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What I wish I knew when I arrived at university

by Josie Roberts, Online Living Editor

This time two years ago I was incredibly nervous. Fresh out of school, out of my safety bubble, leaving behind everything I knew, I came to Bristol bright eyed and alone. These past two years have been tumultuous to say the least and now as I embark on my final year at Bristol University I would like offer a few simple hints and tips that I wish I knew when I first came to Bristol.

Keep calm!

Whether you’re worried about which halls you’ve been assigned to or that you’ve been put with people that seem furthest away from your ‘type’ of person, my advice to you is don’t worry! At university there are thousands of students, all in different halls and loads of societies, therefore there are many people you can meet and talk to. Everyone is in the same boat. If the accommodation email you received in August filled you with dread and worry, please don’t panic. When I received my email I was upset, angry, and confused as I was put in a place furthest away from what I wanted: Favell House. However when I moved in, it was the nicest student room I’ve ever seen, with 6 windows (!), a double bed, huge kitchen and lovely flatmates, some of who I call my best friends today. If your halls prove to be awful and this does not change over the first couple of weeks, do not hesitate to change. Many of my friends within Bristol and in other universities all over the country have changed. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t think there’s anything wrong with you! There’s not! Everyone is different and perhaps you haven’t found your people yet. You never know what is round the corner so please don’t panic.

Josie Roberts / Epigram

Don’t rush!

When Freshers’ Week begins you meet hundreds of people. I am not joking, hundreds! By the time Christmas comes I promise you you’ll probably have met hundreds more and your freshers best friends are a memory from the past. What is important to remember is not to rush into any housing agreement with the first people you see. If you rush it may mean you fall into a house with people that in second year, you cannot stand. Either the house is wrong or the people are or both. If you are asked to form a group by your neighbour on your corridor and it feels right then by all means go for it. But, if, like me, you were worried you wouldn’t find anyone if you didn’t say yes to the first person that offered, take some time to think before you commit yourself. If by the end of your thinking you come back to that first person, then that is still ok. At least you thought about it first and didn’t rush into it!

Josie Roberts / Epigram

Take some time to yourself

Some say the reality of Freshers’ Week is quite a lonely one. Indeed there are times in my first year and my second year where I felt quite isolated in the middle of looming essay deadlines and what seemed to be never ending strikes. However, at other points of the year, there are times where it gets extremely busy, you feel like you haven’t been alone for months, and you just need space from people. I say take it. Go to your room and have a movie night, go for a walk or go to a coffee shop by yourself and read a good book. Have some time to yourself without any pressures from friends or essays. It is so worth it.

I often fell into the trap in first year of having duvet days and feeling awful about myself.

Get a diary

Every year at the school I went to we were given fresh planners to write homework, deadlines etc. This got me into the habit of using diaries and I recommend everyone gets one. Having two teaching blocks determined by weeks, with some weeks randomly going stray, and reading lists not always correlating, having a diary is so useful. At the start of the year I write in the number of the week at the top of the page and then whenever I inevitably get confused I refer back. As someone who has very few contact hours, another thing that I started to do when it seemed like I had endless days of nothing on was schedule times to do things. Whether that is going for a coffee with a friend one morning, doing some reading one afternoon, or going to the gym before a seminar, writing everything down is a really cathartic experience as you feel as though you are proactively doing things even if your contact hours are low. I often fell into the trap in first year of having duvet days and feeling awful about myself. This advice may not be for you as I know everyone is different but it massively helped me when I felt weighed down by the empty timetable in front of me.

Have fun!

University is not just about your degree. University offers you a chance to get involved in all sorts whether that’s learning a new sport, or competing in the one you already love, or joining a society that you’re passionate about. Coming to Bristol you are lucky as you have hundreds of opportunities all over the city. Volunteer, get a job, produce a play, learn how to skydive, Bristol has it all and what you need to do is grab everything it offers and run with it. Obviously not everything will be right for you but what is right will shape your university experience and make it unforgettable.


Don’t kick yourself if your initial few weeks here aren’t what you had in mind.

This article was supposed to be a quick hints and tips about half the size of what I’ve already written however when I started to write it, there was so much I wanted to say. The advice above doesn’t even cover a quarter of what I have learnt at Bristol so far. Every day is new, different and exciting and I am constantly learning. Don’t kick yourself if your initial few weeks here aren’t what you had in mind, don’t be upset if by christmas you just want to go home, or if by the summer you are only just finding your people. It takes time and your moment will come when everything clicks into place. This is only the beginning for you and it is a great place to start.

Featured image: Josie Roberts /Epigram

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