If you’re starting university as a new student, you’re likely to be dealing with a mix of excitement, trepidation and nerves. Leaving home for the first time, being in a new city and surrounded by thousands of unfamiliar faces can be overwhelming and you may have the sense of feeling out of place ‘como un pulpo en un garaje’ as they say curiously in Spanish. Or more familiarly in English ‘like a fish out of water’.
To get a few tips on how to survive your first few weeks, I had a chat to a returning student who has been there and done that. He unwittingly continued the marine analogy, by saying he initially felt like a small fish in a big pond at uni, as opposed to college where he was at the top of the food chain.
So how to get things going swimmingly? First up – everyone is in the same boat and feeling the same as you are. Everything is ‘crazy new’ and the first few weeks are a surreal experience. Before diving headfirst into O’Week, take time to prepare. Begin with Victoria’s Getting Started Guide – tips, checklists, how to do the important stuff and where to get help. Also, check out the new students’ webpages before you arrive, when you arrive, and once you’ve started.
To help your transition to university life and meet students from your faculty, sign up to the Campus Coaches programme. Being in a Hall of Residence is also a great support in your first year and helps bridge the divide between school and uni. There are many fun social activities and a good tip for encouraging people to come and say hello, is to leave your room door open. At Victoria, if you are not living in a Hall you can attend WGTN Hall (a hall without walls) events. Another great way to engage with your fellow students and your community is to get involved in extracurricular activities – clubs, leadership programmes and study support groups. An additional tip from my source is to keep in touch with your classmates via social media. Your Class Rep will most likely set up a class Facebook page – or go one better and be a Class Rep yourself!
According to my knowledgeable friend, it will take a bit of time getting used to the freedom you have at uni. His personal preference was to have a structured daily plan that included time to study and complete assignments outside of lectures. He also made time to attend tutorials organised in his Hall. You will probably find you are looking forward to going home in the first break and then feel much more settled in your second trimester as you get into the swing of things. However if you do find yourself paddling madly just to stay afloat, there is support available.
Tá má ar muin na muice! An Irish saying meaning I’m on the pig’s back. If you’re on the pig’s back you’re feeling pretty good – great in fact!