“I Wish I’d Been Told” – A Fresher’s Guide To College

So the CAO offers came out today, and I hope you’re all happy and not sobbing in a corner, hungover and tired from waiting up until 6am like I was. When I headed off to college, I’d just turned eighteen. I was the first in my family to go to college, and because I didn’t do transition year I had no older friends to advise me on the do’s and don’ts. So here’s a little guide for you fresher’s, on what I wish I’d been told when I was moving away to college.

I wish I’d been told to “Start as you mean to go on”. During fresher’s week I missed one sociology lecture, I’m not sure why, but after that it was a no go. If you miss lectures at the beginning, you’ll get into the habit of it and slowly but surely you’ll find yourself not going to college at all. And if you’re not really interested in your course, or you can’t motivate yourself to do the work at home, it can be really hard to catch up.

I wish I’d been told that the fresher’s fifteen is not a myth. I know what you’re all thinking, “I’m going to lose SO much weight in college because I’ll eat healthily when I’m cooking for myself” or “I won’t be able to afford food when I’m going out all the time”.. Wrong, so wrong. It’s hard to eat healthily when your college timetable is full of splits and the easiest thing to make and eat in ten minutes is microwavable pasta. And you can afford to eat, you can afford the 20c noodles from Aldi and not the €3 punnet of strawberries. Take it from the girl who gained two stone in three months, I know what I’m talking about. Learn to cook some healthy meals, limit the amount of takeaways you eat, and don’t go to the chipper after a night out.

I wish I’d been told that living facilities for students aren’t the best. Especially in first year, when it’s everyone’s first time away from home without their mother to clean up after them. Even when you’re in top class student accommodation, your floor will be constantly sticky from vodka and there’ll probably be mould growing in at least three places. Hope for the best, expect the worst. Someone will probably pee in the sink at one point too.

I wish I’d listened to the people who told me “Don’t shit where you eat”. Don’t get with someone from your course, and don’t get with someone that you’re living with. The awkwardness if it ends on bad or awkward terms is real. It’s probably not advisable to get with anyone living in your best friend’s house either. Or living next to your best friend’s house. Or anyone. Just don’t get with anyone. Stay away from them all.

I wish I’d been told not to get sick in a taxi. Now this has never happened to me, but I felt it was worthy of a mention. Living in the back end of nowhere, if you get sick in the back of a van you usually just hear “Ah for God’s sake!” and it’s done. Do that in the city, and you’ll have to pay a hefty fine of around €140. Ridiculous I know, but yeah, don’t get sick in a taxi. Oh and if you refuse to pay, they’ll probably call the guards.

I wish I’d been told not to buy books straight away. When we were given the list of books we needed, I went out and bought them immediately. Do you know how many I actually ended up reading? Zero. Only buy the essentials, you can always borrow the rest from friends, split the price between ye or find them in the library.

I wish I’d been told how great the support for students with mental health problems is in college. I was so worried when I’d miss tutorials over panic attacks, or needed an extension after getting myself up in a heap. Lecturers (at UL anyways) are very understanding and sympathetic towards the fact that you have a mental illness, and do all that they can to help. Whether it’s giving you an alternative assignment, or helping you out when you’ve fallen behind, the system is a lot better than the one in place in secondary school.

And finally, I wish I’d been told to make the most of my first year of college. Like everything, college is 100% what you make of it and it’s not all about the books. Meet new friends, go out, join clubs and societies, and don’t be afraid to be yourself. I had a wonderful first semester studying in UL, and I’m sure there’ll be many more to come. Good luck to you guys on this new chapter of your life, and make sure you enjoy it!

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