As my first year at Cardiff University draws to a close, I am left pondering what I have learnt and what I would change. However, what I can say is that year one of uni has been incredible and exceeded all of my expectations. I have not only made great friends and memories but I truly feel as if I have already grown as a person (clicheeeee). On top of this, I have gained lots of independence skills which is always a bonus. I have compiled my own personal experiences and regrets upon reflection of my first year in order to create a list of advice that could hopefully benefit any soon-to-be-fresher.
- Get Stuck In
Attend as many events, talks, socials, classes and fairs as you possibly can as you are only a fresher once and this is an invaluable time to get settled in.
- Join Loads of Societies
Baking, acapella, gaming, quiz, yoga, fashion, film, feminist…the list goes on. And that doesn’t even cover all of the course based societies and student media! As you can see there is something for everyone and this is one of the best ways to make friends. Yes I am part of Harry Potter society and I am not even ashamed to say it (even if I am rubbish at the quizzes!).
- Join a Sport
There are over 200 sports teams and societies at Cardiff which provides the perfect opportunity to do something you love while trying something new. There are the classic sports such as football, rugby and netball, however there is also things like Kung Fu, ice hockey, mountaineering and scuba diving! The one thing I regret most about first year was not joining a sport. After trialling for the badminton team and failing (I’m still salty about this), I kind of just gave up. I was always jealous of everyone’s weekly Wednesday team socials while I was stuck indoors scoffing chocolate and watching reality TV.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Approach People
I have to say it did take me a while to get into this mind set and I wish I had done sooner. 9 times out of 10 you will find that people will jump at the opportunity to do things and are probably just like you, waiting to be asked by someone else! Everyone in first year is desperate to make friends so you will rarely find you will be rejected when asking someone to go out for a coffee or to do some shopping.
- Don’t Worry about Second Year Housing
Literally two months after starting uni (if that) talk started to emerge about getting a house for second year. It was then I started to panic. I felt as if I had just got going at Cardiff, let alone thinking about the next year and about the people who I was going to move in with. However, there is no need to panic. Always take your time when choosing who to live with and don’t get panicked by the mad November/December rush for housing. There is more houses in Cardiff than there are students so I can assure you that you won’t be left homeless!
- Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out for Help
Uni can get hard. There are stressful moments, sad moments and home sick moments. However, just because you are away from home doesn’t mean that there is no help out there. The university hosts a fantastic health and wellbeing department that offers everything from counselling to group therapy, or even just a quick chat. There is never a reason to feel alone and help is here in abundance, whether that is from university services or from your academic school.
Another thing that I was very close to doing but never did was volunteering. I attended the volunteering fair in freshers and everything however at the time just couldn’t see it fitting in with what was going on. However, to do this alongside your studies would be an invaluable addition to your CV and something to be proud about. Or you could just go volunteering in the summer like me!
- Do Cardiff Award
This is another thing I definitely regret not doing especially as I am doing study abroad for six months next year. This means that if I do it, it will have to be in my third year which could be a bit stressful. The Cardiff Award is also a great thing to add to your CV and involves you completing 70 hours of extra-curricular activities and participating in 5 employability workshops among other things. This is well regarded by employers due to the skills that can be gained from it.
- Explore the City
Cardiff is a wonderful city full of charm, character and plenty to get stuck into. Shopping, sport, arcades, markets, cinema, theatre, bars, pubs, clubs, parks… there is definitely plenty to do. Taking a look around Cardiff as soon as possible after you arrive will help you settle in and get your bearings around the city that you are going to be spending a minimum of three years in.
- Do the Give it a Go’s During Freshers Week
The uni hosts fantastic opportunities to try out a plethora of different activities during the first few weeks. These include various trips out and around the UK to cities such as Edinburgh and Bath, trips to local Welsh towns, and tours around the principality stadium.
- Try new things
University offers many things that you are unlikely to be able to do again so be sure to throw yourself in. Join that wacky society, do that crazy sport and do the things that you, yourself want to do!
- Work Hard (but not too hard)
I am definitely not promoting doing absolute nothing, however, there is no point completely burning yourself out and getting into a state of stress when the first year is really only there to help you settle in. Try your best but remember to have a work/life balance. You’re only at uni once and you especially are only a fresher once, so make the most of it!
- Go Out on the Town
Of course it is not for everyone and there are plenty of people that would rather opt for a quiet night in. But as I am told very often by older year students, the first year of uni is the time to have fun as after that it starts to get serious! So go out and have a good time.
- Have Fun
- Don’t Worry!
Last but not least, everyone is in this new experience together and there is honestly nothing to be worried about. You will find that most people get anxious from time to time and that is okay! It is completely normal to feel nervous before making this huge step in your life but don’t over think it! That worry you have about ‘not making any friends’, you will soon learn is absolute non-sense and university is likely to be one of the best times of your life.
So overall, being a fresher has been great. Now here’s to year two with more fun, memories and as I am sure, a lot more exam stress!