School’s over and you’re on the way to a new campus and a new life. A
new course, living in res or on your own for the first time, new
friends. It’s exciting, but also a bit scary. More than a bit. And the
last thing you want to do is to make a mess of this.
Firstly, forget everything you’ve seen on TV. Living on campus and
being a student can be fun, but it also consists of hours and hours of
hard work and studying. It isn’t a non-stop party. Well, for some people
it is, but you don’t usually see them around in second year.
Here are some tips for those heading towards campuses in the next few weeks.
Use the student services. The university pays for this service.
There are usually career counselling services, a psychological
counselling service and a medical service. These do not cost you
anything – make use of them. These people are experts in their fields
and really will be able to help you – whatever the problem might be.
Many people get depressed during their first year, because it is a
massive change in lifestyle. Talk to a professional about it. Also use
the library and the internet services for study purposes. It shouldn’t
cost you any extra. Consider doing a course in study skills.
Hold back on the spending. Whether your studies are being paid
for by your parents, or by means of a student loan or a bursary, it’s
expensive to study. Don’t buy all your clothes before you hit the
campus, as you might find you’ve spent a lot of money on things no one
else is wearing. That’s fine if you want to make a statement, but if you
don’t, buy new stuff only after the academic year has started. Also
keep in mind that second hand textbooks are a lot cheaper than new ones.
Eat in student facilities – they are subsidised and therefore a lot
cheaper. Consider getting a part-time job to help fund your pocket
Remember safe sex at all times. This cannot be emphasised
enough. Having sex is not a decision to take lightly. But remember that
having safe sex is a non-negotiable. If it means always carrying a
condom with you, then do it. You don’t even want to think about the
Get into a routine. There’s a new whirlwind of activities and
duties and friends and social occasions. But you are there to study: so
it’s best that you get into a studying routine straight away, so it
doesn’t move to the bottom of your agenda. Passing your course is your
ticket to being on campus for another year, so don’t neglect it. Make
exercise and healthy eating part of your routine as well. The odd
hamburger isn’t going to kill you, but have one every day, and it might
Phone home. Your parents are probably worried about you. Phone
them at least once a week, or send them an e-mail. It might be difficult
for them to have you out of the house, and they need regular contact
with you. Keep them up to date with how your studies are going –
especially if they are paying for them.
Take the right medication. If you have a medical condition, make
sure the people who live with you know about it. They should know what
to do in an emergency. Also find a pharmacy close by and get
prescriptions for the right medication from the student doctor.
Get enough sleep. You are probably still growing and need your
eight hours a night. Without it, it’s difficult to concentrate in class
and get through the next day. Constant sleep deprivation is also not
good for your health. Buy earplugs if you live in a noisy place.
Choose your friends carefully. Some people make friends easily,
others don’t. Many first years are actually quite lonely. But because
everyone is in a new setup, it’s easier to make friends at this time
than it probably will ever be again. Choose them carefully, though. Go
for interesting and friendly people, but be careful of people who drag
you down, who denigrate you in any way, or whose lifestyles contain
things that make you uncomfortable.
Don’t get the booze blues. First year students drink too much.
Well, most of them anyway. And it’s understandable. You’re under stress,
away from home for the first time and it’s a social thing to do. There
is also quite a bit of social pressure to do this. Not to speak of
drugs. Have the odd beer or glass of wine by all means – after all, you
have not just joined a monastery – but do keep moderation in mind.
Hangovers are the pits. So is a drinking problem.
Attend classes. Obviously here and there you’re going to miss
one. But attend the vast majority. Important things get said here, that
cannot be gleaned from someone else’s notes the next day. It’s also good
that the lecturers get to know who you are. It’s so much easier to fail
someone if you cannot put a face to the name.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, February 2010)