First-year survival guide

Around a year ago, I was anxiously searching the internet for positive affirmations and reassurances about university. I was moving to a completely new city, all by myself, and wasn’t really sure what to expect.

The number of resources out there is endless, and maybe a little overwhelming when you’re just looking for a straight answer on whether you should buy a potato peeler or an extension cord (spoiler: you should get both).

I’ve whittled down everything I’ve personally experienced into eight tips. The first four are somewhat tailored towards freshers’ week, and the rest are general tips on surviving, and hopefully enjoying, your first year of university!

So, here goes:

Get to know London

I happened to arrive a week before introductory lectures and freshers’ week really kicked off, which was a real blessing. I got to settle into halls, but, most importantly, I got to familiarize myself with London. I’d only ever been a handful of times before, but that had been as a tourist in an unknown city. I had to know London as a university student who was going to live there for the next 3 years. Knowing where Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park happen to be is nice, but you have to put aside time to map out where you’re going to be doing your weekly food shop, a local GP or hospital, and nearby tube stations.

Get an Oyster card and familiarise yourself with the tube and bus routes

Most, if not all, modes of transport in London rely on payment through an Oyster card, or your contactless bank card. Oyster cards can be purchased online and mailed to you, or in tube stations. As a student, you can apply for the 18+ Student Oyster Card for 30% on adult-rate Travelcards or bus and tram pass season tickets (not sponsored, I swear). Apply for the student Oyster as soon as you can, because it can take a while to process.

You can buy monthly or yearly passes which vary in price depending on which zones you’re travelling between, but that allows you to travel as many times as you want to within the month or year.

By the end of my first year, I still knew people who were too scared to get on the tube because of horror stories they’d read online. I don’t know if this is a common fear, but I just thought I’d put it out there that you’re going to have to bite the bullet when it comes to this one. Sure, it does get busy sometimes, but it’s FAST.

Bus fares in London are standardised and much cheaper than the off or on-peak pricing of the tube. Also, when tube stations are closed, the bus is usually the next best thing.

Keep up to date with the Student Union

The LSESU and its website are a great and reliable resource when it comes to all the upcoming social events on those first few weeks of university. The RAG events tend to be especially popular and worthwhile, and there’s an entire section dedicated to that on the website.

They also have copious amounts of information and advice on employability workshops, places to eat around and in LSE, gym memberships and societies.

Get out of your comfort zone!

Go for as many events and activities as you can in those first few weeks, even if they might not be what you usually go for. One of the great things about LSE especially, is that you’ll meet people from all walks of life, but you won’t really meet them until you force yourself into situations where you can, you know? Approach people if they don’t approach you!

Go to lectures & classes, do the prep

The fact that lectures are recorded is no reason to skip on attending completely, and the fact that class discussion is not should be an incentive to attend. It will be more difficult retrospectively to grasp and understand concepts if you haven’t attended the lecture on the topic. Of course, there is the odd occasion or emergency, but make sure you’re on top of your attendance.

Class attendance is even more imperative, and so is its necessary preparation and reading. It’ll save you so much trouble when it comes to exam season, trust me. But, more than anything, the discussion that often takes place in class is not one to miss.

Take formatives seriously

Formative assessments, for those who may not know, are assignments that do not contribute to your final classification. It might be tempting to give minimum effort just to get it out of the way, I would strongly advise you to use them to your academic advantage. They’re an opportunity to finetune your writing skills and specialised knowledge. Once you receive feedback on the assignment, you’ll be better placed to write more coherent summatives (the ones that do count towards your final mark). It’s a chance to show what you can do, so take your time and plan them. Oh, and don’t fall into the habit of leaving it all the night before.

Take advantage of office hours

Office hours are there for a reason. They’re an opportunity to speak to your teachers, lecturers and academic adviser, face-to-face, about any concerns that you may have; in terms of course content or structure, issues with settling in, or any other burning questions you may have. They will be more than happy to talk and reassure any worry you may have. Office hours are especially useful when you’re struggling with an assignment. They’re also great for getting to know your teachers, and for them to get to know you.

Be kind to yourself

The transition to university is tough, settling in can be a long process, and the workload can feel unbearable at times. LSE’s standards can feel overwhelming sometimes. The trick is to be kind to yourself and schedule in much-deserved breaks. Don’t be tempted to compare yourself to your peers and give yourself credit for how far you’ve come. University is an experience like no other, so don’t be too hard on yourself in the first year.


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