum Lates until my second term, but they are honestly so worth a visit! Events are hosted monthly at the likes of the Tate, Natural History Museum and V&A monthly, and on occasion even the UCL Museum’s host their own late sessions. These events are so amazing because not only do they give you access to the Museums after typical opening hours but they also include: interactive workshops, lectures, DJ sets and exclusive exhibits. On top of all of this amazing stuff, entry to these events is completely FREE!
9. You don't have to be everyone's friend
What I mean by this, is that, you've progressed beyond school and university is not the same deeply scrutinised popularity contest. Have as many friends as you feel comfortable with, but, also pick friends with similar interests as you. Hate to point out the obvious, but, having a few friends who get you on a personal level and actually care about you, are so much more valuable than being part of some huge social scene which you feel out of place in. Although, I am certainly not saying there is wrong with having lots of friends, its just about getting the balance.
10. Its okay to say 'No'
God, this really is turning into a PSHEE lesson now. In my specific case, I needed to learn to say no to social events. Even now, I still burn myself out by going along to too many different things. Remember to take time for yourself and prioritise your social calendar. Prioritise the events which are best for you, and trust that your true friends will understand if you need a TLC evening.
11. The Nocturnal Lifestyle
Going Nocturnal is a tricky balance to get right coming with pros and cons. I found it a bit of a lifesaver during the exam period because I work best late at night. However, doing it in term time does carry some risks, the major ones being your attendance and your Vitamin D levels. Helpfully, I have outlined all these pros and cons below!
-Study spaces are less crowded, because normal people have gone to bed
-You can maximise your energy for nights out
-When TV shows come out on American time you can watch them before any of your mates are even awake
-Especially in winter you will never see the sun, like ever
-You get into the slippery slope of missing any morning lectures you have
-You find yourself napping perpetually in the daytime because you aren't used to being awake between 10:00am-4:00pm
12. Don’t take life too seriously
Without totally disregarding the unique set of circumstances that first year puts on you, as you begin a completely new stage of life. First year gives you the most leeway academically speaking. So, being in first year has far less pressure with regard to your degree, meaning you have the most opportunity to fully appreciate the host of prospects that comes with living in London and beginning university. Try not to get weighed down in reading and academic pressure and try to enjoy yourself. First year counts for so little that it is possible to go easy on yourself after the gruelling ride that was A Levels.
If you want to sack off reading and go exploring for the weekend, do it. If you want to go on a crazy bender at Loop and turn up ridiculously drunk to your Thursday 9am, do it (actually maybe just dont commit to the 9am…)
If you want to just chill in Regents Park with some mates and some tinnies, do it. Whilst we all came to UCL to come to a world renowned university, it mustn’t go without saying, that we all chose to come to one of the best cities in the world. It’s worth experiencing it while you have the chance!