Blog post

Things I learnt in my first year

The first year of University is always a wild and exciting time for any budding student. This is a year that is filled with lifelong lessons, various trials and errors, and becoming best friends with strangers within hours. Now that I’m in third year, I feel like I can look back on my time with nostalgia, and some amusement. In this blog, I list some of the things I learnt in my first-year.

By Thomas Berrington - 30 September 2020

1. Friends

Those first few weeks are always the scariest. You don’t know anyone, perhaps you’ve come to a new city so everything is all strange and unrecognisable, but you are ready to learn and ready to take the next step in your life. Every first-year student is in the same situation as you, so during Freshers (the party week), it is THE ABSOLUTE easiest time to make ANY FRIENDS with ANYONE.

If you go to the Union of Students events, you will get to spend time with people who are really open and willing to talk. You will never experience anything like this anywhere else ever. It is truly amazing how the worry of being alone can really connect everyone together.

I’d recommend for Freshers to use it as an experience to be yourself, to smile and be open to meet new people, be a little bit more outgoing than you usually are in day to day life. Purely for the purpose of having as much fun as you can around your future classmates and flatmates and society friends.

There is often a fair bit of drinking going on during Freshers – let’s not pretend this doesn’t happen. For those who do not like to drink, however, there are so many events on the schedule you won’t be missing anything – definitely not the hangovers.

Beyond the beers and free pizza, I would recommend discovering and applying to societies you are interested in, going for meals with your flatmates, joining in on social events in Halls, every opportunity is a good choice for making friends. I made mine through sport (Rugby specifically). The Union of Students societies were where I met my lifelong university friends.

2. University work

Depending on the course you are studying and the level you begin with, your performance each year can hold a different weighting towards your final grade. For example, the first year is a time for adjusting and as long as you are passing, you are heading in the right direction. Your second-year grades may count 25% towards your final and overall grade, and the third year may be 75%.

This is very dependent on your personal route so make sure you understand what your lecturers are looking for, have your goals set, understand how to structure an essay or exam answer for your particular subject and make sure to read up and take notes both in class and outside, within your own time.

3. Additional work

A university degree is respected. However, don’t underestimate the value of participating in work experience within your chosen field, as this can be a valuable opportunity to learn new skills. It doesn’t have to be super specific, experiencing the working world in any sense is beneficial, for your CV and for your confidence.

The University of Derby offers numerous internships for a variety of subjects. This is an excellent way to supplement your income whilst developing relevant entry-level experience to help boost your confidence in interviews and the workplace. It will also help you develop new relationships within a professional environment.

Working part-time in local shops & bars is a good way to earn some money on the side whilst building your experience. Volunteering and charity work will also help your CV to sparkle.

4. Health

Loneliness, insecurity, and worries can easily spread like wildfire at university. We are learning and growing, and it is fast paced, you’re taking in a lot of new information consistently and frequently. You’re going to have a lot of mixed feelings – trust me, that’s OK, take a breath.

Having a supportive group of family and friends, eating healthy food regularly and going to the gym or at least going on a walk for some fresh air can do wonders for your mental health. You may have some low points at uni but you’ll also have plenty of high ones. Keep on pushing yourself and if you need it, get help from the Student Wellbeing team. They are experts in their field and are there to support and guide us. We are all in this together, and if you ask for help, there are many people who are willing to support you.

It was so hard to write this blog, university is a catalyst for a vast range of experiences and we all have our own personal journey.

Why not book onto an Open Day and meet our student ambassadors to find out what they have experienced over the years – or you could connect with students on UniBuddy and chat to them online anytime.

About the author

Thomas Berrington
Marketing and Media student at the University of Derby

I am a Marketing and Media student at the University of Derby. I enjoy writing about issues which aim to publicise key topics and stories affecting students, popular culture and local events.