Seeing as this is my fifth year of preparing to go to university, I would like to think that I know what I am talking about! This year feels a little different, for obvious reasons, as I am going to a completely different university in a different city for a year. So I thought I would share a couple of tips to help anyone who may be embarking on this exciting new venture in a few weeks time:
Learn how to cook if you have no idea how to already! Honestly, this is such an important skill that you need before going to university. I am not saying that you have to be the next Gordon Ramsey but for the love of all things good just learn that pasta does not take 2 hours to cook. Not only will it help win over the hearts of your flatmates, it will save you all the money that you would spend on takeaways. Plus, you really do not want to be that person who cannot cook; trust me when I say that you will be talked about!
Budgeting is boring but essential to ensure that you are still able to have a good time. I tend to use Microsoft Excel to keep my accounts in check. Don’t worry, it’s not as nerdy as it sounds because the formulas are super simple and it is a savvy way to keep your money in order. This also ties in with picking the right bank to join. Have a look around at all of the banks and see what they have to offer. I chose Santander because they offer a 4 year railcard which has saved me a lot of money.
I love making lists! I have a list for absolutely everything. It gives me an excuse to buy new stationery which I can never complain about. Even if you are not a psycho when it comes to being organised, it is super easy to just jot down a couple of things on a piece of paper. Try splitting up your list into sections like: kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, stationery etc… and this will help you cover all the essentials.
Social media is a great medium to meet all your potential flatmates and people on your course. I understand that introverts may find starting up a conversation more difficult, but going to university is your chance to push your boundaries and challenge yourself. So just pop up to someone who may be living in the same flat/doing the same course as you with a simple hello and you will be surprised with how eager other students are to ensure that they have a familiar face on their first day of moving in.
Being aware of your mental health is extremely important in the first year of university. Moving away from home, living independently, being bombarded with information etc…can be daunting. It is easy to feel lonely when you are living away from home so make sure you surround yourself with a good group of friends. It is also important to stay in touch with your family because they will be a great break from the university lifestyle.
Don’t burn yourself out because otherwise you will hate the best years of your life. I cannot speak for other courses but this is something most medical students are a victim of. As a first year medic, it is difficult for you to gauge just how much work you need to do in order to stay on top of things. I cannot stress enough how important it is to not go overboard with the work you do. Trust me when I say that the workload gets worse as you progress through medical school and the last thing you want to do is look back at your first year and regret not having a life!
Having said that, it is also important not to slack. Jeez woman make up your mind is probably the thought that is going through your head right now. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how you can get the balance right as it is something you have to discover on your own. I believe it took me about a month to get into the stride of things and figure out how much work I needed to do. At Lancaster, your first year is based purely on anatomy and physiology which is great because you do not need to focus on pathology just yet. It also helps to have this base knowledge before you start focusing on pathology from second year onwards.
Joining societies is a great way to ensure that your life is not consumed by your course. One of the downsides of studying medicine was that the societies I wanted to join held their meetings during the times that I had lectures. Which was really annoying because I was desperate to join the Hip-Hop and Streetdance society. However, I am hoping to join at least one dance society whilst I am at Imperial!
Make the most of your student status and keep your eye out for discounts using the NUS card. The NUS app is great for identifying which stores in your city accepts student discount so make sure you use it to save some money.
Make friends with medics and non-medics. It is so easy to become friends with medics, especially when you are attending a university that has around 50 people in each year. Having medic friends is great because you are all on the same boat and at times of struggle, they are great at making you feel like you are all in one big family! However, talks tend to revolve around medicine to the point that you may have to ban the topic in conversations. So make sure you have some non-medic friends to take a break from all things medicine.
Buying textbooks seems like a good idea because it looks pretty in your room and it makes you feel clever. But they are incredibly expensive and in my opinion not worth buying. There are plenty of copies of textbooks floating about the world wide web for free so get your hands on them. Or if you are a hipster who still likes the feel of turning pages in a book; raid the library or speak to people in the year above because they may be selling their books at reasonable prices. My saving grace was subscribing to the BMA which was free for the first year (and then it was £3/month) and they deliver books that you can order from their extensive library at lightening speed. Don’t bother buying textbooks before you get to university because different medical schools recommend different books; so stop being keen! At Lancaster, the battle is between Tortora and Naish with the latter being the one chosen by those whom you can sense have a heightened competitive streak…
Finally, remember that you were chosen to be at medical school/university. That means you are more than capable to tackle whatever your course throws at you. Always ask for help if you need it, there is no shame in that. It is easy to get carried away with the competitive nature of medicine but remember that you want your future patients to have a range of competent doctors that will treat them; so what is the point in hiding away important notes/tips?! Most importantly, look after each other. You will be spending the next 5 years of your life with a select group of people and they will be your home away from home. So have fun and feel free to share with me your stories of being a fresher.
P.S. Get organised with some printables that are free to download from the menu bar at the top of the page!