University 101; My Freshers Week Story

Hello lovely people!

I’m back in Durham, I’ve rebuilt my pasta stocks and town is beginning to fill up with returning students –  it must be the start of a new term. Those of you heading to university for the first time will be eagerly anticipating Freshers Week, probably feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension. The internet is filled with tips and tricks about how to get the most out of the week, so I thought instead of repeating that advice I’d talk about my experience in hopes that I can give you some peace of mind that it’s all going to be okay.

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Every good story starts with an introduction, so here’s some context to my time as a fresher. I study Modern Languages at Durham University, and my freshers week was in October 2017. Freshers Week at Durham is a little different, as it’s a collegiate university, so most of the events are organised by the college JCR (think student body committee). I’m a student at St Cuthbert’s Society and lived in self-catered halls in first year.

Move-In Day

I arrived in Durham with my parents and then boyfriend who had come to help me move in, and I was terrified. After getting my keys and unpacking I completely broke down on my poor boyfriend, as even though I could not be more excited to start my degree I was very worried about making friends and settling in. But, after everyone left, I picked myself up and told myself it was going to be okay, and it really was!

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My room on day 1 looks so bare compared to how it was at the end!

My favourite story from that day is how I met my lovely Welsh idiot Ffion. She totally catfished me. I was in my flat corridor, when a random girl just turned to me and said “Hey, I know you”. I was extremely confused because I didn’t recognise this person at all. Until she said “yeah I know, I really don’t look like my Facebook profile picture”. Turns out we’d been talking for weeks beforehand after meeting on our college Facebook group chat! We continued bonding instantly, and Ffi became the extrovert I attatched myself to for the whole of first year.

I met the rest of my flat pretty quickly. We were 6 girls of 6 different nationalities, which has always been our little claim to fame. I bonded with my now college wife (more on that someday) Oana because she was wearing a My Chemical Romance t-shirt, and my American buddy Anna because I was belting out Hamilton far too loudly with the door open. You really do make friends in the most random of ways in freshers!

College Events

Each night throughout freshers my college organised a night out and a more chilled night. I went out I think 3 times; to a white t-shirt party (think signing shirts), a subject social and a space party. They were okay, but not really my thing, as I’m pretty uncomfortable going clubbing when it’s with people I don’t know.

 

 

Our white t-shirt party was the first event I went to, and took place in our lovely (and ridiculously cheap) college bar. That was the night when I met my now housemate Callum (you got your shoutout, do I get a pint in return now?). At that point I obviously didn’t know the bar has a card limit, so I ended up buying drinks for myself, Ffion and Callum when we’d only known each other for all of 5 minutes. I’m pretty sure we bonded over music, which makes a lot of sense considering at every party we have now it’s us two who dictate the music.

Durham being Durham, we also had a formal and matriculation that week. It was the first and last formal I left sober, and I’m pretty sure I was hungover throughout the entire matriculation ceremony (that’s the fancy one in the cathedral that makes us officially Durham students). It was also absolutely pouring down on matriculation day, meaning I had my first experience navigating wet cobbles in heels. There’s a reason why you never see me in my formal pictures with heels on anymore!

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Can’t get over how different I look just one year ago! (I’m on the far left)

 

 

That time I cut my finger…

This is the main story I have from freshers week, and the one which still gets told at almost every house party. I cut my finger on a potato peeler whilst washing up, and then didn’t stop bleeding for 2 hours. 2 HOURS! The flat had me bandaged up with my arm above my head for most of that 2 hours, as the porters were largely unhelpful and basically left us to deal with it. Obviously I did eventually stop bleeding, but it was a pretty embarrassing bonding experience with my flat. Pretty sure I didn’t go out that night…

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Final feelings

Freshers week was weird. You’re thrown into a new city with a bunch of people you don’t know, away from everything that’s familiar to you. You spend a week introducing yourself time and time again and having to be up for social events 24/7, something that doesn’t quite work for my introversion. I have some good memories from the week, but I also spent a lot of time sleeping and hiding from the world.

My main piece of advice is not to put too much pressure on freshers week. Yes, if you spend the whole week hiding in your room you probably won’t get much out of it. But, by the same token, if you’re not into going out and partying all the time you shouldn’t have to. Seek out chilled events and chat with people in the canteen instead. Freshers isn’t a universal experience and should fit whatever you’re into, so have a good time!

 

-Megan, listening to Badflower (tiny band, would reccomend!)

 

 

 

 

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University 101; Money Tips for the Broke Student

Hello lovely people!

It’s a running joke within my friendship group that I am the “Spreadsheet Queen”. Seriously, I have an Excel doc for everything, whether that be my annual finances or our house dream to buy a full Guitar Hero set up (definitely not procrastination during summative season or anything…). Armed with my spreadsheets, excessive budgeting and savvy spending I’m about to give you some awesome tips for how to save money as a student.

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1. Budget as if your life depends on it

For most of us, university is the first time we have to budget just to live. Whenever I budgeted pre-university it was because I was saving up for things like my first car, but at uni all I’m saving for is the really fancy brand of toilet paper. I like to set aside a couple of hours at the start of the year to lay out all the money I have coming in and all the money that automatically goes out on things like rent, bills and food. That way you can work out what you have left each month for pints and pitchers. It’s important to log everything you spend so that you can keep on track, and review the budget every month and term.

2. Shop smart

If you go to the nearest supermarket to do your weekly shop chances are you’re going to be paying through the roof for it, especially if you’re in a city-centre (I’m looking at you Tesco Metro…). Take time to find the cheaper places. For me, that’s doing the bulk of my shopping in Aldi and heading to a local fruit & veg shop for the extras (shoutout to the one on North Road in Durham, would highly reccomend!). By doing this I rarely spend more than £20 a week on food, meaning more beer money.

3. Meal prep for days

A staple of every student house is the Tupperware cupboard. Your freezer should be rammed with boxes at all times, because what’s the point in cooking only one portion of a meal? It works out so much cheaper, not to mention quicker, if you bulk-cook in advance. This also means ordering a Chinese is much less appealing, at least most of the time.

4. Pre-drink hard

If you’re alcoholically inclined like most of us, predrinks is your friend. Unless your local is as cheap as mine (£2.30 a pint!! I stan The Swan) it’s almost always cheaper to pick up a bottle of spirit and make it last for the week’s nights out than drinking in bars or pubs. An added bonus is that you get to pick the playlist and can start the night in pyjamas; it’s a no brainer.

5. Packed lunches are for the cool kids

If you have a long day of lectures or heavy study day planned make sure you’ve brought your sandwiches with you. This avoids paying the often hefty prices charged in uni cafes, and is often the healthier approach too. During exam season this year me and my friends set off to the library with a coffee in hand too to avoid the lure of Starbucks on the way (then ruined it by going to the pub on the way home; we tried).

6. Don’t forget to save

Eventually, your phone is going to break, your car insurance will need to be renewed or your trainers will fall apart. Just because you’re at university it doesn’t mean that you don’t need emergency money, in fact you probably need it more than ever. Even if this means a little bit of your loan put aside each month or saving a portion of any Christmas/birthday money, it has to be done.

7. If you need it, get a part-time job

I’ve been working pretty much since it was legal for me to do so, meaning not having a term-time job in first year was a really odd feeling. I topped up my loan over holidays however, returning to 30-40 hours of full-time work each time I got a break from university. This approach works for some, others might prefer to work one day a week alongside studying. It’s important to decide early if you need to work, and how you’re going to fit it around university if you do need the money.

8. You do not need brand new stuff, however much capitalism is trying to make you think so

This goes for clothes, uni books, plates and so much more. University reading lists can be long, and if you pick them all up from a bookshop you could end up spending hundreds (which could be spent on more pints). My favourite formal dress was £3.50 from a charity shop, my favourite skirt was £2. You’re also living more ethically this way too, and saving the planet is the coolest thing you can do.

 

Follow these tips and you too can just about avoid being in your overdraft. People often ask me how I afford to go travelling and to gigs so much as a student, and this is part of the reason why. I’ve always been a saver, so uni is no exception.

-Megan, listening to the Daily Mix Spotify has somehow generated entirely in French for me (do I admit now or later that I adore trashy Europop)