Summer is here and I have officially finished my first year at university, so I thought I’d write a little post about my experiences over the past year. So if you’re going to be starting university this September, this might be useful.

University of Gloucestershire, Park Campus
Move-In Day

It was 14th September 2013 and the car was filled with all of my stuff, right down to my excessive DVD collection. I was excited to be leaving home and embarking on my first year at the University of Gloucestershire. The hour-long journey to Cheltenham lay ahead.

Once we’d got there and I’d picked up my keys, filled out doctor’s forms and been offered insurance for the third time that morning, I enthusiastically carried the contents of the car into my new room (with a little help from the awesome Superstars), which would be home for the next year.

After I’d unpacked, it was time to settle in and meet my flatmates. I wasn’t looking forward to this part. What if we didn’t get along? What if they didn’t like me? These are the sorts of questions you will ask yourself on that first day. I was incredibly fortunate to have some amazing people in my Halls who are part of some of my fondest memories as a fresher. (They’ll know who they are if they’re reading this!)

First Year

Move-In day is out of the way, you’ve met your flatmates and you’ve decided which shelf you’d like in the fridge. That means it’ll be time for a drink or two – it’s Fresher’s Week (or even Fresher’s Fortnight if you’re lucky!).

If you’re not much of a drinker, don’t think you have to live up to the freshers expectation and drink lots. Just remember to have fun. University is a wonderful experience – and first year will fly by – so just enjoy it. Fresher’s Week is the best time to experience the local night life as your SU will probably have played a part in organising it. So there will be events where you’re surrounded by fellow freshers to help you settle into student life. And remember those people you met when you moved into Halls? Stick with them and get each other home safely!

Now, when you’re not drinking in those first couple of weeks, get to know the local area. You’re going to need to know where the local shops (and pubs) are, so organise a trip into town with your flatmates, get online and see what your new town/city has to offer, and attend some local events. I’m lucky to be in Cheltenham where we have several festivals each year, like Literature, Jazz, Design and Science.

So, you know your flatmates and the local area, now it’s time to get stuck into uni itself! When you’re writing assignments, you’re going to have to research the subject area by using books and academic journals, as well as reference the work of others that you mention. Because of this, make it a priority to learn how to use the library, which will probably offer induction classes demonstrating how to research and reference properly.

You’ll also want to get to know the lecturers on your course. I study Business Management and we have a lot of lecturers, so getting to know them (and them, you) is very important. So ask questions in lectures and seminars, or go and have a chat with them after lectures or in office hours. You’ll learn more from them and they’ll be keen to see you showing a keen interest in your studies. Dropping them an email just won’t do – it’s important to make personal connections.

On a similar note, you’ll want to get to know some people on your course. At my uni we have ART groups (kind of like tutor groups at school), which is a small group of people on your course headed by your personal Academic Review Tutor. Just like with my flatmates, I was very lucky to have an awesome ART group, many of whom I could work with on group projects. This little network within your course will be very useful in getting to know other people outside of your flat and also to bounce ideas off when you’re brainstorming that 2000-word assignment.

I’d also recommend keeping a journal as it is one of the best ways to recognise your personal growth. Each day, write down your experiences and what you have learned from them. Thinking deeply in this way – sort of like having a conversation with yourself – will make you more self-aware and help you to become more focussed as it provides a place where you can record what you have learned. It might not seem very important when you start, but over time you will come to appreciate having a central point where all of your learning is summarised.

My final tip is to not get too involved. That might seem like strange advice – and I don’t mean detach yourself from your studies – just be sure not to spread yourself too thin. So, yes, join a society or get a part-time job, but don’t try to devote yourself wholly to a hundred different things – it just won’t work, you won’t enjoy it, and it’ll probably be reflected in your grades.

I hope this has been useful to you, and if you’ve got any questions or want some more advice, just tweet me (@adamjone5).

Below is a selection of pictures from my first year at uni and what I've experienced in Cheltenham.

Park Campus - A beautiful place to study

Park Campus

My view from Halls of Residence

Duncan Bannatyne and I at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, 2013

Ronnie O'Sullivan at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, 2013

Prince Charles came to town

Me chatting with Prince Charles

The view from Leckhampton hill (that's Cheltenham down there!)

Pittville Park, Cheltenham

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