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Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went To Uni

As I was moving into my new room in a house shared with three of my favourite people this week, I thought with fondness of the slightly-terrified-but-still-excited 18-year-old Past Elli who moved into a room she’d never seen in a city she barely knew two years ago. How could I know what would happen? To be perfectly honest: I didn’t. I didn’t know anything about budgeting (I’m better at that now), or about what to expect in lectures (lots of talking), and I knew very little about “proper” cooking (experiments had varying success, see here and here).

Two whole years later, I am now in third year (eek!) and my younger sister is starting her first year (not in Cardiff, boo). So, for the benefit of all those who are starting this year, including my sister and most of her friends, here are some Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Uni.

1. You don’t have to like your flat mates to live with them
To be perfectly frank, I did not really get on with my flat mates in first year. They were party people, I was not. This was fine. They told me when they were going to have parties, I warned them if I had friends coming over. It went well.
All one needs to do is coexist. It’s great if you do get on with your flat mates- hooray! If you don’t though, that’s cool too. See Number 2.

2. You’ll find your people
They may not be the first people you meet. You may not realise who they are until several weeks into your second year, but you will find them one day. It’ll make you wonder how you could ever have survived without the crazy people you’ve ended up living with. If you’re anything like me, it’ll be when you’re snuggled in a sleeping bag in the middle of November and someone falls on top of you trying to caterpillar to their bag on the other side of you.

3. Uni isn’t for everyone
Its definitely for me- I adore studying Physics, and I am a little disappointed that I am already half way through my studies. However, it’s not suited to all people. It is hard work, and a lot of studying, and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re struggling, talk to your tutor. They’re there to help!

4. Libraries are for studying, not just for books
Before uni, I only ever went to the library to borrow fiction books. It took me a while coughSecondYearcough before I actually started using the uni library for its intended purpose: to study. Wouldn’t you know, I got much better marks once I started using the books in the library to assist my learning! Seriously though, the ASSL is open 24 hours, as is Julian Hodge and other libraries are open late too, especially in exam times. The librarians are great, you can borrow a huge number of books (I think it’s 15? I’ve not met the limit yet) and it’s so much easier to focus in a area where everyone else is studying.

5. Lecturers are there to talk to
They really don’t want you to fail their module. Honestly, if you’re struggling, you should definitely talk to them. If you like their module, talk to them. If you want to know more about your module, or if there’s more that you can do, or if you’d like book recommendations- pretty much anything really- ask your lecturer! Obviously they have their own work to do, but they’ll be happy to talk to you at some point about their research. Or even just talk about the heat conductivity of chicken (first year, mechanics and matter module. It was a great conversation).

6. Older years exist, and they’re friendly
Perhaps one of the greatest things about my first year was being befriended by Physics Tom, who was a third year and adopted me as his physics fresher. It was great to have someone who knew the lecturers and the course, and who could explain problem sheets in little words. He also graciously offered his living room when I get fed up of not having a sofa, and showed me the best places to get pizza and caffeine at 3am. All essential things.
Older years can be found by going to things like your course socials (Chaos is the Physics society) or by announcing your course to every person you meet at other society socials (“what’s your name? Where are you from? What are you studying?” The three standard questions. I was tempted to get a t shirt). Physicists, there are also buddies available by speaking to the lovely Nicola, who is the most amazing secretary and can be found in the Physics building.

7. Cities are cool places
Growing up in a (fairly) small town, coming to a city where the number of undergraduates at uni is over double the population of said town was a bit daunting. However, the city is amazing. There are so many different opportunities, like theatres and castles and oh-my-goodness-everything-is-open-almost-all-the-time-it’s-great. Take advantage of that! Explore, get hopelessly lost and phone a friend to help you navigate (it happened once, alright). Or take a train somewhere nearby and explore there- Barry is close, the Beacons are close too, and Playzone (in Swansea) and Techniquest (in the Bay) do adult nights once a month which are SO MUCH FUN.

8. Have fun!
Uni is the perfect place to try stuff out, to find new friends and to find things you can obsess over for the rest of your life. At Cardiff, there’s this helpful thing called ‘Give It a Go’, where you can try out different societies at a minimal cost without actually joining the society. SSAGS are doing a treasure hunt, if anyone’s interested!

So, almost-Freshers. Enjoy being independent without the stress of taxes and other adult things for a while. Explore the city you’re in, talk to the people sitting next to you in those hilariously awkward induction talks, and get lost walking to the union when you’re going to the Freshers fairs. We’ll see you all soon!

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