As an old and weathered third year student looking back on first year, I could write entire essays on things I wish I could tell my former self. With the word-limitation of this article in mind, I’ve chosen to focus on the importance of forming an identity away from everyone else around me. My first year-self barely went to lectures, let alone got involved in anything extra-curricular. It was the one time in my life when I had sufficient resources and a low enough work-load to actually take advantage of everything that University has to offer, but I was far too busy trying to be friends with absolutely everyone and not miss a single night out to care about this.
Don’t get me wrong, first year is a great time to relax and have fun before University actually starts to count, but one of the main advantages of trying out new things is that it helps you to establish early on in your University career what you do and don’t like. This is especially important for humanities students — I study English Literature — who may have no clue what to do after graduating. It’s fine to go along to a society or join a sports team, hate it, and leave. It’s better to do that than to just never know your own strengths and weaknesses. It’s also very dangerous to place your entire happiness upon having fun with your friends; I found that friendships changed hugely throughout the first year and it’s much better to know a range of people from your course, societies, part-time job etc. than to only hang out with the same group all the time.
Essentially I wish I’d taken the time in first year to learn both more about myself and more about the opportunities that the University has to offer, rather than spending most days hungover, and most evenings persuading my halls friends to come out and have fun. The most rewarding and useful thing to do is to find a balance; to have fun and enjoy halls, but also to be independent and have a life outside of the Fallowfield bubble.