How to settle in at university

From first day nerves and making friends, to doing laundry and getting her bearings, Victoria Adams, first year BSc (Hons) Psychology, describes her experience of starting uni and settling in.  

How did you prepare before you arrived?

There was plenty of contact with the University, which made me feel welcome – I felt I knew the team before I’d even enrolled. They have a fantastic system with Facebook and email to keep you up to date with all the processes you must go through before you actually start your first lecture. The staff were extremely friendly every time I rang up – just to check they had received my results for the 100th time – there wasn’t a question too silly for them. The Facebook groups set up to connect students in the same halls was a brilliant idea, I got to know all three of my flatmates before we moved in. This definitely helped calm my nerves and was great for getting rid of those awkward first conversations.

How did you feel on moving in day?
The day I moved in was nerve racking. But the moment I arrived I immediately relaxed. My Resident Assistant (RA) was ready and waiting with a massive smile on her face and all the information I needed. She showed me to my room and welcomed me and my parents very politely. There were hundreds of nervous faces swarming in and out of the building with boxes full of belongings. I was buzzing. Some of these people could potentially be my best mates but I didn’t even know their names yet.

Was it easy to make friends?
On the drive down to University, I was fretting about how I would approach people, how I would introduce myself, the questions I would ask to get to know others...the truth is, you have no time to think, or be nervous. Everyone else is in exactly the same situation. Once my flatmates and I had created a stupidly strong bond in our first afternoon together, we went on a hunt for more friends. Knocking on other flat doors, introducing ourselves and cracking on from there. The key is just to go for it, don’t hold back – these people have no idea who you are, and only know what you choose to tell them. Just be yourself.

How did the University make you feel at home?
The first week of uni went by in a flash! As I look back now, it already feels like a billion years ago. Inter-hall socials, pizza and movie nights…you name it, we did it in the first few weeks. There isn’t an opportunity to sit by yourself and be lonely! I must have gone on at least five tours around the city and university in freshers’ week, and by the fourth one I knew exactly where I was going for my lectures. Induction week is a funny one – while juggling making new friends, learning how to return a book in the library and making sense of your timetable, you also have to get your head around the fact you are about to embark on a degree, committing the next three years (or more!) of your life to it. Honestly, it’s a little intimidating! That said, Plymouth University made it extremely easy for me to understand what was expected of me throughout my time as a student here, how my particular course was run and the university lifestyle in general.

Were there people to talk to if you needed support? 

It was made clear to me who I could go to if there were any problems, my RA happened to live in my new best friend’s flat, which was very convenient! She is so approachable, like all the other RAs. They are all students either in their 2nd or 3rd years, which is fab. They can totally relate to any issues you have as they were in your shoes last year, which makes it much more easy to talk to them about the flatmate you don’t really get on with and how to solve this issue.

What one thing helped you to settle in the most?
At one point we all felt homesick or wanted a quiet night in, and we all freaked out about the expectations of our course and the amount of work we had to do. What comforted me the most was knowing that everyone else was going through the same thing.

What did you do in the first few weeks that helped you to feel at home?
Stupidly, doing my first load of washing at university made me feel right at home. As funny as it sounds, I was stood there in the corridor, laughing away with one of my flatmates, folding my clothes and I suddenly thought: ‘This is home now…I’ve done it…I’ve made it through my first pile of washing without shrinking anything’. Jokes aside, the independence of doing my own washing, shopping, bed making, is what made me feel at home – this was my space, with my rules, in my home.

Did you join any societies or clubs in your first term?
I joined the hockey society in the first week of uni, having played it at school for years. This was the best decision I’ve ever made. The actual hockey playing is a minor part of being a member of this society, and most of the others. More friends, more socials, more giggles, what more could you ask for? If there’s one rule I would advise any new student to follow, it would be that you MUST MUST MUST sign up for a society of some sort. You will then have three groups of friends: flatmates, coursemates and society mates.

What other advice would you give to first years?
Be yourself. Let your hair down. Don’t overthink things too much.

Is there anything you wish you had known when you arrived?
Only the size of the bed, because I totally bought all the wrong size bedding. And if that’s the only thing I wished I had known before getting here, I think Plymouth has got it pretty spot on. It’s the most well-rounded university I know of. Anything you want to know, do or achieve, you can do it here. I’m so glad to be here – this place is wonderful.

Student Life magazine: Spring 2016 issue 2