The Fresher's Handbook

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Okay, so ALevel results just came out and loads of you guys are heading to Uni. This is a little something I wrote for new students a couple of years ago, as a guide for all you youngsters heading away from home.

Submitted: August 20, 2012

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Submitted: August 20, 2012

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The Fresher’s Handbook

(So You’re Going To Be A First Year)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1) What To Expect

 

Leaving home isn’t easy, especially if your longest time away previously was an end-of-sixth form trip to Butlin’s or an “educational” week in France. The probability that you will shed a tear or two is quite high. If you don’t, it’s guaranteed your mum will. There’s no denying that it won’t be easy but it’s not that hard either.

Everybody is in different situations the evening before they get there. Some people will have come from sheltered backgrounds; it’s not unusual for a Fresher to not really have experienced nightlife before. If you’re one of these, don’t worry. Your life is about to get at least ten percent better! Some people will be using University as a way to get away from home. That’s not unusual either. Of course, there’s the minority of people who actually go to study…these people are not geeks. Remember this; you will have to work.

On the day that you get to your University, everyone will feel the same but will handle their emotions in different ways. It might take a few hours but when the excitement has died down and you’re sleeping in your new home (and yes, it is now your home) for the first time, you will suddenly think to yourself “shit” and that’s not just because of the vast quantities of alcohol that you’ve probably downed.

Most students will chose to live in Halls in their first year. If you’ve opted out, fill that form in straight away. Even if you’ve chosen to commute to save a bit of money, you will miss out on some amazing experiences.

Your flatmates are your new family. You either love them or hate them but you still have to live with them. If you’ve been put into Halls where you share bathroom facilities, do not throw a tantrum. It’s not that bad sharing a toilet, trust me. Just don’t leave anything you want to use next time you wash in the shower room. It won’t be there next time you want it.

When sharing a kitchen, you will never have knives and forks but will always have way too many spoons. Your ketchup will always be half empty, whether you’ve used it or not and by Christmas break you will have lost everything but it will have turned up again by the summer…mostly. You will always have to wash your plates before using them, even if you’ve been away for the weekend.

The good thing about Halls is that most Uni’s have cleaners; this is all well and good until you realise that twice a week they take utter delight in slamming the edge of the vacuum against your door. They also get very unhappy if you; leave vast quantities of washing up (they will slam it into the sink as loudly as possible), dye your hair and not wash it out the bath properly (they will leave you the bleach for next time) and have Flour Wars in the corridor (they will make sure the wardens punish you for this but it is worth it!).

Your room won’t be a temple but it’s not a cell either. Make sure you bring stuff to make it your own. It’s surprising what a difference a few posters, photos and homely possessions will make. Remember to take blue tack. It’s amazing how many uses that stuff has.

Expect your drawers to be stiff, your desk to be small and your shelving uneven. Your bed will always make the most awkward noises. If you have en-suite, your shower will either be too hot or too cold. The same goes for shared environments. The taps will drip, the radiators will rattle and due to safety regulations, you’ll never be able to open your window more than three inches. You’ll love it.

You’ve moved to a strange place. Oddly, most people will have only visited where they’ve chosen to go to Uni once or twice before—if they have at all. You will get lost but it’s easy to ask someone for help. Locals and other older students (it’s incredible how you’ll suddenly be able to tell instantly who’s a University student) will be happy to point you in the right direction. They’re very used to having an infestation of Fresher’s every year!

You will make friends and you will learn to dislike people. University is very similar to High School but people are less likely to hold grudges and are more likely to associate themselves with other cliques. It is very probable that you will meet people you will be friends for life with during your first year.

Fancy dress will be an important factor of your life throughout the year. And trust me, there are no limitations. The best thing is that you never have to be embarrassed walking down the street with just your boxers on or your face painted blue because everyone will be doing it. Always make an effort. You’ll look sillier just wearing an eye patch than if you go for the full shebang. Even if this does mean pretending you have a wooden leg (which isn’t that hard by the end of the evening!).

At some point or another you will make a fool of yourself, usually drunk. The chance is that it won’t be limited to one time and yes, people will be laughing at you, not with you. The pictures will end up on Facebook and people will remind you of it every time they see you for the next week. The best way to deal with this is not to turn beetroot red and shout at your new friends, but to laugh it off and make sure that you have a camera next time they’re having a round of Pub Golf.

You will meet lots of people and sometimes you’ll make friends with the most unlikely candidates. The morning after a night out it’s very likely that you’ll have ended up with an unknown number in your phonebook, a random person talking to you online (but they know you so well…) or someone running over to you shouting, “I remember you!” You won’t have a clue who they are but don’t hide behind your adopted new best friend. Approach in a friendly manner, look confused and exclaim politely (or drunkenly), “You do?”

Sometimes you will have to make an effort to meet people. There will be times when someone invites you out and then forgets you don’t know anybody else with them. Your friend will not have done this on purpose but it’s important not to sulk into your drink. Talk to the person sitting next to you (the one that looks just as bored) and try not to look like a tag-along. The chance is this person will end up as your significant other. Believe me, it happens.

After a night out, it’s very probable that you will end up with chips, a pizza or a kabab. Food plays a large role in student life and there will be times that you are hungry. This might be because of a few reasons; the last pint looked far more appeasing than the mushy chips afterwards, you spent your last twenty quid on a new shirt rather than all those microwave foods and super noodles, or you’re just too bloody lazy to attempt to retrieve food.

Don’t worry if you can’t cook. Eventually you will get sick of junk food and will be forced to learn. It’s not that hard to boil pasta and add some sauce. By the end of the year you will have perfected at least one “interesting” looking meal. Even if it was just to impress a member of the opposite sex.

You will be exposed (and expected to comment upon) your neighbours relationships. You will almost defiantly hear things that you would rather not. This is when your Ipod will come in handy. Do not pound on the walls or glare at them in the morning. You’ve earned yourself brownie points for the next time you decide to be a bit noisy and the chance is that they’ll embarrassedly apologise for the noise in the morning and that’s worth more than ten drinks on its own.

At some point you might be unfortunate enough to have a brush-up with the law, whether a direct situation caused by yourself or not. Someone within your living environment will do something illegal. I’m sure it won’t be anything as exciting as a brothel being run from K-Block or gangster crime wars in L-Block but someone will have a stash of weed under their pillow or there will be a case of the “missing fire extinguisher,” usually dealt with by Hall security.

The fire alarms will become your new worst nightmare. At some point in the wee hours of the morning, the wardens will decide to give you a “test.” They will claim that it’s for your own benefit but we all really know that it’s just to see us squirm. It is however a convenient way for people to find out who is in your room and see what you look like with bed-hair.

Nothing stays a secret for long, especially if you go to a small University or live on a small site. If you are in one of these situations, I feel for you. People will always know your business and sometimes you just want to keep things to yourself. However, it has its advantages. Everyone does tend to socialise with each other and there’s an actual community feel to life.

At times you will feel like leaving. You will get homesick or just want to get away and see other things. Have a change of environment. You will make friends with someone who drops-out. It happens.

Nobody will ever force you to stay but it’s important to make sure it’s what you want. For some reason, people seem to fall into depressive states in November and February. Everyone feels the same. You won’t be alone.

The Internet and a mobile phone will become your link to the world. They are student essentials and you will learn about things that you might not want to via these forms. Sometimes, it will hurt. Most of the time you’ll laugh. You’ll also learn the truth about the people you’re claiming as friends.

Do not be afraid to give people your number. During your first year, friends will come and go and you will occasionally regret meeting people. This is life. Deal with it!

You might not admit to it but they’ll be so many emotions swirling around your brain the week leading up to leaving for Uni that you won’t be able to separate the good from the bad. Try not to be afraid. This is the start of the worst and best time of your life…

 

 (2) Getting There

 

Congratulations! It’s the most important day of your new life; the date you actually move out. Hopefully you’ll have packed at least a week beforehand, if not, you’d better set your alarm early. It’s actually quite difficult moving out and you should allow yourself a good amount of time and a few extra pairs of hands, especially if you’re anything like me and literally pack your whole life.

People will travel to their University in different ways, as the distances for travelling differ greatly. Some students will say their goodbyes the moment they step out of their front door. Others will spend the journey with a family member; most likely the unfortunate student who will find out how much they’d wished they’d learnt to drive or not sold their little banger for holiday money in Turkey.

If you’re travelling by train or if you’re one of those really adventurous people experimenting with boats, planes or other automobiles, please make sure you check the departure times. The last thing you’ll want to be worrying about is whether you got off at the right station.

I’d recommend travelling by car and unless you’re driving yourself, make sure your chauffer doesn’t smuggle a video camera into the glove compartment. It’s very embarrassing when you’re trying not to draw attention to yourself, if a beloved parent decides to document the ordeal.

It might seem strange but try and make a list of everything you need to take and as you’re getting ready to leave, make sure you tick all your cases and boxes off. The last thing you want is to end up in a strange land minus a box of DVDs, a case of clothes or essential toiletries. It’s a long way back home and all those packs of toothpaste your Mum insisted on sending you with will certainly save you a quid or two.

It’s time to say goodbye to those being left at home. By this point you’re probably too stressed to worry about an upsetting fare-thee-well. Some people will travel with the family dog; it’s actually quite comforting. Others will try very hard not to look their pet cat Snape in the eyes, as they give him a quick pat on the head. Don’t look back. This is it.

Make sure you know what route to take if you’re driving alone, even if this means studying it until you know it by heart. SatNavs do not always know the best course of direction, so make sure you check all the options. If you’re being driven and you’re the map-reader, the M Roads are your most direct route. Avoid if you want to spend more time with your travelling companions. This trip might be the last time you see them until Christmas break or even after.

Buckle up. You might not have realised it but you’re already halfway down your street now. The radio’s on, the weather’s still pretty good and everyone who’s cheeky enough to stare into your car knows that you’re headed for Uni. This weekend there are thousands of people making the same trip as you and they’re all thinking the same things…

“Will I make friends?”

“Will people like me?”
“Do I have enough money?”
“What will the toilets be like?”
“Where is Bristol anyway?”

“Wonder if my neighbour will be fit?”

So many thoughts and questions will be spinning around your head, you’ll barely notice when someone speaks to you or you get a text. The reality will have sunk in by now. Whether you’re travelling fifty miles or five hundred, this will be both the longest and shortest trip of your life. The scenery will change and before you’ve had the chance to make any sense of your new situation, you’ll have arrived.

Presuming that you haven’t got lost in your new hometown, that big building in front of you will be your new address. They’ll be a series of corridors and a good amount of doors for you to search through and get lost amongst. The chance is that you’ll have collected your keys from a security lodge and if you’re really lucky, someone will show you the exact location of your new hovel. If they don’t, you’re in for a real treat. Don’t worry if you do get lost inside, you’ll probably make a friend or two!

And you’re not the only poor sod whose parents seem to be looking over your new abode with a sense of fear and envy…

Once you’ve deposited all your stuff into your room, said your goodbyes (just pretend to be upset, they’ll like that) and you’re “alone”, crank the music up and throw everything onto your bed. Home already!

By this point you will have already forgotten about six people’s names. Don’t worry; they’ll probably have forgotten yours too. People will be running around like headless-chickens. Someone’s bound to walk into a door or fall down a stair or two. Someone will walk into your room thinking it’s their own.

Prop your door open whilst you’re unpacking or just trying to come to terms with your new environment. It’s welcoming to those who come parading the corridors (they’re just as interested in examining you, as you are of them) and you can spy on your new neighbours fussy parents or find out whether they’ve got a Wii you can invade their room to play on.

There will be so many things for you to do today that you’ll be exhausted by the end. You have to try and make the best impression on those living around you, come to terms with your new area, try and make your room as comfortably yours as possible and find out where all the local pubs are. It’s no easy task. You’re being asked to do a lot in the next few hours.

Your Uni might be putting on tours and have organised events for you to join. Some people will find it more exciting to go wandering off with their new flatmates (yes, even the one with the silly hair and weird boots), whereas others will prefer to have the safety of being with someone whose been there before. Do whatever you’re more comfortable with. Just make sure you invite everyone around you to do whatever you decide. Unless you want to be a loner for the next year, that is.

When you do leave your room, remember to lock it. I’m sure your new flatmates are all lovely but you never know…there’s nothing worse than coming back to an empty room, especially as that was how it was when you first got there!

Try not to spend too much money if you do find a pub. You’ve got the whole of Fresher’s Week to spend your overdraft. You probably won’t get your first loan instalment for another week either. It also stops you from getting too drunk and lost in a new place. Never a good mixture, especially when you’re still trying to make a good impression.

If you do end up in the pub and you notice your new flatmate practically hanging off the bar, make sure you don’t leave them there when you leave. They’re in a strange place too and they’ll appreciate it the next time you shut yourself out of the building.

Today will be the most chaotic, in sense of trying to compose yourself. However, once it’s over it will feel like your day has gone with a blink of an eye. It doesn’t matter how you chose to spend it but those last few minutes before you fall asleep will be spent thinking about it. Unless you pulled of course…

In those last minutes before you finally nod off, you’ll be trying to remember so much. The names of all the people you’ve met, the quickest way to your Halls, whether the person who lives next to you is single or not and all kinds of essential worries. “I really need the toilet but someone might catch me going,” is not an excuse to piss in your sinks lads, if you’re not en-suite.

And if you did pull, well, there’s always the morning after to fret about these things…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(3) Fresher’s Week

 

Hopefully you’ve got a bit of cash put aside for this week because you’re about to spend a lot of money. It’s very difficult not to, (unless you’re on antibiotics and can’t drink…) with people dragging you around bars almost twenty-four hours a day. There will be so much to see and do that you won’t know when the days begin and the nights end. In fact, they basically just merge into one.

It’s a very exciting time and you will never have been in so much demand; everybody will want you. Don’t you feel the popular one? Your Mum will call everyday for the next week to check you’re alive, your friends will be texting you to find out whether there are as many hotties in your city (because they want to brag that they’ve already got off with seven) as there are in yours, your Nan will want to know if you’ve got enough socks and baked beans, and your new flatmates, well, they just want you because you’re so entertaining with a few pints down your throat!

Try and be sensible though. It’s very hard to change a first-impression and you can never take it back. Even if all your new friends eventually forget, you’ll still take it to the grave with you. One night you’ll do something you regret; this week is all about meeting new people, having new experiences and to the majority of students, getting recklessly drunk without parents around.

It all seems like fun and games and a brilliant experience—I should know, I’ve been there—but there are a lot of messy experiences to be had to. People turning, literally, green because they’ve drunk more than their bodyweight in beer; heads down the toilet—and in some cases a flashy new phone too—mumbling about how drunk they are and that they love you all even though they’ve only known you twenty-four hours. Both male and female, nobody is safe.

There’s very little that you won’t see in Fresher’s Week. I could lie and say things change but they don’t. That guy semi-conscious on the bench by the tree, he’ll be some other poor sod tomorrow night—be kind and check he’s breathing—and that girl who tripped over her own heals and fell off the curb, that could be you next week, so try not to laugh.

If your new next-door neighbour takes a fancy to the person serving behind the bar—the one with the sweaty fringe and terrible shoes—that’s not their fault. If you yourself are getting a little interested, had a couple of drinks and think it’s a damned good idea to make friends with the person next to you, try and take a look through un-squinted eyes. You might have to explain a few things in the morning if you don’t, for your own personal benefits… “It wasn’t that bad…” Cringe!

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not all about drinking. Universities will vary—Fresher’s Week in Manchester, for example, will be different to someone experiencing their first few weeks at Dundee or Bangor. Most places will have events occurring throughout the week run by the Student Union, individual course administrators and also venues in the local area—such as the not-really-snazzy looking new club at the end of the High Street.

There might be trips to a beach if you now live near the coast. Perhaps a barbeque in a local park (or any patch of grass big enough for a few students to congregate) or a tour of all the best pubs in walking distance from your new residence. Try and drag yourself and a couple of new flatmates to an event or two and if you are living at home rather than staying in Halls, this is a good way to meet some new people. If you’re new to the area it will help you gather your bearings and learn just what’s around.

It might also be a good idea to gather a couple of your new flatmates and go exploring on your own on the first day you move in. Not only will this give you a chance to find out what they’re like but also give you the opportunity to look around and not get lost on your own. And if it’s raining, I’m sure there will be a McDonalds somewhere!

Remember. It’s only your actual Fresher’s once, so do make the most of it without putting yourself into any danger or trouble. It’s very easy to forget where you are or how to get back to where you’ve come from. Some Universities will have a free minibus service during this week to help make sure you can get back to your new home safely. Always try and keep enough money handy in case you need to pay for a taxi. It’s always a good idea to note down a reputable company as soon as you get to wherever you’ve moved to, as not everyone is going to be as friendly as the local security guard!

You might have been assigned a “Peer Guide” or a student on your course prior to arriving at your University. It’s always a good idea to keep their contact details handy for a couple of weeks. These students will know the area well and will have had a similar experience when they moved away. They want to help you and will be able to direct you if you get lost, can’t find the building you’re supposed to be meeting at for your new tutor group or if you’re just feeling a bit homesick; they’re there to be used and abused!

When this week is over and you’ve exhausted not only all your money but also your mentality, you’ll wonder just where the time has gone. Make sure you take photos; even if your fringe is sweaty, trouser-fly is undone and your eyes are a mess of eyeliner and sleep deprivation; it doesn’t matter! Everyone’s in the same position and when you look back, you’ll really appreciate that photo of yourself swung over your new flatmate. Some of the people you meet during this next year will be your friends for life and remembering how you met, will be priceless.

By the end of the week you might have witnessed some firsthand experiences that could have been plucked straight from an episode of “Skins”. It’s all good-natured and meant to be fun and exciting. Sometimes things will go wrong. You might not agree with some of your new housemates’ lifestyles—you didn’t pick to live with them— and by the end of the week everyone will have at some point shown their true colours. Don’t hold a grudge if someone accidentally breaks your plate, falls into your door on the way back to their room on a night out or stinks the kitchen out with their strange concoction of microwaved curry and rice. It hasn’t hurt you and you’ll certainly do something that annoys them at some point, so it’s good to be a bit lenient. It’s only if it’s continuous that it becomes a disturbance and I’m sure they’ll donate a new plate to your cause!

But if those are the worst things that happen, there’s nothing to complain about and if someone wakes you up on their way back in, the real question is why weren’t you with them? Have fun, this week only happens once!

 

Rules (Not that Students need use these.)

 

(1)Unpack. Make sure you have a bed to sleep in as soon as you arrive.

(2) Leave your door propped open when you arrive and are in— this is a good way to meet your new flatmates.

(3) Don’t be unsociable because you’re feeling a bit homesick, the best cure is to talk and make friends.

(4) Be spontaneous. If someone asks you to go out, do it! Even if you just stay for an hour, it shows willingness.

(5) If you know it’s going to be a late night, always make sure you have enough money for a taxi home.

(6) Remember to call your family—they love you and want to know you’re safe and responsible. Lie if you must.

(7) Have fun and no regrets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(4) The Shock

 

Yes, the exciting week is over and you actually have to attend lectures and seminars. It’s been a while since you last had structured lessons so it’s going to come as a bit of a shock to the system, especially as it’s very likely you’ll still be heading out to the local clubs and pubs every other night. Be prepared to be very tired and have a well-stocked supply of energy drinks, coffee and pro-plus in your room or whatever it is that makes you tick…

How many hours you have to spend in Uni will depend completely on your course and the establishment itself. Be prepared to have days that are full from 9AM-5PM and then days that you don’t have to go in at all. You might just have the odd hour every other day or you could be in all week. Remember, you’re paying for each of these hours (roughly about £60 each) so try and make the most of them. I won’t lie, depending on your course you can pass first year without attending all your lectures but remember this; you’re paying for them, you won’t look good to your tutors and you’ll miss valuable information that could win you a few grand on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” in the future—which will be handy when you’re trying to pay off that overdraft!

The people who are in your lectures are the people you will be spending the next few years with. You can’t escape this body of people unless you change courses/modules. I’m pretty sure they don’t bite—some of them might in their own personal lives but that’s not important to you—and so if the only seat left empty is next to the girl you’ve instantly developed a crush on or the boy whose eyes you can’t see because his fringe is so messy, it doesn’t matter. Sit your butt down and say hi. If you don’t quite catch their name or have forgotten it within five minutes, have a listen out and I’m sure you’ll catch it again.

From experience most tutors will start the first week of lectures off by having introduction games or conversations: possibly between just a small selection of students or between the whole group. Don’t worry if you feel nervous because the person sitting next to you probably doesn’t want to be in the same situation either. You’ll appreciate it when the nervous first meetings are over though and it’s a good way of getting to know the people who will be around you.

Unless you’re on a particularly small course you’ll constantly be meeting new people over the year that are studying the same course but doing different modules to you, especially if you are participating in joint courses. It’s always good to meet new people and these people will come with new ideas and new experiences. Steal their ideas and enjoy their company—even if the only thing that you seem to have in common is a hatred for the odd tutor that teaches at 10AM every Tuesday and expects “punctuality…” Don’t they realise you have a social life?

Even if you don’t manage it for the rest of the semester, try and attend all the lectures in this first week. You’ll be given important information about where you need to go, who everyone is, what books you need to read, whether there are field trips for you to attend and when deadlines are for marked work and exams. If you don’t know what you’re doing from the first week, it will throw you off course for the whole of the year. It’s all well and good to say “I’ll go next week” but when you don’t know where lecture room four is because you didn’t go to an introduction seminar, you might be encouraged not to attend at all for fear of not being able to find the place.

If you do get lost trying to find a study room, just ask someone. The first couple of weeks aren’t just stressful and chaotic for you (trust me, you’ll start to feel it somewhere mid-week of first lectures) but for everyone else trying to make sure you know where you’re going and what you’re doing, for local residents and current second and third level students. Everyone gets lost at some point. Even in my third year I still didn’t know the way around my university building but don’t worry, just ask someone and they’ll either point you in the right direction or tell you they can’t find the bloody room either. At least you’ll arrive late together.

If your course isn’t module specific and you don’t like any of your choices, you should be able to change onto different modules for the first two weeks of your course. You might even be able to chose modules from other courses or if you realise that the course you’ve chosen isn’t for you, pick an entirely different course. Just make sure you find out who you need to speak to and that you’re one hundred percent sure that it’s not right for you. It’s important that you enjoy what you’re doing, otherwise you’ll be tempted to skip lectures and possibly not do as well as you want. University shouldn’t be like High School where you’re forced to study things you don’t want to, after all, you’ve chosen to continue your education and you’re meant to enjoy it.

It might take you a couple of weeks to get into the swing of things but don’t worry, try and keep on top of things and remember that over the year you’ll have specific times to catch up on any overdue reading or unmarked work. If you ever do miss a deadline or just need a little more extra time, all you have to do is see who is responsible for the administration and ask—they’re usually quite lenient for an amiable reason as to why your two thousand word assignment on Benjamin Disraeli is a little late—they don’t need to know that you’d just completely forgotten about it until one of your new mates text back saying they couldn’t go out because it was due at 12 the next afternoon…

I’ve often heard first year of Uni described as a transition between Alevel and the rest of higher education. This is an accurate way of describing it. People will have studied at different levels and will be coming to Uni with different grades and abilities. Now you need to learn new skills, such as referencing and further researching. You are expected to develop old skills into a new way of thinking and working. It sounds scary but if you want to achieve the highest grades, research and referencing is key to any subject being studied—not just History or Ocean Sciences but just as importantly, Drama or Creative Writing.

Be prepared. At least Wikipedia whatever lecture you haven’t read up on. It’s better to go with some knowledge and blag your way through a seminar, than not go at all. So if going to the pub rather than reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations seemed like a better idea (and let’s face it, it always would) at least print out the chapter summary the next morning and still go to your seminar. Not that I ever did that personally…

By the way, you’ve not been a Fresher until you’ve had a case of “Fresher’s Flu.” That will happen about this time too. With so many people congregating in one place and bringing all their germs together, it’s impossible to avoid it and if you do, I salute you. The only cure is tissues, orange juice and flu capsules. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 (5) Hell-o-ween

 

It might seem strange to dedicate a chapter to Halloween but you’ll understand why when you’ve experienced it. You’re going to need more than one costume. The 31st of October is not going to be the only day you spend celebrating this costume-filled, apple-fuelled time of the year. Think about it; you might have joined a Uni-run society, (or more than one: rugby, diving, drama…) you’ve got your new housemates and also coursemates, who all want to take advantage of this holiday for an excuse to congregate and act like children again. But instead of being fuelled on sugar, it’s more likely to be wine and beer.

There will be special events being run wherever you live and student offers around for miles. Free shot in fancy dress…witches brew for anyone dressed as a pumpkin, free entry for anyone dressed as a skeleton and even prizes for the best dressed in your local Varsity. Embrace them all and have fun.

Throwing your own Halloween party might be one of the highlights of the year. Get your flatmates to chip-in, head down to your local Poundland and give people a night to remember.

You could go one of two ways; the dirty or clean. Both are equally as fun and should be enjoyed to the max.

 

The “Clean” Halloween Party

The excuse to release your inner-child and no, not by going trick-or-treating! A costume party with saucepans—I mean cauldrons—of interestingly coloured sugary concoctions, lots of jelly sweets and spooky lollipops, apple bobbing, fake spider webs getting in peoples hair and skeletons hanging from doors.

You might ask people to come dressed in a particular theme—skeletons, pirates or zombies—and then head out to another party or onto a local club. Make sure you have some spooky Halloween tracks and get everyone dancing away to Thriller and The Rocky Horror Picture Show in your kitchen. Brilliant.

 

The “Dirty” Halloween Party

Essentially the same as the above, except it should be requested that the girls come as human/animal hybrids, showing as much flesh as possible. Refer to “Mean Girls” for an example of this type of Halloween party. Personally I find the fake blood and torn up shirts more entertaining but each to his or her own.

 

Other than birthdays and club-themed nights out, Halloween is essentially the first big night out and an excuse to go out not only coming back a mess but also going out as one!

However, if you decide to go out dressed as Hellboy, a Smurf or The Hulk remember all that body paint that seemed like a good idea at the time transfers onto everything: walls, toilets, beds and other people. So if you’ve been kissing a Smurf, your mouth (and possibly your nose) is going to be blue and theirs will need a touch-up. The proof will be in the photo’s, I promise that much.

There are loads of ideas for costumes—be as inventive as you possibly can. Charity shops are fantastic places to get a cheap costume, especially if you’re going to splatter it in fake blood and shred it with the kitchen scissors. If you’re stuck for cheap ideas, here are some of my favourites that I’ve seen done on a budget.

 

Psycho:

Shower Curtain

Fake Blood

 

This has to be the best £2 costume I’ve ever seen. Get some fake blood and a shower curtain from a local pound shop. Splatter the blood all over a shower curtain, a few hours before going out (it does dry) and put a few slash marks through it. You might want to wear something underneath. Wrap it around yourself, touch up your fake blood, mess up your hair (and make-up) and you’re ready to go! It looks really effective and if you want to make stab wounds look more prominent use a black marker pen.

 

Ghost:

White Sheet

 

The fail-safe. All you need is a white sheet with the eyes cutout and have it thrown over yourself. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this done; it’s a very underestimated costume.

 

Mummy:

Toilet Paper or Bandages

 

An old favourite. Wear all black and wrap yourself in either toilet paper or bandages (these will last longer) and darken your eyes with black eye shadow if you can. Recently deceased Mummy’s might like to use fake blood with their costumes.

 

Crash-Test Dummy:

Fake Blood

Bandages

White Tshirt/Belts/Seatbelt

 

If you go to a local garage/junk yard, they might be able go give you an old seatbelt, if not, you could get a cheap white shirt and draw a seat belt (possibly snapped if you’re artistic) on it. A large trouser-belt wrapped over you, across the shoulder, also works. Wrap bandages around your head and splatter fake blood over your face and forehead, also your clothes if you don’t mind them getting spoilt.

 

Cereal Killer:

Cereal Boxes

Fake Knife

 

Collect cereal boxes and ask your friends to donate. Attach the boxes to yourself and carry around a fake knife.

 

Zombie Student:

White Shirt

Fake Blood

 

Hack up an old or cheap white shirt and splatter yourself in blood—give yourself fake bruises and wear your old High School tie if you’ve got it handy. Girls might like to wear a pair of tights and shred them up as well. Claim you were hit by the school bus and nobody is none-the-wiser.

 

Of course, there are all the usual ideas; clowns, animals, characters from films…playboy bunnies… but all the ones I’ve listed are relatively cheap (giving you more money to buy beer) and fun to do.

There’s a very low-cost and simple way to make bruises as well, if you are going as a zombie or someone beaten up. Just get hold of some black eye shadow and blusher (lads, if you don’t want to be seen buying it, just ask one of your flatmates) and put it in random places. Use the blusher first and then dust the black eye shadow around it. It blends in and looks really effective.

And just in case you’re too scared to invent a few spooky-cocktails to impress your friends, here are a couple of cringe worthy concoctions that will make any vampire switch from blood to alcohol.

 

Black Punch:

Vodka, Ginger Ale and Black Food Dye

 

Black Magic:

Tia Maria, Vodka and Lemon Juice

 

Devils Brew:

Tequila, Crème de Cassis, Ginger Ale and Lime

 

Black Cat:

Vodka, Cherry Sours, Cranberry Juice and Cola

 

Toxic Waste

Vodka, Limeade and Sambuca

 

Cursed

Black Sambuca, Vodka and Orange Juice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(6) The Snowy Season

 

So, the diet of takeaways and pot noodles has got a bit dull now. It’s been a month or so and your stomach is feeling a bit…soft. You don’t want to admit it but you could really do with an apple or two. Stop thinking about food though and just reflect for a moment. You’ve been away from home a couple of months now and although some people will go home every now and again for the odd weekend, a lot of people will not be able to visit home and family until the Christmas holidays. International students sometimes, more often than not, don’t get home at all.

You might be feeling a bit lower than usual. The weather is grimmer, the money seems to be running a bit low and suddenly there are deadlines to be met. Unfortunately, some people don’t handle this as well as others. If you’ve got a partner and are finding it difficult to keep the relationship going, this can affect your choices; it’s hard to maintain the same life you had before University and a lot of things will have changed in your life over the last couple of months.

Someone you know will have decided by this point that University life is not for them but try not to let it be you. At times work can seem difficult, money can appear tight and social life can become tired and complicated. There’s always help available. If you do start to feel the pressure of work, talk to one of your tutors. If money becomes an issue and even with a job you just can’t seem to plod-on, you might be able to apply for your University’s hardship fund. If your social life is falling apart—the lads back home are annoyed because your weekly beer and rugby session no longer happens or your best friend back home isn’t as excited about your new “best-friend” as you—remind your friends that at least you’re still keeping in touch, especially as Roger next door hasn’t even phoned home for a fortnight…

You can always invite people from home to come party in your new neck of the woods. Make them know they’re always welcome to visit and don’t let the pressure of them missing you affect your choices. A lot of them will be in other University’s and if it sounds like they’re feeling a bit low, give them a call. It’s amazing what hearing a familiar voice can do for your state of mind.

If someone you have become quite close to decides that they can’t stay any longer, don’t try and talk them out of leaving. Be rational and try and offer them the best solution or support, even if you desperately don’t want to see them go. The chance is they’ve probably been thinking about it for a good length of time and nothing you say will change their mind. They might just want to talk things through with someone. Don’t pressure them and if they do decide to leave, throw them a big party so they know that they’re always welcome back.

But enough of that! The party season is steadily approaching and the festivities are bound to cheer up even the tightest of Scrooges! Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the fact that the holidays are fast-approaching and lectures are near-finished for the semester means that the fun and games can be rediscovered without the guilt of the missed lecture because of the hangover. There are lots of things to look forward to and even if it’s just a trip home to see family and friends, it’s amazing how much better you’ll feel after a good end-of-semester-pre-holiday party.

Secret Santa might be an event held within your group of friends and a good excuse if the money is running a bit low to only part with one gifts worth of money. Make an event out of it; mix the names into a Christmas hat and don’t tell each other who you’ve got. Put a price limit on presents and have a flat party with food and drink to give out the gifts. Mince pies and squirty cream at the ready; get everyone dressed up and use it as an excuse to get everyone together before you go home. Whether you do joke presents or serious ones, it’s all good fun and an event to remember.

These last few weeks flyby so fast and you will miss them when you look back, and whether your friends stay the same throughout University and you chose to live with them in your next year or you drift apart and see each other at the odd, random house party, every night spent will be different and worth remembering—even if it’s just staying up in the early hours of the morning to watch Labyrinth. Take nothing for granted and if anything has been worrying you or upsetting you, you can come back after the holidays with a fresh state of mind.

If you’re relying on public transport to get you home, make sure you book it well in advanced. Mid-November is not too early to book the train journey back down to Kent or the cheap coach to Birmingham. There’s nothing worse than planning on going home and then being unable to get there. You might be able to get a lift with a driver if you can’t drive yourself, so it’s always worth asking around your friends for anyone who is driving in your direction and is willing to take you for a share in the petrol costs. It will probably be cheaper than a train!

When you do get home, don’t forget your University friends—in about two weeks you’ll be back with them and they’ll feel a bit unloved if you don’t even send them a “Happy New Year” text.

It’s good to see everyone but people will have started to form separate groups and even though it’s like you never left, when catching up with your High School/College/Sixth Form pals, it’s obvious that people drift apart. Don’t feel bad. Everyone’s genuinely pleased to see each other and your friends have probably realised just how happy you are from all the Facebook pictures you’ve been tagged in!

And oh for the bliss of home-cooked meals. Everyone always jokes about the “student eating” lifestyle of noodles, beans and chips. You’ll have never appreciated a brussel sprout in your life before, as much as you do when you get back to a proper meal. All covered in gravy…well, maybe not the sprout but it’s nice to get some meals inside of you that aren’t only microwaved or bought from the local chippy.

Enjoy some good grub whilst it’s put on your plate and you don’t have to work out the cost of it!

Joke Secret Santa Ideas

* A picture of someone the person fancies, signed by the person.

* A vibrator.

* A book on how to survive “Bird” or “Swine” flu.

* A really unlikely CD—get them Britney Spears if they like Nirvana, for example.

* A box of condoms with a note saying, “we’re trying to tell you something.”

* Some cutlery…maybe they’ll get the point and stop using yours.

* A mini student survival kit complete with; noodles, beans, condom, toothpaste, socks and toilet paper.

 (7) The Short Long Month

 

It’s January and you’ve returned to a cold place that you still haven’t completely come to terms with but you secretly missed it, even though you told your family and friends you weren’t that arsed about getting back to University. That was to make them feel better; truth is you can’t wait to get back out partying with your flatmates and friends again. Unfortunately, the next couple of weeks are going to be some of the worst. It seems so early but it’s about this time that you need to find and secure somewhere to live in you second year, unless you’ve decided to move back into Halls or continue living at home.

It’s a very difficult decision because these are people you’ve only just met. You might make mistakes and if you haven’t lived with whom you chose to find a house with before, they might surprise you. It seems cliché to say but most of the time you don’t know someone until you’ve lived with them. Even if you move in with people from the Halls you were put into, living in a house environment is completely different. Make sure you’re completely certain that you’re doing the right thing by moving in with certain people—it can be a very costly mistake, especially as you will now be dealing with a Landlord rather than University administration, who won’t be as compassionate with you, if you find yourself in an disagreeable situation.

However, looking for a house is an exciting event. Make sure you look around and make appointments to see more than one. Ask any older students whether they know of any landlords who might not be as respectable as others. Your University’s Student Union should have lists of reputable student houses but still ask around and never agree to signing a contract until someone else has looked over it, even if it means you could potentially lose the house.

Check to see how rent is paid: are you paying for the house or are contracts individual? It’s in your best interest to get your own contract. I learnt the hard way by signing a contract that meant if a housemate decided to leave, they weren’t responsible for making up the rent, the people still living there were. Unfortunately someone did move out and was unable to be replaced, which put the rest of us in a slightly poor situation for the rest of the year.

Are bills included? This is the big wide world now and you have to pay for water, electricity, gas, TV licence, phone and Internet. If these aren’t included in your rent, someone is going to have to have them in their name—if someone doesn’t then pay up; you’re out of pocket. This is why it’s essential to make sure you can afford where you’re moving into and that you can trust those moving in with you.

Student houses are never going to be luxurious. Don’t expect anything but the bare essentials—however, you shouldn’t be prepared to live in the pits either. You don’t want to spend the whole of your second year in a state of constant cold-like symptoms because the house is patterned in damp or the heating doesn’t work. There are a few questions that you should ask as you’re being shown around the potential house. Make sure to note any promises that landlords make or current students living there tell you about the place or their relationship as a tenant.

 

Ask and Consider

(1)Is the front/back door secure and do the individual bedrooms have locks?

(2)Does the heating work and how much does it cost to run?

(3)Are bills included? —Especially consider Internet, as this is vital to students.

(4)Is the house in a noisy street? —Sometimes you’ll just want peace.

(5)Is electrical equipment (oven and boiler, for example) in working order?

(6)How much is the deposit and are you likely to get it back?

(7)Are the room’s different sizes and are there going to be arguments over who gets the smallest?

(8)How close are the local shops and clubs?

 

These seem like obvious questions but it’s so easy to just forget about the important little things that could change how you feel over your second year. Don’t fall in love with the first house that you visit—do go and look at a few and remember, just because it looks good when you go to visit doesn’t mean it will be in the same condition when you get there. Consider the mood of the house—if the walls are painted dark, the chance is that in the winter it will feel sad living there. Consider the amount of rooms. Most student houses will have a minimum of three tenants but some will have six or more—if there’s only one bathroom in the house, what is fighting for mirror time going to be like?

When you do find your house, give it a couple of days, sign your contract and celebrate with your new housemates. Talk to them about how you want to live cooperatively and consider rules that you might want to apply. For example: no making out against someone else’s bedroom door and no smoking below someone else’s window. They might seem like little things now but you’ll be pleased that you considered it this time next year.

It’s also about this time that a lot of Universities will have final exams and coursework deadlines. These are not scary things—you’ve done them a million times and as long as you’ve finished that short creative piece of drama or that exam about starfish and octopi, you’ll probably get a good week off to have fun and recover.

University exams are not terrifying events—a lot of them will be open-book or have pre-released questions, which means you can go in knowing exactly what you’re going to write about and have a good idea of what needs to be included. It also means that you can discuss ideas with your classmates before you sit the exams. Everyone wants to do well and someone might have picked up on something about Queen Victoria’s empire that you’d never even considered.

When your exams do come around, just remember not to jam your head with little bits of information—unless that’s how you best work—have some food before you go in and take a bottle of water, your student card and a couple of pens. And if ever in doubt remember that Frankie says Relax. If you do fail an exam, there will be opportunities to re-sit or you may be able to do an extended piece of writing instead.

When you’ve finished, make the most of it. Head down to the local (yes, even if it was a morning exam…) and just have a chat with your classmates or start the night out from there.

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